Postpartum Depression: What it is and why you shouldn't ignore it
By: Aakanksha Bambulkar
Published On: September 25, 2018
Postpartum depression is different from baby blues, a knowledge that most people are oblivious to. Here's everything you need to know...
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of mood disorder which is associated with childbirth. It can affect both the sexes but is more common in women. It’s common for most of the new mothers to experience “baby blues” after delivery. About 10% - 15% of women suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) every year in India which can also lead to postpartum mood disorders (PPMDs) and postpartum psychosis.
How different are “baby blues” from postpartum depression?
The term “baby blues” is used to describe feelings of worry, unhappiness, and severe fatigue that women experience after giving birth. There is a simple explanation- babies require a lot of care and therefore it’s easy for new mothers to be exhausted from provided that care. Just like the baby, it’s the first time for the mother too.
Baby blues affect approximately 70% - 80% of mothers and last merely a week or two and go away on their own. If you find the symptoms lasting longer, you should visit a counselor.
On the other hand, the symptoms of postpartum depression are must more severe with added symptoms like withdrawal from social conditions and exceptional amount of anxiety which tampers with a woman’s ability to care for herself and her family. The severity of the symptoms calls for immediate treatment to dial down the mental instability
Postpartum depression is stronger than “baby blues” and is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers that go through postpartum depression experience extreme emotions like feelings of sadness, anxiety, agitation and exhaustion.
This even hampers with their day to day activities. While going through this, a woman might also find herself detached from things that she used to feel close to, for example, her family, friends, husband etc.
Causes of postpartum depression
Postpartum depression doesn’t occur because of a single cause. It normally has many triggers which are a combination of both physical and emotional factors. It does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do.
The role of hormones in postpartum depression
As we know, hormones play a vital role in regulating a woman’s bodily activities. These hormone levels, especially estrogen & progesterone, quickly drop after she gives birth to a child.
This leads to chemical changes in the brain which trigger mood swings. This in turn results in sleep deprivation in a lot of mothers. Constant deprivation of sleep causes physical discomfort and extreme exhaustion, which contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Symptoms of Postpartum depression
There are a lot of symptoms of postpartum depression which are similar to “baby blues” and this is the biggest reason why most mothers do not pay heed to their symptoms or try to get them treated.
If these symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, it’s recommended to visit a counselor. Some of the symptoms a woman may experience include:
The feeling of depression, hopelessness, emptiness and overwhelmingness
Crying often for no apparent reason
Feeling of worry or being overly anxious
Feeling immensely moody, irritable or restless
Oversleeping to not getting sleep at all, even when the baby is asleep
Experiencing trouble concentrating, remembering details & coming to decisions
Experiencing fits of extreme anger & rage
Losing interest in activities that usually used to interest you
Suffering from a lot of muscular pain like; physical aches, frequent headaches, stomach problems, back pain and muscle pain
Overeating or undereating
Problems bonding or forming an attachment to the baby
Persistently doubting one’s ability to take care of the baby
Having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Telltale signs that you might be suffering from postpartum depressionOnly a healthcare provider can provide a proper diagnosis of postpartum depression. Due to the wide arena of symptoms for this condition, only a health provider can perfectly distinguish between the symptoms and conclude it to be postpartum depression or any other condition.
Are there women who are more likely to experience postpartum depression?
Some women are at a greater risk of developing postpartum depression as one or more risk factors are involved; such as:
Depression during or after the pregnancy
Previous encounter with depression
Experiencing bipolar disorder to a great extent
Family history of depression or mental illness
Medical complications during the birth including premature delivery
Mixed feelings about pregnancy, whether it was planned or unplanned
A lack of strong emotional support from spouse, family and friends
Alcohol or other drug abuse problem
Postpartum depression can affect any woman regardless of age, race or ethnicity.
Treatment for Postpartum depressionPostpartum treatment can get the better of you but luckily, there are many treatments that one can get. A woman’s healthcare provider can help her with the best treatment for her condition, which may include:
This treatment is composed of one-on-one communication with a mental health professional; it can be a counselor, a therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a social worker) There are two types counseling which can treat postpartum depression:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people recognize and change their negative thoughts & behaviors.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) makes them understand their problem and work through their personal relationships.
MedicationAntidepressants act on the brain chemicals that control mood regulations. This type of medication usually takes weeks before showing effectiveness and even though it is considered to be safe during breastfeeding; consulting a healthcare provider about its risks and benefits to herself or the baby is always useful.
Psychotherapy is a little more intense then counseling. It involves potent therapy through which you can find better ways of coping with your cynical feelings, ability of problem solving and helps you set realistic goals by responding to situations in a positive way. There are times when family & relationship therapy also helps.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
This therapy is used in severe cases of postpartum depression and only if the symptoms do not respond to medication. ECT is a procedure in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure.
ECT causes changes in the brain chemistry which might reduce the symptoms of postpartum depression to a great extent.
The treatment for postpartum depression can tamper with a mother’s ability to breastfeed. Plus, even separation from the baby during the treatment can have adverse effects on the mother, her child and their relationship. This is the sole reason why postpartum depression treatments aren’t recommended for women who are breastfeeding.
What can go wrong if postpartum depression is left untreated?
Without proper diagnosis and treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or even years. In addition to affecting the mother’s health, it can strongly interfere with her ability to connect with her child.
The child can even have problems sleeping, eating, topped with behavioral problems while growing up..
How can family & friends support the mother?
The spouse, other family members & friends are usually the first ones to notice these symptoms in a new mother. They can ask her to undergo counseling, offer emotional support and assist with the daily tasks at home or with the baby.
If you or someone you know has suicidal tendencies or problems coping up with being a new mother, you must take immediate action:
Call your doctor
Call for emergency services or rush to the nearest emergency room
Here are some helplines that hear & help women cope with depression and suicidal thoughts:
1. Sumaitri, Delhi: 011-23389090
2. Lifeline Foundation, Kolkata: 033 2463 7437
3. Kashmir Lifeline, Srinagar: 1800-180-7020
4. Roshni, Hyderabad: +9122 25521111
5. Maitri, Kochi: + 91-484-2540530
6. Sneha, Chennai: 044 246 40060
7. iCall, Mumbai: 022-25563291
8. Jeevan, Jamshedpur: 9297777500
9. Sahai, Bengaluru: 080-25497777
10.You Matter by COOJ, Goa: +91 98225 62522
11. Saath, Ahmedabad: 1860 266 2345
12. Hope Helpline, Kota: 0744-2333666
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