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There are many Asian cultures and the following are therefore only generalisations.
In traditional Chinese culture child bearing and the postpartum time is a time where the mother is nurtured.
There is a cultural practice of peiyue –which is a post-partum custom of mandated family support. (Usually considered to be provided by a female family member for 4 or more hours per day for 4-6 weeks postpartum).
Researchers have written: “In most contemporary Asian societies, recently delivered women are still regarded as vulnerable, and are exempted from their household duties for an extended period. Such exemption is usually made possible by the continual presence of a designated elder female kin, mostly the woman’s mother or mother-in-law. This practice, called peiyue in the Chinese culture, consolidates and formalises post-partum support, guaranteed passage of child-rearing knowledge, and protects the mother from exhaustion and sleep deprivation”.
Some researchers have suggested that, “peiyue, as a socio-moral custom that ‘mothers the mother’, may prevent social isolation and postnatal depression”.
On the other hand some say that, “this practice may increase tension between members of the family who have different values. For centuries, tense relationships between women and their mothers-in-law have been a source of disharmony in Chinese and many other Asian societies”. (This may be a common feature of many cultures, not just Asian).
Where there is a harmonious relationship between the ‘new’ mother and the woman providing the peiyue the risk of postpartum depression is reduced.
PND may still occur (and rates are similar to non-Asian population rates) especially when Asian women are isolated from their families. Good family support reduces the risk
Some other issues which may be relevant are the tendency of Asian cultures to:
- Value family ties highly.
- Value hard work and achievement.
- Value loyalty and commitment with a strong sense of pride.
- Value self control.
Sometimes there is a lot of stigma around mental illness and family may go to some lengths to ‘keep this within the family’.
Dominic Lee, Alexander Yip, Tony Leung & Tony Chung (2004). Ethno epidemiology of postnatal depression. Prospective multivariate study of sociocultural risk factors in a Chinese population in Hong Kong. British Journal of Psychiatry, 184:34-40