The author, Mayuri Rajvanshi, wants to share a quick story about her mother's experience. Her mother had struggled with postpartum depression after delivering her. The story will surely help with anyone who is either struggling with postpartum depression or is recovering from it.
I once out of curiosity asked my mother how she felt the first time she lifted me in her arms. Since long, I have been contemplating to embrace motherhood so I just wanted to get an idea of what it must feel like, lifting one’s own child, for the first time.
Have never seen a face so pale, as I saw my mother’s, turning paler with remorseful expressions! A long chat ensued and I got to know that immediately after my birth she was overwhelmed with a bombardment of emotions, from excitement and happiness to anxiety and stress. Fear had such an impact on her that she dreaded coming near me for the initial few days.
Difficulty in sleeping, constant crying spells, lack of appetite, anxiety, and mood swings made it difficult for her to even get out of bed. Most of the time it was my father taking care of me, bathing and cleaning me. All this has resulted in the humongous guilt of not being the perfect mother - taking care of me as every other mother would. She did overcome stress, fear and depression but still carries the guilt and anxiety.
Was she a less than perfect mother? No! Am I scared after hearing her story? No!
What she went through was postpartum depression - unheard and unrecognized back then. Majority of mothers, who go through postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, feel or are made to feel like imperfect mothers who should be carrying around the guilt with them forever. This is where a line must be drawn and truth be told to all such mothers- YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT. Postpartum depression can happen to any new mother, irrespective of how strong or mentally tough they are. It is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw.
It is what it is- a disease! If you are suffering from depression after pregnancy, please know that you aren’t alone and it is completely treatable. Hundreds of mothers fight postpartum depression every day and come out successful in the end. As for new or about to be mothers, this article isn’t to scare you. Proper knowledge of symptoms and causes of post pregnancy depression aids you in fighting it off with ease or even better- preventing it. Surrounding postpartum depression patients with love, care and emotional support is the biggest help the immediate family can provide in such cases.
Table of Contents
This article aims at spreading awareness about postpartum depression, its causes, symptoms, and treatment. Hope it helps.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a clinical form of depression that kicks in typically after childbirth. In certain cases if the mother has been going through stress or slight depression during pregnancy then chances are high it may culminate into postpartum depression. Though post pregnancy depression can start any time during the baby’s first six months, it usually kicks in within first three weeks of childbirth.
If you are confused about feeling miserable over what you thought would be extremely joyful or you feel guilty for being unable to bond with the baby, then you aren’t a bad mother - you have postpartum depression- which is treatable.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression symptoms vary from mild to severe and may develop anytime after childbirth. These post childbirth symptoms of depression in women are sometimes also called postpartum blues and include:
· Severe mood swings
· Lack of appetite or insatiable hunger constantly
· Difficulty in sleeping or sleeping too much
· Frequent crying spells
· The constant feeling of being overwhelmed
· Anxiety and stress
· Lack of enthusiasm in bonding with the child
· Lack of concentration
· Withdrawal from family and little to no conversations with your spouse
· Anger bursts
· Overpowering emotions and feeling of guilt, shame and worthlessness
· Reduced interest in grooming, basic daily hygiene or in activities that were pleasurable earlier
· Restlessness and panic attacks
· Thoughts of harming oneself or the baby or suicide
If left untreated, post pregnancy depression may last for several months and cause life-altering actions. Severe forms require immediate medical attention.
There is a rare condition, called postpartum psychosis, which typically develops immediately or within the first week of delivery. Symptoms of postpartum psychosis are often severe and include:
· Disorientation, perplexed thinking and confusion
· Obsessive and compulsive thoughts about the newborn
· Delusions and hallucinations
· Agitation and excess energy
· Disturbances in sleep pattern
· Paranoia and attempts to harm the baby
Postpartum psychosis if left untreated may lead to life-threatening actions. It requires immediate attention from a registered medical practitioner.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
There is no single cause of post pregnancy depression. Instead, a lot of physical and mental/ emotional factors combine together giving rise to postpartum depression. Some of the postpartum depression causes are:
During pregnancy, there is a surge in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that drops immediately after childbirth. This sudden drop in hormones often kicks-starts depression.
Non-cooperation from family, lack of emotional support, little to no adequate rest, sleepless nights, tiresome schedule, struggle with a sense of self-identity, no time for oneself and the constant feeling of having lost control over life- all can lead to post pregnancy depression.
Risk factors: As a new mother, you might be at the risk of developing postpartum depression if any of the following holds true for you:
· If you have a history of depression either long before or during pregnancy
· If you have bipolar disorder
· If you are experiencing stressful pregnancy due to illness, complications, marriage related problems, lack of understanding with family etc.
· If the pregnancy is unplanned
· If there is a history of postpartum depression in your family
Postpartum Depression Treatment
Postpartum depression, as scary as it may sound like a major depressive disorder, it is completely treatable.
First and foremost advice: we know how compelling and easy it is to Google: ‘how to overcome depression’ or ‘how to fight depression’ and read scores of articles about what to do when depressed. However, it is highly advisable to not self-treat or self-medicate in case of severe symptoms.
Consult only a registered medical practitioner who has experience in dealing with such cases. The doctor shall prescribe you antidepressants that help in restoring the chemical balance of your brain. There are medicines to treat depression in lactating mothers that are completely safe for the newborn child.
Besides medicine, the doctor shall also refer you to a psychologist for counselling. Counselling helps you in recognizing negative thought pattern and breaking it. With counselling, you will be able to deal with stress in an effective and efficient way.
Apart from the help, you will receive through medicine and counselling, following things can help you fight postpartum depression in a better way. These are:
· Exercise daily as it increases endorphins - the feel-good hormone
· Set simple goals and try to meet them
· Take some time off for yourself to be with friends
· Groom yourself
· Practice relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation
· Surround yourself with positive people.
Stay upbeat and positive even if you are feeling hopeless at the time. Postpartum depression can easily be defeated with right medicines, positive attitude and love of near and dear ones.
If you know anyone suffering from postpartum depression, show them your love and support.Let them know that they can seek professional help and be a happy mom.