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Muslimah and Post-Partum Depression

Alhamdulillah! Indeed all praise is due to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’la. We Praise Him, seek His Help and Forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our souls and from our wrongdoings. He whom Allah Guides, no one can misguide and he whom, He misguides, no one can guide.

I bear witness that there is no true god but Allah-alone without a partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is His Abd and messenger.


Depression is a common malaise and can be a great burden for the one who suffers from it but only if he or she knew the immediacy with which Allah Subhanahu wa ta’la is Able to disperse the gloom forever and restore it with so much Sakinah (tranquility) that a trial morphs itself into a blessing. And how can this be possible? All suffering has few things in common, a feeling of impending threat, of helplessness and of extreme insecurity.


In cases such as PPD or any other affliction of the heart and mind, it is strongly advised (infact, I say, make it an imperative upon ourselves)  to strive to be a strong believer. In such a state whatever comes our way, we know we are trying. And Allah SWT NEVER wastes the good that a believer does. We have nothing to lose, only to gain.

But here’s the deal:

Imam Muslim narrated in his Sahih on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both. Guard over that which benefits you, seek Allah’s Assistance, wa laa ta’jiz (do not loose hope or deem yourself incapable), and if something befalls you, then don’t say ‘If I only would have done such and such,’ rather say, ‘Qaddarallahu wa maa sha’ fa’al’ (Allah ordained (this) and He does what He wills), for verily the phrase ‘If I would have’ opens the gate for the work of Shaytan.”

I know the raggedy feeling of having been torn apart, the exhaustion of it all but that one push will give you that much needed boost and consequently strengthen you.

Before we become stuck in an eternal lament (and it is scary how easy this can be), a believer should strive to nurture eeman, nurture it with sincerity in ibadah, with yaqeen in our pleas that Allah SWT Listens and Favors those who call upon Him, nurture it with the Knowledge of Allah SWT’s attributes, only this will help us draw closer to His Vast, Merciful Refuge, and the security we shall find there in is the loss of the one who never tried.

And nurturing eeman is such a miraculous Blessing from Allah SWT, we take steps towards this and Allah SWT Runs towards us and in it eeman blossoms manifold times through the Mercy of The Rahmanur-Raheem, The Al Wadud- He is the All Loving, He Only Wills the Best for us.

So my beloved sisters, you’ve been favored by Allah SWT with the Blessing of motherhood- you need only proceed with Yaqeen that indeed Allah SWT’s Help is near, He SWT will Answer your du’as. Turn your fears, your flowing tears into that which fills your pleas before Allah SWT, that will nurture your eeman, your sakinah, so you have a beautiful blossoming garden of virtues to stroll through, of patches of Noor to bask in as long as you keep returning. This sakinah you find in Ibadah will be your Jannah on earth and a portal to the Jannah in the Hereafter, Insha Allah.

Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”  

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind becomes quiet, it becomes straight again. Similarly, a believer is afflicted with calamities (but he remains patient till Allah removes his difficulties.) And an impious wicked person is like a pine tree which keeps hard and straight till Allah cuts (breaks) it down when He wishes.” (See Hadith No. 558, Vol. 9.

Taking Charge

This paper briefly skims through the symptoms common to Post-Partum Depression (PPD) and it shall help clarify the actions of a believer who wishes to tackle this in the light of Islam. This is not only a guide for dealing with PPD but also, general depression and anxiety. You may find this of help for yourself or a help for others you know who might need this.

I hope to make it clear that this paper in no way discredits the worth of medical help, in fact a thorough screening is also the act of the believer who ties her camel. But Shifa is such a thing that it is from the Mercy of Allah SWT Alone and the aid of seeking refuge in Him can only benefit our cause and indeed it soon becomes the Only Benefit for a true believer who proceeds with medical aid or not.

The subject at hand has been tackled as briefly as possible, making it actionable but it still needs a comprehensive investigation to help the ummah. Any good you find in this is from Allah SWT Alone and all that is wrong is from my own self. Please feel free to contact me for clarifications and corrections.

Jazak Allahu Khairan,

Khadijah Madar (khadijahbintmadar@gmail.com)

The study of post-partum depression is of an on-going nature, there are several theories that have been put forward through different research approaches.

I shall briefly list the symptoms and then we shall go on to the various possibilities that researchers have come across for the occurrence of PPD.

Symptoms suggestive of postpartum psychiatric illness.

Crying for no apparent reason which continues beyond one week.
Inability to sleep.
Loss of appetite or overeating.
Extreme anxiety regarding the baby’s health or safety.
Feelings of inadequacy, numbness, helplessness, and profound inexplicable sadness.
Exaggerated mood swings.
Lack of feeling for the baby or others.
Inability to care for the baby.
Fear of being alone.
Inability to concentrate.
Feeling overwhelmed and unable to make decisions.
Inability to sit still, talking incessantly.
Physical complaints which suggest a panic attack.
Uncharacteristic silence and reclusiveness.
Experiencing bizarre thoughts or frightening dreams.Source: Book title: Postpartum Psychiatric Illness: A Picture Puzzle. Contributors: James Alexander Hamilton – Editor, Patricia Neel Harberger – Editor. Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press. Place of publication: Philadelphia, PA. Publication year: 1992.

In an overview, the approaches can be divided into two categories as research indicates:

Psychological Approach

According to the psychological perspective, PPD is theorized under the ‘Mental Representations Theory’/ the ‘Representational Theory’ which says that PPD is an illness whose onset can be theorized due to various factors:

–          The nature of the pregnant woman’s bond with her own mother

–          The expectations that she had of her own baby during her pregnancy

–          Past history of depressive illness

–          Her expectations post pregnancy regarding her bond with the child

These factors suggest through research findings that if a new mother shared a conflictual relationship with her own mother and has negative perceptions of her own upbringing then she is likely to suffer from PPD. If the new mother has been disappointed due to her unmet expectations, i.e, her ‘real’ baby is a far throw from her ‘fantasy’ baby of the pregnancy days, then PPD is again a possibility.

A word of caution here, PPD is not to be considered as a serious mental illness unless and until the duration of suffering prolongs even after 6 months post-delivery. Although, it is quite normal for women to suffer from this sort of ‘weepiness’ after delivery, it doesn’t mean that care-givers and those concerned should take it lightly but rather be unfalteringly supportive through the course of recovery. A show of strength and empathy by those around the patient helps in quicker recovery and acts as a constant source of reassurance.

In the PPD scenario, the closest comfort can be found in the husband’s support through this tumultuous time. It’s natural for the relationship to feel a little strained, hold the reigns, ride it through. Get your husband and those concerned to read up on PPD, inform other care givers and most importantly be informed yourself. Truth has been told, knowledge is empowerment.

Islamic Insight: Notice how the theories lean towards the role of unmet expectations in the case of PPD, then there should be a personal mental check coming. All expectations should be from Allah SWT and how much are your expectations in line with your accountability as a believer. Question yourself, stop the irrational in its tracks and lead by reason. Remind yourself, islam is for the ‘ulul albab’, people of understanding, the ‘tatafakkaroon’, those who think, contemplate. And it is the deen that is of the middle way- moderation in everything- so in present light- Don’t overthink, don’t over-contemplate. Yeah, you know what that means.

The role of your own mothers is undeniable in influencing your own parenting style, your motherhood- perceptions but will you make it your only influence? Allah SWT is the one to give Hidayah, to Direct our affairs, ask Him to lead you through this, to help you carve your own role as a mother, a mother who turns to Allah SWT in every matter. If the past haunts you, if you have had history of depression, ask Allah SWT to give you reprieve from this. Very, Very important is that you always seek the help of the knowledgeable, an islamic counselor, islamic psychologist or an islamic psychiatrist  would be a true boon but in case where you have to deal with the non-muslim support network, always choose the well-meaning, unbiased counselors. Your reliance on Allah SWT can only bolster your strength and make your whole experience a great blessing.

Maintain a journal: make it a journey through the whole episode a lesson in reflection, a part of personal discovery. Write anything and everything, fling the word ‘silly’ straight out the window. You’ll know later how valuable it was to keep this expressive medium alive when you flit through the pages and encounter a bit of yourself as you grew stronger everyday, Insha Allah.

Biological Approach

The research findings dealing with the biological components that influence the onset of PPD hold hormonal capriciousness as the guilty party. The hormones are already on a dizzying joy ride through the pregnancy but when the essential thresholds that monitor mood-regulation cross the red line, it becomes a cue for affecting your psychological frame of mind.

So far, a strong, undeniable culprit has been the thyroid malfunction. It is advised to those who manifest PPD symptoms that they undergo a thorough thyroid screening. A correction in the levels has shown a significant difference in the lifting of post-pregnancy blues.

Cortisol has been another guilty accomplice, fluctuating cortisol levels can also contribute to mommy-blues, a quick screening and correction can help regulate the mood troughs.

Without getting into the jargon of it, hormones play a major role in mood-regulation, they take time coming back to normal levels post-delivery- meanwhile, your moods can be influenced accordingly.

Here’s another quick once-over list that new-mommies should pay attention to: These pointers help in cushioning the PPD ride or even avoid it,

–          Get help from husband, dependable friends, and relatives

–          Make friends with other couples who are experienced with childbearing

–          Don’t overload yourself with unimportant tasks

–          Don’t move soon after the baby arrives

–          Don’t be overconcerned with keeping up appearances

–          Get plenty of rest and sleep

–          Don’t be a nurse to relatives and others at this time

–          Confer and consult with husband, family, and experienced friends, and discuss your plans and worries

–          Don’t give up outside interests, but cut down on responsibilities and rearrange schedules

–          Arrange for babysitters early

–          Get family doctor early

–          The responsibilities of motherhood are learned, hence get informed

Source  for List: Book title: Postpartum Psychiatric Illness: A Picture Puzzle. Contributors: James Alexander Hamilton – Editor, Patricia Neel Harberger – Editor. Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press. Place of publication: Philadelphia, PA. Publication year: 1992. Page number: 73

As part of your prenatal intervention, you might want to look at these pointers:

  • To dispel the motherhood myth of the maternal instinct (i.e., an inborn knowledge of how best to take care of the baby), the myth of the unwavering limitless motherly love, and the myth of the total maternal fulfillment by the baby
  • To strengthen the marital support by defining shared responsibilities and roles with realistic coping behavior during the parental   adjustment
  • To mobilize additional emotional support systems
  • To reduce environmental stress factor
  • To rearrange priorities
  • To encourage a pregnant woman to become an apprentice to a new mother particularly if she has had no previous   experience with an infant

Source: Book title: Postpartum Psychiatric Illness: A Picture Puzzle. Contributors: James Alexander Hamilton – Editor, Patricia Neel Harberger – Editor. Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press. Place of publication: Philadelphia, PA. Publication year: 1992.

The Islamic Checklist

  • Increase your tilawah of the Qur’an, you might not find it in yourself sometimes, that’s ok, reflecting even on a few ayahs a day will be a source of comfort
  • Increase your dhikr
  • Ask Allah SWT to Bless your relationship with your child with immense Mercy
  • Make constant du’as, from deep within your heart, the sunan, the personal, the silent pleas, all are a part of you and can only strengthen you
  • Avoid the company of the negative people around you, those who judge, criticize. If you can’t get away from them, minimize contact
  • Ask the help of those friends and family who are strong muslims themselves, this way they will only remind you of the Rahmah of Allah SWT
  • Make Ruqyah a routine, set aside time for it or ask someone to recite it for you or play it on something you can listen to during ‘your’ time
  • There are a few things to take note of for mothers who choose to take prescription drugs:
  • Ask your Doc about the side effects of Anti-Depressants
  • Always make sure you’ve checked about the effects it can have on your baby’s health
  •  The possibility of recovery without prescription drugs
  • Counselling referrals that might become a part of your support network during recovery
  •  Feeding instructions, timings to take your meds to avoid the influence of drugs on the baby
  •  Always make sure that you’re going to a competent psychiatrist and not to someone who is just happy prescribing drugs even for   a scratch (the Docs can be unbelievable loons sometimes)


The Islamic Approach to Healing

“ O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer). Truly, Allah is with As-Sabiroon (the patient).”

–          Surah Al Baqarah-153

“ We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabiroon (the patient).”

–          Surah Al Baqarah-155

Narrated Abu Hurairah(ra): The Prophet(saw) said, “There is no disease that Allah has sent down, except that He also has sent down its treatment.”

–          Bukhari

Narrated Abu Hurairah (ra): Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “if Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.”

–          Bukhari

The above verses and hadith are just few of the numerous examples from the Qur’an and Sunnah that act as a reassurance to the believers in times of distress.

There are specific supplications that a believer can utilize in times of need but only with understanding can the sincerity increase in your pleas and with that the certainty that Allah SWT shall Bestow what is Best for the believer.

The following is taken from the book, “The Jinn and Human Sickness”, topic: Depression 

Edit* I can’t seem to upload excerpts from the book, please follow link and refer to pages number29o-298

I’m planning to do an analysis of the du’as of distress insha Allah. This way, it will deepen our understanding and only increase our appreciation of the profound wisdom that Allah SWT Bestowed the Prophet SAW with, bi’idhnillah.

May Allah SWT fill our hearts with Love for HIM above all else. Aameen.

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‘Rabbi shrahli sadri wa yassir li amri, wahlul uqdatam min lisaani, yafqahu qawli.’

“O my Lord! Open for me my chest (grant me self-confidence, contentment and boldness). And make my task easy for me. And loosen the knot(the defect) from my tongue, that they may understand my speech.”

-Surah Taha:25-28