Families and neighbours, all celebrate the day a newborn opens its eyes to the world. But amid the joyous celebration, there is a soul who might be feeling disconnected and stifled – the infant’s mother.
This can sound shocking, but frankly, it’s pretty common. 22% of new Indian mothers suffer from postpartum depression or PPD. They experience a range of physical and emotional changes and feel themselves getting detached from the newly found happiness. Sadly, the country is under-equipped to deal with maternal health care, and there are even fewer resources at disposal for mental health management.
The topic of depression itself is considered a taboo. People are reluctant to admit they’re suffering from it or any other mental health issue. They fear that people will call them crazy or even worse. For new mothers, there’s even more stigma attached to it. There’s fear of their femininity and motherhood being questioned. But depression and PPD can be managed with the right treatment.
In this article, we explore some issues around PPD, the reasons behind it, how mothers can deal with it, and how it’s completely normal to experience this condition.
What Is Depression?
To start, let’s understand what clinical depression is. Also known as major depressive disorder, depression is a condition that makes one feel sad constantly or experience less interest in daily life. It’s more than feeling sad. A combination of biological, psychological, and social factors causes depression, and these may affect the way your brain functions. Other factors that might cause depression include family history, medical illnesses and other health issues, medication, and personality traits.
Simply said, depression is a sort of serious illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you feel and act. It can happen to anyone, even to new moms. They go through a series of emotions during and after giving birth which includes feeling empty, emotionless, sad. But if you are facing any of these problems most of the time or for more than 2 weeks then you must reach out for help.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mixture of physical, emotional, and behavioural changes that happen in some women after childbirth. You experience an incredible range of hormonal changes from when you become pregnant, grow your baby for nine months, and then give birth. For many women, these changes lead to depressive feelings. Many mothers experience ‘baby blues.’ It is an uncomfortable and depressive state that can last for a few days post-birth.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Other symptoms of PPD are severe mood swings, crying excessively, an inability to bond with your baby, and a growing disconnect with family and friends. More symptoms can include:
- A drastic loss or increase in appetite.
- Insomnia, or sleeping too much.
- Decreased interest in activities that once brought joy.
- Incredibly overwhelming fatigue and energy loss.
- Foggy thinking.
- Intense anger.
- Anxiety and panic attacks.
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming your baby.
If left untreated, PPD can last for many months and even longer.
However, if these symptoms persist, it could indicate you’re suffering from PPD. You can experience this during pregnancy as well as after your baby is born. Ask your doctor to monitor you for PPD symptoms.
A more severe condition is postpartum psychosis, which can affect mothers within the first three months of childbirth. Women lose touch with reality, have hallucinations and delusions. Some also experience insomnia, agitation, anger, and restlessness.
Sometimes, mothers who have postpartum psychosis are at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, so they require treatment right away. However, this condition is far more severe than PPD.
Reasons Behind Postpartum Depression
There are many reasons behind PPD, and none of them are your fault. Several triggers can set it off. They can be social, biological, or psychological factors. These can include:
- A history of depression or a family history of mood disorders. If someone in your family has experienced depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or something similar, there are higher chances of you experiencing PPD.
- Hormonal changes can trigger PPD. Experiencing such a steep drop in estrogen and progesterone post-birth can make you feel tired, sluggish, and depressed.
- Not wanting to have a child. If this is childbirth through coercion, there’s a high chance you’ll develop PPD.
- If you’re a young mother, there can be a higher chance of developing PPD.
- Going through a stressful event, such as losing one’s job or an accident.
- Giving birth to a child with special needs or health issues. This can be disheartening for many, but special needs children can thrive with the right support system.
- Birthing twins or triplets. Again, this can be a shock for a new mother and trigger despair.
- Living alone and lack of support.
- Marital conflict.
- Lack of sleep.
- Poor self-image or self-worth.
How To Deal with Postpartum Depression
You may need a combination of therapy, medication, and support to deal with PPD. Don’t shy away from asking for help. Let the people around you know how they can aid you. Try to exercise, follow a healthy and nutritious diet, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants that could worsen your condition.
Try to communicate as much as you can with your partner. New fathers can also suffer from postpartum depression. They could feel sad, exhausted, have anxiety, and experience changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. By sharing your feelings, you may build a bridge between you and your partner if you’re both experiencing PPD.
Reach out to relatives and friends as well. Initially, you should limit the number of visitors you have to conserve your energy. Try to sleep whenever you can. Keep in mind that you will have some good days and a few bad ones too.
When Should You Talk To A Doctor
If your symptoms don’t go away after two weeks or worsen over time, you should reach out to a doctor. If you don’t, you won’t be able to take good care of yourself and your baby. Even worse, new mothers may even start having suicidal thoughts or think about harming yourself or your baby. In case you begin having violent urges, you must call for help.
PPD is a treatable condition, try to get as much rest or sleep as possible and give it time. . With the right approach, you’ll be able to manage your symptoms and lead a content and fulfilling life with your family and child.
What symptoms did you experience while going through postpartum depression?