I was holding my newborn in my arms. A bundle of cuteness. My baby was sleeping. Instead of gazing at his adorableness. All I wanted was throw him in his crib and cry. My heart should be bursting with joy. That’s what everyone said! Then why do I want to run away? What is happening to me? I don’t understand! For those who are wondering, this how it looks inside the head of a new mother, who is suffering from Postpartum Depression.
Motherhood is lifechanging in more ways than one. The whole experience of pregnancy and childbirth is a new life and second birth for a woman.
Not only a woman’s body but her emotional, mental state changes forever.
All this is an overwhelming experience for some women.
Most often shrugged off as “Baby Blues” or “Sleep – you will be fine” or “your hormones acting up”. Sometimes women do not even share or address this for the fear of judgement by other people.
Worst is when they do not address it because new mothers are judging themselves. Judging for not being the “good” mothers” they need to be.
As per studies by Centers for disease control and prevention, 1 in 9 women experiences Post Partum Depression.
A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.
What is Postpartum Depression?
It is a severe form of depression that a woman develops during pregnancy or childbirth or both. Such a condition prevents her from taking care of her child.
Giving birth is the most peaceful, joyful, fulfilling experience of a woman’s life. It’s almost like post-childbirth life has a purpose and there’s someone who comes even before us.
For some new mothers though it is not the same.
The physical, emotional, mental, social, chemical change associated with birthing a child leads some new mothers to depression.
When a woman is pregnant, her body produces reproductive hormones like Estrogen and Progesterone at huge levels. After giving birth the hormone levels drop, causing postpartum depression in some mothers.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
While the inability to sleep, eat, loss of libido, mood swings is normal in a new mother. These signs of “Baby Blues” disappear after 2-3 weeks of childbirth. If they don’t it is the case of postnatal depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression may start showing anywhere from pre-birth to few weeks even a year after childbirth.
Some of the signs of Postpartum Depression include
- The feeling of helplessness
- An uncontrollable urge to cry
- Suicidal thoughts
- Thoughts of hurting other people
- Thoughts of hurting the child
- Inability to cuddle, kiss, hold the child
- Panic Attacks
- Eating less or in excess
- Sleeping less or in excess
- Not wanting to bond with family or friends
Postnatal Depression – Consequences
A mother experiencing Postnatal depression loses the will to take care of her child. In extreme cases, wanting to lose or hurt the child as well. She may hallucinate or become delusional.
It affects the relationships with the spouse/partner and other family members around. not forgetting how all this affects the newborn child.
If the signs of depression persist for more than 2 weeks. Take them to see a doctor immediately.
Did you know? Fathers can also experience Postpartum Depression.
Although a parent gets overwhelmed with care, time, energy and money involved in raising a child. These factors are not the sole causes of postpartum depression.
It can happen to anyone despite their social or financial status. The real cause is a hormonal and chemical imbalance in the body.
Could you have Inherited your Post Partum Depression from your Mother?
The answer is Yes! If you have a family history then it increases your chances of suffering from depression.
Who is most likely to get it?
Parents who are facing the following situations are more likely to face postnatal depression.
- If the parent has a history of depression or any other mental disorder.
2. Someone in your family has a track record of depression or any other mental disorder.
3. If someone recently lost their job.
4. Lost a loved one.
5. If someone suffered from postnatal depression with their first child.
6. Someone who doesn’t have the means(financial or family support system) to take care of the child.
How to Prevent it?
1. Keep a close eye
If you have a history of any mental health issue or know someone who has. Watch the behavioural and emotional patterns to keep the situation in check.
Research done in John Hopkins Institue shows, the medical professionals can now predict if the mother will suffer from postpartum depression or not.
2. Get professional help
Counselling/psychotherapy or reaching out to a support group helps tackle the situation.
3. Share your feelings with others
Talk to someone or a fellow mother, who would understand your journey.
4. Make conscious efforts with your partner
Lots of marital problems appear after childbirth. Mother feels unsupported by the father. Father feels unseen. Keep some time aside to bond with your partner again. Reducing the stress that strained relationships add.
Tension builds when child-rearing and other duties are not shared. Mothers feel like they are doing all the work. it is not a happy feeling, giving rise to resentment towards their partner. So best to communicate your expectations with your partner.
Remember, both of you are in this TOGETHER. Being on the same page will help ease into your life.
5. Make Self-care and baby care a priority
You, your body and emotions are going through enough already. Make yourself and your baby a priority. Housework can happen later.
6. Get some happy light
Step out in the sun-light for 10-15 minutes to help you feel lighter.
7. Get those happy hormones flowing
Start exercise after consulting your doctor.
Real women and their struggle with Postnatal Depression
Chrissy Teagan and Brooke Sheilds have suffered from Postnatal depression.
Nupur Dhingra shares her battle with depression after the birth of her daughter.
“As I held this baby in my arms. The doctor informed that she had a paralytic arm. New baby, her health problem, my personal relationships were troubled. It was all too much for me to handle. ”
“My newborn daughter would cry inconsolably. Instead of picking her up and pacifying her. I would sit and cry myself. It was all too much for me to handle. Little did I know, I had slipped into depression. I tried taking professional help but not much was around for me to access. Self-care and talking to my sister helped me come out of it. ”
If you are battling depression or know someone who is. Give them love and understanding. Help them get professional help. You will be helping so many lives get a better life.