Postpartum Depression and How to Cope with It?

a woman looking out the window

Bringing a new life into the world is considered the most delightful event by many. Indeed, the sheer joy a newborn offers to his or her parents and extended family is invaluable. However, as women’s health is overlooked around the world and childbirth is considered an irrefutable reason for happiness, people tend to forget about the other outcomes of a newborn. The World Health Organization reports that 22 % of new mothers in India suffer from postpartum depression (PPD). Now, most people would be aware of the term ‘baby blues’: an all-too-common scenario of mild to moderate sadness, anxiety and fatigue amongst new mothers. It generally grows faint in a couple of weeks. However, PPD is a more advanced form of melancholy and uneasiness that follows after childbirth and lasts for longer. If not treated timely, it could have negative effects on both the mother and child.  

How to know if you have postpartum depression?

Oftentimes, symptoms of postpartum depression differ from woman to woman. Any prolonging discomfort that affects your ability to perform daily tasks and activities can be a sign of PPD. These indicators can take multiple forms, and a woman could experience a few to a large number of such. The following are some common symptoms observed.

·         You feel sad without any unnamable reason.

·         You sleep a lot or too little.

·         You have difficulty in stopping eating or you eat too little.

·         You have sudden mood swings.

·         Your self-esteem is challenged.

·         You are easily irritable and angry.

·         You cannot enjoy the things you used to.

·         You struggle with concentration and attentiveness.

·         You feel like you have no control over your life.

·         You feel that you are a bad mother and are guilty about it.

Extreme cases of PPD can manifest as postpartum psychosis, a rare condition where the mother harms or develops thoughts of harming her child and have hallucinations. Women suffering from postpartum psychosis are no longer grounded in reality and may show symptoms of erratic behavior, suicidal thoughts or attempts, fluctuating levels of energy, and the like. Postpartum psychosis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention, and patients are likely to require hospitalization and antipsychotic medication.

If you suspect having postpartum depression, you can talk to us, and we will ensure that you get help from a doctor who understands your position. Click on this WhatsApp chat button.

What causes postpartum depression?

There is no single, straightforward cause identified for PPD. It has been reported that teen moms and women in poverty are more prone to being depressed postpartum. Many common contributors have yet been recognized, and they can be both biological and social. They include:

·         Sudden hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

·         Lack of nutrition and sleep.

·         Lack of leisure and exercise.

·         The stress of becoming a parent or parenting a newborn.

·         Genetics and history of mood disorders.

·         Drug/alcohol abuse.

·         Emotional stressors such as loneliness, death of a loved one, recent divorce, etc.

·         Severe illnesses in mother or child.

·         The obsession to become a ‘perfect/ideal parent’.

How to combat postpartum depression?

Just like symptoms vary from woman to woman, treatment for postpartum depression also varies. For some mothers, improved social interaction might be enough, while for others, a better diet and exercise regimen would do. Often, various means must be adapted to have healthy and holistic healing. Medical and psychological intervention may also be necessary in some cases, especially if what you are going through is postpartum psychosis.

If you think you have symptoms common to PPD, it is always advised to consult your doctor first. Because even if you may not have serious symptoms, you are still at risk of worsening your mental and physical health or postpartum psychosis. Also, a doctor can better evaluate your individual situation- he or she can understand the sociological, biological, and other underlying reasons contributing to the condition and provide you with the right help.

Some common ways to cope with PPD are making changes in your lifestyle. They include:

·         Having more nutritional food at regular intervals.

·         Keeping yourself hydrated.

·         Going on regular walks or jogging at a silent, calming place with natural scenery.

·         Actively participating in conversations with pleasant people- finding a support group of new mothers is highly recommended.

·         Actively eliminating people that do not add any value to life.

·         Finding your baby’s general sleep schedule and trying to sleep during that time.

·         If working, taking breaks in between.

·         Finding ample me-time.

If you struggle with postpartum depression and find it hard to cope, you can talk to us, and we will ensure that you get help from a doctor who understands your position. Click on this WhatsApp chat button.

How can others help?

It is not up for debate that India is highly patriarchal. An overwhelming number of young girls in the country are trained from their childhood to become homemakers and mothers and not express themselves. The potential for PPD, let alone the choice in childbirth, is often not talked about in Indian households. Hence, new mothers are less likely to recognize and seek help for postpartum depression. This directs to a need for the spouse and/or the relatives of the mother to adopt many ways to help her in pregnancy recovery, thereby decreasing the risk of PPD.  The caretakers can: 

  • Feed the baby pumped milk when the mother is sleeping 
  • Volunteer to do the tasks that generally the mother does
  • Create a calming space for the mother and leave her with ample time to relax
  • Keep the mother’s room and the house always clean and organized to bring in positivity- a cluttered room can create a cluttered mind

Despite being a common occurrence, PPD is a taboo issue in our society. Addressing it and spreading awareness is imperative to creating a space where the mother can recover. With the information and support at hand, PPD is treatable, and seeking help right when needed is key to recovery.

Gaiety is a postgraduate in English from the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. When she is not writing or editing the content you might have come across on the web, she watches rom-coms or sings along 80’s pop songs with her heart out. Her interests lie in cinema and culinary arts; and everything that brings people together.

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