Have you ever noticed how some women get very cranky after childbirth? A new mother throwing a tantrum or just going quiet without any apparent reason, is not a matter of joke. It is called postpartum depression. Mental health – as a whole – is not something that we discuss in our society. And when it comes to the mental well-being of a new mother, she loses the race to the new baby, and thousand other tangible problems and issues.
Postpartum depression can show its sign or be hidden for a long time. Usually you should look out for signs and symptoms within seven to 10 days after the baby is born. But honestly it can happen from the time the baby is two weeks old and can last till through the first year after the baby is born. To prevent the severity of the depression, it is important that women who suspect they might have postpartum depression seek help as soon as possible. At the same time, for new mothers it is hard to identify the signs, therefore if you think postpartum depression may affect your loved one, gently suggest that she talks to her doctor about how she’s feeling.
Does all mothers get it? The answer is no! So, who is at the risk of having a postpartum depression? Women with a high chance to experience postpartum depression are those who had gone through any kind of depression or anxiety during the pregnancy. Women with a history of postpartum depression or having a family member with postpartum depression are at risk as well. Also, a complicated pregnancy or obstructed birth, an unexpected birth outcome, history of still born babies, and unrealistic expectations of motherhood from the family are other factors to look out for. Moreover, relationship problems with the spouse, or another family member, financial concerns, or lack of a social support system can also instigate such episodes of depression.
With motherhood and the happiness that comes along with it, new mothers often feel a wide range of emotions in the days and weeks following the birth of the baby. Mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and sleep disorders are all typical after a baby is born. Often referred as the “baby blues,” these outbursts usually start within the first three days of delivery and may last for up to two weeks. However, when those symptoms last beyond two weeks and are worsened by every passing day, the condition is considered postpartum depression.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any clear indication – at least medically – that can be identified as the cause for developing postpartum depression. After conducting several studies, researchers indicate that, it is highly likely to be a combination of hormonal fluctuations, lack of sleep and the significant lifestyle changes that come with the birth of a baby.
Despite not having any proper treatment facilities or counselling systems that can be integrated with safe delivery packages, it is vital that women with postpartum depression receive treatment. And this treatment should start immediately, if the mother is having trouble with daily activities or if she is having difficulty bonding with the baby. Treatment typically involves discussing feelings and concerns with an obstetrics provider or mental health professional. However, it is important that the treatment should be provided by a psychiatrist or psychologist who is familiar with postpartum depression. In some cases, antidepressant medication may be helpful, however, it needs to be kept in mind that usual antidepressants are not advisable for lactating mothers. Therefore before taking any antidepressants, it is important that the new mother takes the type of antidepressants that do not need to interfere with nursing.
In addition to the counselling and medications, healthy lifestyle choices may also aid in recovery. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep can all help improve mood and may ease some symptoms of postpartum depression.
We all have to keep in mind that when a child is born, a mother is born too. So, wherever you see a new baby, look out for the mother. It can sometimes be hard for a family member or friend to raise the topic of postpartum depression with a loved one who has just given birth. But if someone you care about seems to be struggling with difficult emotions rather than enjoying being a mother, encourage her to talk to her health care provider.
Shusmita Khan is a public health worker