Postpartum support for mothers in Japan defies government efforts to promote it

Kyodo

Postpartum support for mothers to cope with depression and other mental health maladies is still hard to come by despite government efforts in recent years to promote it, a survey shows.

Funding and staff shortages are the major obstacles to making such support more widely available, the nationwide survey showed Saturday. It was conducted in January and February by the Mizuho Information & Research Institute for the health ministry.

Only 26.2 percent of the 1,384 municipalities that responded offer postpartum support services, even though the central government has been offering subsidies since fiscal 2015 to finance half of the running cost, the survey showed.

Among municipalities without such services, those planning to start them in the future were also low at 34.4 percent, with 28.6 percent saying they have no plans to introduce them due largely to funding and staff shortages.

In postpartum support, midwives, nurses and other experts offer advice and help ease mothers’ anxieties by listening to their problems at homes, hospitals or other facilities.

Postpartum depression is often associated with loneliness caused by having no one around to talk with about their mothers’ feelings and problems. It could develop into more serious health problems or cause parents to harm their child or themselves.

The government compiled a guideline in 2017 outlining postpartum service methods and key issues to consider, but the municipalities polled said they wanted more financial and other support from the state.

Some municipalities said such services are not fully known by people raising children.

“There are municipalities which are reluctant to set up a budget (for postpartum support) due to uncertainties about cost effectiveness, but enhancing the child-rearing environment is helpful in addressing the issue of declining population. A long-term perspective is needed,” said Naomi Shiki, chief consultant at the Mizuho Information & Research Institute.

Ways to tackle child abuse have been attracting attention since the shocking death of a 5-year-old girl in March who had begged her parents to stop mistreating her.