Being a new mother is a challenging phase as lots of adjustments are needed. Hence dealing with disruption of sleep wake cycle, responsibility of the baby, breastfeeding irregularities and recovery from the delivery is difficult. All these issues can lead to “Baby blues” or minor mood swings and irritability which generally disappears in a week or two post delivery without any treatment.

Postpartum depression is severe clinical depression after child birth.It can occur soon after delivery or within a year and requires treatment.

Causes of postpartum depression

Causes can be

  • Changes in body both before and after delivery
  • Changes in work and social relationships
  • Less time and freedom for leisure
  • Lack of sleep
  • Worrying about the ability to be a good mother
  • Inadequate support from the partner and family

What are the risk factors?

You may have a higher chance of developing postpartum depression, if you are

  • Under 20 years of age
  • Did not plan the pregnancy and have mixed feelings about it.
  • Had history of depression in the past or in the family
  • Have poor relationship with the partner, or a single parent
  • Financial and social issues
  • Currently drinks alcohol, smokes or takes illegal substances
  • Dealing with death, illness of a dear one

Symptoms of postpartum depression

Feelings of anxiety, restlessness, mood swings and tearfulness just after pregnancy is known as baby blues which mostly disappear in a week without treatment.

Postpartum depression may occur when the baby blues do not fade away or when signs of depression start 1 or more months after childbirth.

The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as the symptoms of depression. Along with a sad or depressed mood, you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Agitation or irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Feeling like you are withdrawn or disconnected
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in most or all activities
  • Loss of concentration
  • Loss of energy
  • Problems in doing daily routine tasks
  • Significant anxiety
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Troubled sleep

Also a mother with postpartum depression will be unable to take care of the baby and herself, will be afraid to be alone with the baby and may have negative feelings towards the baby.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is made by the doctor on the basis of symptoms and history of your illness. If you feel you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, see your physician immediately.

Treatment

Treatment of postpartum depression includes medication and counselling. You may be advised appropriate medication which help in balancing certain brain chemicals linked to depression.

Counselling by a psychologist will help in dealing with the depression better. It helps in recognising negative feelings and handling them in a better way. So it is important to seek help of the psychiatrist as soon as the diagnosis is made.

If you’ve been diagnosed with postpartum depression, there are many things you can do to help yourself

  • Ask your partner, family, and friends for help with the baby’s needs and in the home.
  • DO NOT hide your feelings. Talk about them with your near ones.
  • DO NOT make any major life changes during pregnancy or right after giving birth.
  • DO NOT try to do too much, or to be perfect.
  • Make time to go out, visit friends, or spend time alone with your partner.
  • Rest as much as you can. Sleep when the baby is sleeping.
  • Talk with other mothers or join a support group.

Having good support of your family, partner and friends may help reduce the seriousness of the illness. Also timely diagnosis and treatment will help in quicker recovery. If you have any symptoms of depression as mentioned above, do not ignore it as just mood swings and seek medical help at the earliest.

-Dr Prerna Gaur

Acknowledgements

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/postpartum-depression/what-is-postpartum-depression

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/symptoms/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/237109.php

 

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