We know. The postpartum gamut of emotions can sometimes be daunting. So we bring you a place to start: often-asked questions with some straightforward answers.
By Dr. Shefali Batra (InnerHour) in collaboration with Together- For Her Health
October 10th 2017 was a landmark date for various aspects of Mental Health.
However, not many are aware of Postpartum Depression: a common issue plaguing mothers across the world, and more prevalent than you think even in developing countries like India.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
Postpartum Depression? Baby Blues? What do I call this?
Both are real, but they mean different things.
Globally, 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression: a mood disorder that affects women after childbirth. It causes mothers to feel sad, worried and constantly fatigued. These feelings are accompanied by low self-esteem, extreme guilt, anger spells or panic attacks. Mothers, finding it difficult to care for both themselves and the infant and might begin to indulge in self-blame.
It is very different from postpartum blues, or “Baby Blues,” a short-lived low phase that begins a few days after labour and usually dissipates by the end of the second week.
What are the signs of Post-Partum Depression?
A range of emotional states, from sadness to harmful thoughts and actions
The symptoms of postpartum depression manifest differently for everyone however, some of the common signs are:
- A lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling sad or ‘empty’
- Changes in appetite, either eating a lot more or less than you used to
- Recurring anxious thoughts or even panic attacks.
- Feeling irritable, frustrated or angry
- Crying bouts or feeling tearful
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
- Inability to make decisions easily
- Unshakable feelings of guilt and worthlessness
Why Do I Feel Depressed This Way?
You did nothing to bring it on.
It is impossible to pinpoint a specific cause of PPD however, it is important to remember that it is not caused by actions that you, as a new mother might or might not have taken.
Research indicates that several biological and emotional factors have a part to play in the onset of the disorder. Some of these are:
- The decrease in levels of body hormones – estrogen and progesterone after labour might trigger changes in mood. Changes in the level of hormones released by the thyroid glands could also leave mothers feeling lethargic.
- Feeding and changing schedules almost always lead to nights of disrupted sleep which inevitably contributes to exhaustion and fatigue. This can set off symptoms linked with poor decision making, lack of focus and concentration.
- The arrival of a baby might cause a woman to doubt her capabilities as a mother and give rise to thoughts and questions like “I need to be the best mother”, “I am not fit to be a mother” or “Will I ever be a good mother?”. This might manifest in excessive worry, feelings of helplessness and a sense of hopelessness which could trigger depression.
When could it be Postpartum Psychosis?
The symptoms are quite different.
Postpartum psychosis is rarer. It affects 2 out of 1,000 women globally.
- Women suffering from postpartum psychosis experience delusions or hallucinations accompanied by symptoms of paranoia, suspiciousness, confusion and rapid fluctuations in mood
- In very rare circumstances, psychosis could put the mother at risk of suicide or even infanticide.
- Individuals with a history of serious mental health disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder are more likely to develop postpartum psychosis.
Dr. Shefali Batra uses a preventive and psychological focus in her psychiatric practice of 14 years. She founded MINDFRAMES, a wellness organisation, a decade ago to make mind support more widely accessible both in person and online. Through media excerpts and participation in press conferences on social issues, Shefali aims to prompt people towards their own wellness. She has worked with corporates in employee wellness and human factors to guide people towards holistic living. She completed her MBBS and postgraduate training in Psychiatry in Mumbai and holds a Leadership Certificate in Healthcare Management from University of California, Los Angeles. She is also co-founder at InnerHour, an online platform committed to promoting emotional and psychological health and well-being.
Do you have a question about postpartum mental health we haven’t answered here? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!