A friend of mine, Amina, recently had a baby. We all noticed a sudden change in moods and her reluctance to bond with the baby, behaviours that seemed weird. This kept disturbing me, because, when asked, she said she didn’t understand what was going on. I did some research, talked to a few medical practitioners about Amina’s behaviours and Bingo!!! I got a diagnosis.
Normally, whenever a child is born, it’s a blessing to the parents. This sometimes comes with a lot of emotional confusion, anxiety fear and joy. Everyone around your newborn is happy and as a new mum, you are wondering why your mood is low and this is a baby you’ve been looking forward to. After all, having a baby is a good thing right? Depression is the last thing you’d predict during this period.
Well, your case is not isolated; research says that 1 in every 8 new moms experience this emotional turmoil after delivery.
Sometimes it’s just baby blues which start after delivery to around two weeks that causes you to be irritable and moody, anxious or even lack sleep. This fades out, especially if a mum gets enough rest and a person to help her take care of the baby.
Other mums experience a more serious and long-lasting form of depression called Postpartum Depression, or PPD.
What is Postpartum Depression?
According to Wikipedia, Postpartum Depression (PPD), also called Postnatal Depression, is a type of clinical depression which affects both sexes, especially mothers after childbirth arising from a combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to being a mother and fatigue. These emotional reactions should raise an alarm if they last over two weeks and are severe.
Though identified, causes of PPD are not well understood or clear, it’s just a complication of giving birth. Moms suffering from PPD go through extreme feelings of being tired, being anxious, or uncontrollably sad. This makes it difficult for them to tend to themselves, the baby, or any other person.
Causes of PPD
Exact causes of PPD are not clear, or not clearly understood, mostly hormonal changes in a woman after birth and also physical changes. It could be changes in the job environment or even just domestic lives.
It is to be triggered by hormonal changes in the mother after childbirth, miscarriage, or stillbirth yet the mother was really yearning for the baby. Women with a previous history of depression are more prone to suffer from PPD.
A drop in the level hormonal changes in a woman’s body is experienced after birth, leading to changes in the brain which may result in irritability and mood swings.
Dorothy, a nurse in charge at a local hospital says, “This condition is mostly associated with an unstable relationship between the mother and father of the baby, stressful pregnancy and difficult and painful labour or delivery.”
Medline plus states that people most prone to PPD are mothers who are below 20 years, drug abusers, those who got the pregnancies unplanned hence are not ready for the responsibility, bipolar patients, those with money problems, little or no support from family and a bad relationship with a significant other.
Signs and Symptoms of PPD
“You may feel guilty, or overwhelmed, like you can’t handle the whole motherhood baggage or that you aren’t being a good mother to the baby when it obviously deserves better. You may also encounter severe mood swings, uncontrollable sadness and crying, problems bonding with your little one and not enjoying the baby’s company, exhaustion, lack of sleep, avoiding social settings, irritability and impatience, feeling guilty or ashamed that you are not being a good mom to the baby, anxiety attacks, suicidal thoughts, losing your sense of humour and sudden lack of interest in activities you used to avoid,” Says Getter a Medical counselor.
Other common symptoms are like lack of appetite, lack of concentration and focus, feeling disconnected from everything among others.
If you notice these symptoms in someone close to you encourage them to talk about it to someone of their choice or visits a doctor as most mums are embarrassed to admit that they are depressed over their baby’s arrival. For those with suicidal thoughts, it’s vital to seek psychological and medical help immediately.
How to diagnose and treat PDD
Medicininet.com website states that doctors should monitor pregnant women from as early as their 1st prenatal visit by evaluating their mood swings and talking to them about their feelings up to post delivery. In some cases, a blood test may be required.
Family members should also be on the lookout for signs and symptoms. After establishing that one is suffering from PPD, they can be treated successfully with a blend of medication (antidepressants) and Psychotherapy. It’s important to distinguish this from baby blues.
In severe cases a patient may have to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), to treat severe symptoms like hallucinations and serious suicidal thoughts. With good treatment, PPD fades within six months. Ensure you finish treatment, even after feeling better. Stopping too early may cause a relapse.