Postpartum Depression can be classified as a mood disorder that usually affects women after the delivery of their child. They might start feeling anxious, fatigued, and dejected. This leads to depression that can make it hard to function properly and take care of themselves and their child.
Difference between Postpartum Depression, Baby Blues, and Postpartum Psychosis:
Baby Blues are a common phenomenon that ends up affecting roughly 80% of women. The symptoms that are associated with this condition are mild and short-term. It is usually not a cause for concern. When under Baby Blues, the mother is seen struggling with mood swings and being overwhelmed by her emotions. But rarely, it might manifest into a serious disorder called Postpartum Depression (PPD). The number of women who are prone to PPD is somewhere around 15%.
The simplest way to discern Baby Blues from PPD is by being aware of the symptoms plaguing you. Baby Blues are supposed to last for only two weeks. If depression still persists and the symptoms seem to be getting more intense, then it might be a case of PPD. PPD hinders the ability to perform daily tasks and chores. Most importantly, it might make it difficult for you to take care of the baby.
Postpartum Psychosis is the rarest and most severe form of PPD. The symptoms of this disorder are life-threatening for both the mother and child. These could be auditory and visual hallucinations, paired with paranoia and urges to harm yourself and the baby. In case of any such symptoms, immediate medical help should be sought.
The major cause of Postpartum Depression in new mothers:
During pregnancy, there are major fluctuations in hormone levels. Production levels of estrogen and progesterone are spiked, and after childbirth these return back to normal. Such sudden variations in hormones may lead to PPD. Hormones produced by the thyroid gland may also face a dip.
You should be vigilant about the following broad signs and symptoms associated with Postpartum Depression:
1. Fluctuations in body functions.
A change in sleep cycles, by way of insomnia, or a general feeling of sluggishness. A similar extreme change in food consumption is observed.
2. Withdrawal from society.
Isolation from friends, family, and the baby itself is common when suffering from PPD. The new mother shrinks into her bubble and is irritated when making any contact with others.
3. Extreme mood swings.
When you go from exuberance and elation at the sight of your baby to irritability and annoyance in a matter of moments, it is definitely not just a phase.
4. Feelings of hopelessness.
The thought of raising a child is one that many find overwhelming and difficult to digest. This could result in feeling a medley of negative emotions such as dread, anxiety, helplessness, and hopelessness.
5. Losing complete control over emotions.
When your emotions seem to leak from you undeterred, and you cannot get a grip on them to help stir your life in the right direction.
The two major avenues for treating this condition are:
Working on your mental health with a psychologist, psychiatrist or any other mental health professional can help introspect our destructive tendencies and empower us to come up with the right support system to fight this disorder.
Medication that's usually recommended is of antidepressants or anti-anxiety pills. Antidepressants are supposed to regulate the chemicals in your brain to bring about stability. The side effects of each medication should be taken into account. Make sure to check with your doctor to see that the pills do not harm the baby through breastfeeding.
But there are ways to help counter the effects of Postpartum Depression by making certain lifestyle changes:
1. Have a strong support group.
Build a support group of close friends and family members with whom you can be open about your mental health and issues. Isolating yourself will only exacerbate your condition by building up negativity within you.
2. Get moving.
Regular exercise, even in small doses such as going on a short walk with your baby in the stroller, can help in alleviating the symptoms. Make sure to seek your doctor's advice on how much physical activity you should be pursuing immediately after childbirth.
3. Take some time out for yourself.
During the early postnatal phase, you might be finding it difficult to have time for yourself amongst breastfeeding, changing diapers, and other household duties. But it's important to put yourself first. Have your alone "me-time" breaks to get in touch with your feelings and emotions.
4. Try to be well-rested.
Nap times might come harder as your baby's sleeping cycle evolves. But try to get a bit of rest while your child sleeps. Keep a bottle of milk and other baby supplies handy. This way you can squeeze a bit of extra sleep while someone else takes care of the baby.
Being exposed to the following factors increases the likelihood of having Postpartum Depression after the pregnancy:
1. History of depression.
If you have had prior bouts with depression or other mental illnesses; or there are roots of depression in your family, then chances of PPD are higher.
2. Exposure to financial instability.
Coupling money problems with the stress of childbirth and raising a baby can increase pressure and anxiety on the mother.
3. Complications during childbirth.
Many mothers face uncertain and difficult circumstances while delivery such as the water breaking early, excessive bleeding, insufficient progress of the labor, etc. These complications together with the poor health of the baby are natural stressors.
4. Age of the parents.
It is commonly observed that the younger the age of the parents, the higher are the chances of PPD. It can often be overwhelming for young parents to handle the enormous responsibility that is raising a child.
5. Relationship problems.
In case of there being problems at home; with parents, spouses, siblings or friends, the situation worsens during delivery. Especially in case of absent significant others, the abandonment issues flare up into the relationship with the baby.
PPD is also observed in new fathers. This is known as Paternal Postpartum Depression. It is usually shared by young fathers who have a history of depression and might be facing financial or relationship issues. New demands and responsibilities during pregnancy and the postpartum period often cause major changes in a father's life, too. It's important to understand what risk factors can affect the development of depression. And it can take a serious toll on the family's wellbeing, specifically the child's.
Giving birth is a powerful experience, which can have a myriad of effects on both the body and psyche. Make sure to disclose all the relevant facts regarding your health to your doctor, to help take early steps towards the prevention of this disorder.
Stay Tuned, Stay Relevant!