Postpartum depression is far more common than we realize. Postpartum Depression Statistics show that one in every seven new mothers suffers from this serious, and often life-threatening condition. In some extreme cases, Postpartum depression can even lead to suicide by the mother or even harm to the baby.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Angela was sleep-deprived, thanks to all the midnight feedings and nappy changes, irritable because her breasts were painfully engorged and frustrated that her son just wouldn’t stop crying. She was seriously considering putting her children up for adoption because she felt helpless and absolutely unable to handle the responsibility alone.
Although feelings of sadness, tearfulness, despair, discouragement, worthlessness or loneliness are predominant, a woman with postpartum depression may also:
- Have trouble concentrating or completing routine tasks
- Lose her appetite or not feel interested in food
- Be unable to sleep, and feel fatigued throughout the day
- Lose interest in sex
- Feel indifferent towards her baby or not feel attached or bonded
- Feel overwhelmed by her situation, and feel that there is no hope of things getting better
- Be consumed by a kind of numbness, unable to feel any emotion deeply
- Feel extremely angry, irritable or frustrated
- Have repeated and intrusive thoughts of harming herself or her baby
Feelings and thoughts like these are painful for a woman to experience — especially during a time that is idealized as being full of happiness. Many women are reluctant to tell someone when they feel this way. But postpartum depression is a medical condition that requires attention and treatment.
Postpartum Depression – Why it happens ?
Many women experience major mood shifts after childbirth, characterized by feelings of sadness and emotional surges that begin in the first few days after childbirth. With the baby blues, a woman might feel happy one minute and tearful or overwhelmed the next. She might feel sad, blue, irritable, discouraged, unhappy, tired, or moody. Postpartum Depression or baby blues usually last only a few days — but can linger as long as a week or two.
These emotional surges are believed to be a natural effect of the hormone shifts that occur with pregnancy and childbirth. Levels of estrogen and progesterone that increase during pregnancy drop suddenly after delivery, affecting mood. These female hormones return to their pre-pregnancy levels within a week or so. As hormone levels normalize, baby blues usually resolve on their own without medical treatment.
Risk factors : Who is likely to be affected with Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can affect anyone, and can develop after the birth of any child, not just the first.
The risk increases if the mother :
- Has a history of depression, either during pregnancy or at other times
- Suffered from postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy
- Has experienced stressful events during the past year, such as pregnancy complications, illness or job loss
- Is having problems in her relationship with her spouse or significant other
- Lacks social support or acceptability due to being single or separated, unaccepted by the family, etc.
- Is facing financial problems
- Was unprepared for the pregnancy, or if her baby was unplanned or unwanted
The risk of postpartum depression (along with severe psychosis) is higher for women who have bipolar disorder.
Dealing With Postpartum Depression
Getting adequate rest, nutrition and support are important. Being exhausted or sleep-deprived and feeling stressed can reinforce and fuel feelings of sadness and depression. To cope with baby blues, new mothers must reach out and get help in the first days and weeks after labor and delivery. Let family and friends help with errands, food shopping, household chores or child care.
New mothers should try to get plenty of rest and eat nutritious foods. Talking to people close to you, or to other new mothers, can help you feel supported and remind you that you’re not alone. You do not have to stifle the tears if you feel the need to cry a bit — but try not to dwell on sad thoughts. Let the baby blues run their course and pass.
When it is NOT just the blues If baby blues linger longer than a week or two, it is advisable to talk to a doctor to discuss whether postpartum depression may be the cause of the emotional lows. Postpartum depression usually begins two to three weeks after giving birth, but can start any time during the first few days, weeks, or months post delivery.
Treatment For Postpartum Depression
When symptoms are severe, or when there is a possibility of self harm or danger to the baby’s safety, the mother must be medicated. That would be the first line of treatment.
Medication would include antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills and in some cases with severe insomnia, tranquillizers. In cases where the symptoms are mild to moderate, the following other choices are available :
- Counseling for both partners.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you take charge of the way you think and feel.
- Interpersonal counseling for emotional support and help with problem-solving and goal-setting.
- A part-time or full-time mother’s helper. Domestic help can go a long way in easing a new mother’s burden and alleviating her stress levels.
- Parent coaching or infant massage classes, for strengthening mother-baby attachment.
Many mothers panic when anti-depressant medications are recommended. It is very important to recognize the wisdom of following the doctor’s orders. Just as you would take medication if the diagnosis had been a purely physiological ailment like blood pressure or diabetes, it is vital to take the prescribed medication in the recommended dosage for the specified duration.
Antidepressants are typically used for six months or longer, first to treat postpartum depression and then to prevent a relapse of symptoms. To prevent a relapse, the doctor may recommend that the medicine be taken for up to a year before considering tapering it off. Women who have had several bouts of depression may need to take medicine for a long time.
If postpartum depression is ignored or neglected Left untreated, post-partum depression can interfere with mother-child bonding and cause family problems. Children of mothers who have untreated postpartum depression are more likely to have behavioral problems, such as sleeping and eating difficulties, temper tantrums, and hyperactivity. Delays in language development are more common as well.
Untreated postpartum depression can last for months or longer, sometimes becoming a chronic depressive disorder. Even when treated, a woman’s risk of future episodes of major depression may increase due to postpartum depression.