Arrival of a new member in the family is always a moment of joy after spending hours and hours in the labor room with excruciating pain and wondering when the baby will come out so that all the pains will come to an end, but does it end there? Or is that a starting point of a bigger challenge? When a child is born the whole family rejoices, the doctors are happy that the child and the mother are doing good. Relatives and friends congratulate the couple, but for a mother it is a moment of mixed emotions. On one side she is happy that she has become a mother and on the other side a major responsibility is waiting for her. She gives a faded smile by looking at the happy faces around her. The challenge starts on the day one itself. Yes it is the breastfeeding followed by the postpartum depression (PPD).
Causes for PPD
The cause of PPD is still unknown. It might be due to fluctuations in the levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy and post pregnancy. PPD usually occurs within 4 weeks of delivery. There are so many predisposing factors that lead to PPD in new mothers
- Lack of proper sleep due to frequent breastfeeding in the middle of the night
- Issues with breastfeeding like poor latching, cracked nipples and engorged breast
- Lack of proper support from family
- Body pain and fatigue
- Missing your spouse (in my case)
- Financial conditions of the family
- Weight loss in baby due to poor latching(my personal experience)
Sometimes it might also be just because the mother has to stay with the baby throughout the day without any breaks in between.
Signs and symptoms of PPD
According to American Psychiatric Association it is estimated that 50-80% of new mothers experience transient symptoms of
- Depressed mood at times alternating with elated moods
- Irritability and increased crying
- Self pity, feeling worthless, hopeless, insomnia, and loss of interest in the baby (my personal experience)
- The severe cases includes the thoughts of hurting oneself or the the baby.
Severe depression post childbirth is not normal.
Measures to Overcome PPD
The first and foremost thing on the basis of my personal experience is that never accuse a mother that her milk is not enough to appease the hunger of her child. Choice of feeding purely depends on the mother and her health care provider.
- Making sure the mother gets enough rest as her body would have to recover from fatigue and pains
- Letting her have a good body massage to recover from body pains and even post delivery pains.
- The spouse should take active part in taking care of the baby apart from the feeding time. The mother can take breaks in between while someone takes care of the baby.
- Long walks in the open air and breathing exercises helps elevate the mood of the mother.
- New mothers suffering from PPD should avoid isolation and discuss their problems with their partner or the family. Isolation and suppression of feelings leads to self pity and guilt.
- At times mothers also require a break from their daily routine which helps them to feel a lot more better. It includes indulging in activities like pursuing their favorite hobby, going out with their spouse, or simply having a relaxed bath and wearing their favorite dress.
- Mothers should avoid multi tasking and never hesitate to ask for help from her spouse and the family in taking care of the baby or performing the daily chores.
- Last but not the least, good nutrition and clean water helps elevate the mood of the mother.
Treatment for PPD
Treatment for PPD usually varies on the basis of severity of the case.
- It includes counselling, usage of anti depressants and medications.
- Discussing one's problems with the healthcare provider who will help the mother to deal with her problems in a positive way, to set realistic goals and to control mood swings
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: It helps to change one's way of seeing things and handling the situation. It is said to be effective in treating long-term anxiety and depression. It provides practical solutions to problems that we face on a day today basis
- Interpersonal therapy: It is an interpersonal interaction with the person who is affected with depression. The therapist focuses on four key areas such as the key problems of the patient, interpersonal disputes, interpersonal defecits, role transitions and griefs. It is know to be one of the effective methods of treating PPD
- Antidepressants: Medicines such as antidepressants are administered in extreme cases that calm down the fluctuations in the hormones. It has to be prescribed by a doctor as antidepressants has got it's own side effects on the body and on the composition and supply of breast milk.
What happens when long-term PPD is left untreated??
Postpartum depression is something which cannot be ignored. If left untreated it can lead to the risk of committing suicide or even harming the child in worse cases. It affects the mental health of both the mother and child and lead to poor bonding between them which can even affect the entire family. In children it leads to early onset of self-pity, lack of self esteem, anxiety, depression and even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One should discuss their problems with their partners and families or with the doctor to handle the situation in a positive way.
They say God cannot be everywhere so they created mothers. Sometimes that mother requires help and support to face her problems cause only a happy mother can raise a happy child and build a happy family.