Hey, New Mommy in Town! Hitting your all-time low though you expected to plunge into the magical journey of motherhood will all enthusiasm? Then, the first thing you MUST know is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE (Yes, you read it right! A great majority of new moms go through this and you have many fellow travelers in your boat!!). Having that very vital awareness, the next thing you would want to know is what this could be, making you feel weird to the core for a good fraction of your time! Well, the answer to it could be Postpartum Depression!
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression, also referred to as PPD or postnatal depression, is a kind of mood disorder that some women go through after childbirth. It is characterized by a combination of emotional, behavioral and physical changes in the new mother. Hormonal changes, lack of proper sleep and the stress of taking care of a newborn could all account to PPD.
Accompanied by feelings like extreme sadness, frustration and mood swings, it is often confused with ‘baby blues’ that women experience in the initial week post delivering the baby.
How is postpartum depression different from baby blues?
PPD differs from baby blues in terms of the duration and the intensity of symptoms. Baby blues go away in a matter of 3 to 5 days (sometimes it might take up to 2 weeks) while postpartum depression doesn’t really go away that soon and the intensity of feelings experienced is much lesser in baby blues when compared to postpartum depression.
How do you feel like when you get Postpartum Depression? What are the symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
The presentation of postpartum depression differs from woman to woman.
Some of the major symptoms of postpartum depression are as follows:
- Extremely sad and moody
- Highly disappointed
- Angry without any particular reason
- Mood swings
- Fear, anxiety and panic attacks
- Unable to focus on anything
- Unable to bond with the baby
- Refraining from activities that were loved and enjoyed previously
- Sleeping/ eating too much or too less
- Feeling extremely fatigued and exhausted
Some mothers present with rather dangerous symptoms like wanting to hurt self or the baby, suicidal tendency, hallucinations, hearing / seeing things that are not actually there. In such cases, immediate medical intervention is required, without fail.
When does Postpartum Depression start?
Postnatal depression usually begins as soon as the baby is born. Some mothers go through the mood swings and anxiety much prior to childbirth and it is called prenatal depression.
Rarely PPD could affect the mother a year after childbirth, which is clearly after the postpartum period.
How long does Postpartum Depression last?
Postpartum depression could last for few weeks, months or even 1 whole year. Usually, it resolves within a time frame of 3 to 6 months, with the symptoms getting under control gradually. Sometimes, it might take a year or a little beyond that for a complete recovery.
How does Postpartum Depression affect the baby?
If diagnosed and treated on time, PPD will not have much effect on your baby. However, delaying or neglecting PPD treatment can have long term effects on your little one, often noticed after an age of 5.
Some of the very common issues found in children of PPD affected mothers are as follows:
- Behavioral and emotional problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
- Extreme sensory sensitivity
- Consistently low scores in math
Who is at a higher risk of getting Postpartum Depression?
Not all mothers go through postpartum depression; however, the following risk factors could make you more prone to PPD:
- Prior history of depression or anxiety (during or prior to the time of pregnancy)
- Prior history of PPD during a previous pregnancy
- Breast feeding difficulties
- Lack of support from family (especially from spouse/ partner) and friends
- Pregnancy complications
- Other stressful events like loss of a dear one, job loss, financial issues etc during pregnancy or post delivery
- Marital problems
- Unplanned/ unwanted pregnancy
- Twins/ Triplets/ Multiple births
- Health issues with the baby/ babies born with special needs
- Depression or other mental issues like bipolar disorder running in the family
- Younger than 20 years of age
How to diagnose Postpartum Depression?
If you feel you experience symptoms of PPD, it is highly advisable to approach a doctor (a mental health professional) at the earliest. The doctor diagnoses your postpartum depression and its severity by asking several questions like how you feel, what you do when you get a specific feeling and so on. The first and foremost aim would be to ascertain whether you are experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression.
The diagnosis might require you to fill a questionnaire that gives the doctor a better picture on your emotional state. She might also order some medical tests to understand whether it is some medical condition like thyroid problems causing the symptoms.
How to treat Postpartum Depression?
Is postpartum depression curable? The good news is that it is COMPLETELY CURABLE!
There are different ways in which PPD can be treated, depending on the intensity of the issue. The most widely used treatment methods include:
1. Therapy: A qualified mental health professional, a psychiatrist or a psychologist, can take you out of the depression by providing counseling.
How does therapy help postpartum depression?
The main agenda of the counseling would be to help you get rid of negative and destructive thoughts through highly effective strategies. The counselors make it way easier to cope with the symptoms of PPD and help you get back to your normal life at the earliest.
2. Medication: The medication for PPD includes antidepressants and mood stabilizers. You will be able to notice a change in a matter of weeks and will find yourself having better control over your mood.
Does postpartum medication affect the baby?
If you are a breastfeeding mother, do make it a point to convey the same to the psychiatrist so that the medication does not have any adverse effects on your newborn.
In extremely rare cases, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is used to treat PPD (but that shouldn’t scare you as it is really rare and probably not an option at all for you!).
Can lifestyle changes help postpartum depression? Are there any natural remedies for postpartum depression?
When accompanied by proper medical treatment, lifestyle changes and natural remedies can definitely help in improving the overall mood of the mother and help her attain a better emotional balance.
Self- care, where the mother gets some “me-time”, is something that really helps. Proper sleep and nutrition should be incorporated in your routine for better results. Other natural remedies like meditation and mindfulness practices could also help in speeding up the recovery process.
Postpartum depression is never a serious mental disorder that you can’t rid of. It doesn’t make you a bad mother either. But, once you find yourself affected by PPD, ensure to seek treatment at the earliest – happier days await you and your little one!