Postpartum depression is an extended emotional downswing that can occur in new mothers. It may start any time during the first year after delivery and can strike anyone.
This is different from the mood swings that new mothers, will find themselves going through in the first few days after delivery. The latter are often referred to as "baby blues". Researchers believe these are caused by the hormonal changes that occur in a new mother's body right after birth. These usually go away fast through rest, and good family support.
Postpartum depression, on the other hand, continues for longer, poses greater risk to mother and child and requires treatment. In India, parental support (particularly maternal) is usually available to the new mother. While this support helps considerably in mitigating this condition, it cannot eliminate the possibility of postpartum depression. Medical advice should always be sought when this condition is detected.
Mothers with postpartum depression usually exhibit some of these characteristics:
- Feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, guilt and inadequacy
- Low spirits, continued fatigue, unmotivated feeling
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to get engaged and to enjoy life
- Distancing oneself from family and friends
- Short temper
- Indifferent to food
- Indifferent to sex
At its most extreme, postpartum depression turns into postpartum psychosis.
There are many potential causes for this depression. A new mother goes through significant hormonal (Estrogen, thyroidal hormones etc.,) changes immediately after delivery. The production of these hormones increases significantly during pregnancy. After delivery, these hormone level drop back to pre-pregnancy levels, like a falling brick.
A new mother may become overwhelmed by the attention the baby needs and may not be able to balance this with the needs of the rest of the family (husband, other children etc.).
Lack of experienced maternal support around the new mother may make her worry about her ability to take care of her baby.
- Get ready for a new baby, early in your pregnancy. Read books about new mothers. Read Parentree journals of new mothers.
- Join the Parentree group for mothers delivering in the same month as you. Sharing your feelings and preparation tips with other mothers-to-be will be mutually beneficial.
- Some mothers find it useful to get organized using checklists and tasklists.
- Don't try to do every possible thing to make things perfect. It may stress you unnecessarily.
- Discuss postpartum depression with your husband and the people who will be around you after the baby is born. They may detect it before you do.
- If you can get family support and someone to stay with you, that would be a great help
Postpartum depression is usually addressed by doctors through counselling and antidepressants. Seek medical attention early if you feel any of the symptoms listed above.
Doctors in India report that Postpartum depression in India is not very high because family support is usually available. But with busy schedules and smaller families that are prevalent today, it is worthwhile to keep an eye out for it.