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Postpartum Depression After Pregnancy.
An unexpected problem is harder to handle than an expected one. Postpartum depression is one of these problems.
At a time when a mother has given birth to a beautiful baby, an accomplishment, a living miracle of nature, and everyone around her, friends and family are ecstatic, she feels low.
It upsets her because it might not make sense logically but it is important to know that hormonally, it does.
Why does Postpartum depression occur?
The exact reason for Postpartum depression is not agreed upon by all researchers and doctors. It seems to be more of a combination of reasons rather than just one.
The foremost reason of postnatal depression is the drop in the level of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) after birth as these pregnancy hormones dissipate and milk production starts.
Some authorities believe that it can also be caused by an unusually taxing birth with a prolonged and difficult labor.
Some others are of the opinion that it could also be because of a sense of physical and emotional anticlimax after the birth.
Many mothers say it is simply caused by total exhaustion from too little sleep and too much responsibility.
Mothers can initially feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of motherhood, and the prospect of ‘a mother is born when a child is born’ can seem scary.
When the child is brought home from the hospital, a mother needs to set up a new life that she is formerly not accustomed to. This can take time and prove to be taxing for her.
In addition, a new mother might also try to emulate the Supermom standards of parenting that she has read and heard about—the standards that say any intelligent, healthy woman can handle everything. It is important to prepare yourself for imperfections before the baby is born.
Everything cannot be and will not be perfect. Trying to follow everything read and heard is impossible and only leads to depression by making a mother feel inadequate for caring for her child.
A mother must realize that feeling low after giving birth does not mean she does not love her baby. Neither is it unnatural or something to feel ashamed and alarmed about.
Around 80% of all mothers suffer from some kind of post natal depression. The duration and intensity of each might vary.
That is why it is important to know about the types of Postpartum depression to be able to identify if you or someone you know has crossed over from the regular baby blues to a more serious state.
Postpartum depression is generally categorized as:
- Baby Blues
- Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Psychosis
Some degree of emotional vulnerability and is natural and expected after child birth.
Almost 80% of all women who give birth experience the blues that start shortly (3-4 days) after the delivery and can linger up to two weeks.
Feeling low after child birth is not a disease and does not require any treatment, only understanding and support from friends and family.
As a new mother acquires confidence in her role as a parent and regains her strength and sleep with rest and help, she finds that her approach falls into a sensible perspective and she feels herself again. In this way baby blues often treat themselves.
Symptoms of the blues consist of:
- Crying for no reason
- Feeling exhausted
- Restlessness and sleeplessness
- Anxiety, worry and nervousness
- Change in appetite (eating more or less)
- General irritability
These feelings do not hamper the mother’s ability to function in daily life. They last for a few days and then go away by themselves.
However, it is important to know that if they persist and increase in intensity, the blues could well be Postpartum Depression.
It is important to know the difference between the two and not to confuse them with each other as they share symptoms.
If the baby blues last for longer than two weeks and the symptoms become so troublesome that they hamper a mother’s ability to take care of her child, she might be suffering from postpartum depression.
It is important, in this case, to contact a doctor and seek professional help. Postpartum depression is experienced by 10-20% of all women after childbirth. It can start within a few weeks after birth to any time in the following year.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression include:
- Uncontrollable crying or feeling of hopelessness
- Lack of interest in pleasurable activities & withdrawal from society
- Reduced concentration & having trouble completing routine tasks
- Changes in appetite
- Sluggishness, fatigue, exhaustion and anxiety
- Mood swings – highs and lows
- Lack of interest in the baby and not feeling bonded
- Negative thoughts of harming oneself or the baby
- Panic attacks (a racing heart, dizziness, confusion, and feelings of impending doom)
Postpartum depression occurs due to the same psychological, sociological and physiological changes as baby blues, and can happen to any woman.
However, a few factors make it more likely for the blues to turn into depression. A woman is more vulnerable if she:
- Has had an unhappy childhood (perhaps mental or physical abuse)
- Has a history of depression or difficulty coping with stress
- Has had an unwanted or unplanned baby
- Has had a premature birth or an ill baby
- Has an unsupportive spouse or marital difficulties
- Has had a major life changing event (e.g. a move, or loss of a job)
- A personal or family history of thyroid problems. (Thyroid dysfunction doesn’t mean you’ll have PPD, but it can predispose you to postpartum thyroid problems, which may have symptoms similar to those of PPD. It’s good to have your thyroid tested if you’re feeling low, especially if you have a family history of thyroid problems.) (click for source)
It is important to keep in mind that these are only risk factors, having one of them sometimes leads women to postpartum depression and at other times, having even several does not result in depression at all.
6 Tips to cope with Postpartum Depression:
Postpartum depression should not be taken lightly. If a mother feels she has symptoms of depression, she should consult her doctor and seek help and support from those close to her.
In addition to receiving medical treatment, following are things that she can do for herself:
1. Make time for yourself:
Make sure you take good care of yourself, your health and sleep.
Schedule a babysitter for a regular time so that you can get time to take a relaxing shower or read a good book or go to watch a movie.
Do not feel that you are abandoning your child. Little breaks like these will help you take better care of him.
2. Do not feel guilty:
Do not allow yourself to feel guilty. Having postpartum depression is not your fault and it does not mean you do not love your child.
3. Indulge in pleasurable activities:
Start enjoying activities that you used to like before the baby came.
Read something uplifting, visit a friend, page through a magazine, listen to music, sip a cup of tea etc.
Do not shun society and try to be with family and friends who can provide support and comfort.
4. Ask for and accept help:
Don’t hesitate from asking for emotional support or help with caring for the baby or tackling household chores.
A part of being a mother is to know when to ask for help and accept it. Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed about it.
Share your feelings with people who matter to you, let them know what you are going through and seek their support.
You can also join a support group or a forum. It helps to know that you are not the only one with Postpartum Depression.
5. Sleep when the baby sleeps:
It is important to catch on sleep so that exhaustion from caring for the baby does not contribute to depression. It is a good idea to sleep when the baby sleeps.
Do not rush to do other chores in that time, those can be done later. Choose a quiet place with minimal disturbance and get as much rest as you can.
If necessary, have a relative look after your child or hire a baby sitter and get sleep.
6. Do not neglect your outlook:
Taking care of your physical appearance can sometimes help you feel better. Have someone look after your baby while you take a relaxing shower, put on make-up or go for shopping.
Getting out of doors, even if it’s only for a short walk is beneficial. The fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for a fatigued mind and body.
The third and rarest but most serious kind of postnatal depression is Postpartum Psychosis.
One woman out of every 1000 women giving childbirth experiences this period when she seems to lose touch with reality.
This depression can set in at any time from a few weeks after deliver up to a year.
Its reasons of occurrence are no different than those for usual Postpartum depression but sadly it is often misdiagnosed as Postpartum Depression, which makes it harder to provide it the medical attention it deserves.
Postpartum Psychosis should always be taken seriously and treated pronto as it can be very harmful for the mother and the baby.
Suicidal rate in Psychotic mothers is 5% and infanticide rate 4%.
Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis are as follows:
- Illogical thoughts about the baby e.g. thinking he is possessed
- Refusal to eat
- Extreme feelings of anxiety and agitation
- Periods of delirium or mania
- Suicidal/homicidal thoughts or attempts
Women more prone to Postpartum Psychosis are those who have a personal or familial history of psychiatric illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder.
Immediate attention should be given to a Postpartum Psychosis patient by medicine and talk therapy.
Postpartum depression is a very natural effect of the long and exhaustive process of pregnancy, labour and childbirth.
It is nothing to be embarrassed about and you should not feel shy in seeking professional help, talking to people about it, expressing your feelings and asking for help with the new baby and the new life that you have entered.
If a loved one is going through Postpartum depression try to understand her situation, extend a helping hand and a comforting shoulder. Help her around with the baby, cook her a meal, take her on a walk, listen to her.
These small things would remind a mother going through the blues, of her own value and how much she is loved. If your wife is going through postnatal depression try to understand her and not judge her.
Postpartum depression can be hard for husbands too but be patient and kind.
Remember things will not be like this always, brighter days lie ahead, but your support is vital for your wife’s recovery.