Postpartum depression in Asian cultures: a literature review

Document Type



School of Nursing and Midwifery, Pakistan


Objectives: Postpartum depression (PPD), a major health concern, produces insidious effects on new mothers, their infant, and family. This literature review aims to explore risk factors for postpartum depression among women in Asian cultures, which has not been fully elaborated.
Data sources: A literature search was undertaken by using various electronic research databases. Studies were eligible for this review if they (a) examined risk factors for PPD, (b) were conducted in Asian countries using quantitative or qualitative methodologies, and (c) were published in English in peer-reviewed journals between 1998 and 2008. A total of 64 studies from 17 countries were reviewed, summarised, and synthesised.
Results: The prevalence of postpartum depression in Asian countries ranged from 3.5% to 63.3% where Malaysia and Pakistan had the lowest and highest, respectively. Risk factors for postpartum depression were clustered into five major groups: biological/physical (e.g., riboflavin consumption), psychological (e.g., antenatal depression), obstetric/paediatric (e.g., unwanted pregnancy), socio-demographic (e.g., poverty), and cultural factors (e.g., preference of infants’ gender). Traditional postpartum rituals were not found to provide substantial psychological benefits for the new mothers.
Conclusions: This review informs a current state of knowledge regarding risk factors for postpartum depression and has implications for clinical practice. Health care professionals should be aware that the phenomenon is as prevalent in Asian cultures as in European cultures. Women should be screened for potential risk factors and depressive symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum periods so that appropriate interventions, if needed, can be initiated in a timely fashion.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

International Journal of Nursing Studies