Dr Sherene Kalloo

While the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago is advising that child abandonment should never be an option, there is a concern by an obstetrician and gynaecologist that the COVID-19 pandemic may be worsening postpartum depression.

Speaking with Guardian Media yesterday, Dr Sherene Kalloo acknowledged that many families may be struggling as a result of economic or emotional challenges brought about the pandemic and a baby could send stress levels through the roof for mothers who are already enduring a hormone imbalance after giving birth.

“Depression is going to get worse and of course, with COVID on board, now we are underestimating the effects of depression that it can have on any of us, especially women who are going through the changes of hormonal effects of a pregnancy and post-delivery,” Kalloo said.

Kalloo’s comment comes in the wake of news on Thursday of a child being abandoned in some bushes in Freeport. Many social media users expressed relief that the baby was found alive but were saddened that her parents and mother in particular, would take such drastic action.

Commenting on this, Kalloo said, “So, the first thing that might come to mind for anyone who would see someone abandoning a child, they will be appalled and horrified and would not understand the psychiatric or mental torment the mother will or can go through to reach to that point.”

Kalloo noted that there are serious mental health factors that must not be overlooked.

“Postpartum depression is a real problem we fail to recognise in being as severe as it is in society. Now we do know that postpartum depression affects, the figures that we have is about 10 to 20 per cent of the women in our society who had babies,” Kalloo said.

“After you had a baby, the levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, they fall dramatically and it causes changes in emotion and mood and results in postpartum depression or even a mild case of postpartum blues.”

Emphasising the need to destigmatise mental health problems, Kalloo issued a call for more education campaigns surrounding postpartum depression. This, she noted, cannot only be directed to women, since the family plays a crucial role in identifying the symptoms.

“She may be sad to start off with and what she is capable of after, is she crying? Is she getting hopeless? Is she getting difficulty focusing? There’s also difficulty making decisions, feeling guilty, worthless, loss of interests in things she was once excited about and feeling very, very tired,” Kalloo explained.

She also said it is important for clinics to keep an eye out for patients who may be exhibiting depression-like symptoms.