For most women, having a baby is a joyful experience. But it is not unusual for new mothers to be hit by grief, anxiety and depression. Global figures suggest that between 13 and 16 percent of women giving birth for the first time are struck by depression. For the second birth, figures boost to a worrying 30-40 percent.
Associate professor Kristin Akerjordet at the University of Stavanger in Norway, surveyed 250 postnatal women for her PhD thesis. Of the 30 women she interviewed, 15 had experienced depressive emotions in connection with pregnancy and birth.
"The health services often fail to recognise women who suffer from postnatal depression or anxiety. Many of the women I interviewed had experienced rejection and a lack of understanding from health personnel," Akerjordet says.
Since 2006, the Department of Health Studies at the University of Stavanger has investigated ways in which the health services could improve safeguarding women's mental health. Akerjordets thesis offers an important clue: By training health personnel in emotional intelligence, they will be better equipped to prevent women from developing depressive illnesses.
New skills for health workers
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify and manage the emotions of one's self and others in a constructive manner. Being able to access emotions and to reflect upon them are key elements of this ability.
"EI enables us to form good relationships with other people, thereby improving the quality of our performances as nurses, midwives and doctors. EI is an important factor in promoting good care and effective health service management," Akerjordet says.
Health personnel could be guiding and supporting individuals or groups of pregnant women in how to utilize their EI as a tool in managing their everyday emotions. By teaching women EI, they would raise awareness of their reactions to painful experiences. Groups of health
|Contact: Kristin Akerjordet|
University of Stavanger