Pregnancy and childbirth is a lovely transformation and experience for every mother. But for some mothers it can come as a wave of fear, anxiety, sadness and confusion in making decisions after delivery of the baby. In this condition a woman lacks energy to take care of her baby, herself and her family. In worse cases they can even harm themselves or their own baby. This condition is termed as postpartum depression in females. There can be various reasons behind it as during pregnancy and childbirth a woman goes through a rollercoaster of events which completely shakes her sometimes leading to this condition. Through this article we have tried to explain all aspects of postpartum depression so that you can understand it clearly and get alert if you see such conditions around you and help reach the patients.
Pregnancy and childbirth makes a woman go through various physical and mental changes and ups and down situations. If a woman feels emotionless, empty and sad most of the time for more than 2 weeks after the baby’s birth, it can be postpartum depression. This form of depression brings an indifferent feeling and situation for a woman where she does not feel loving or caring for her baby at all. These emotions are not normal to be felt even after 2 weeks of being a mother. Postpartum depression is not a condition to be ignored as it is a serious mental illness that affects the brain negatively resulting in such emotionless behavior and feelings. Hence correct and timely diagnosis is necessary to treat it as soon as possible.
Feeling unconnected to the baby, not loving or caring for them are the main significance of the condition and it can range from mild to severe form. Postpartum depression is much more common than you think. There is also one similar condition which can be mistaken with postpartum diagnosis, i.e. Baby blues. But the signs and symptoms in postpartum depression are for longer duration and severe. Baby blues are temporary and it goes away up to 2 weeks after the baby’s birth. Symptoms of baby blues are mood swings, sad, overwhelmed or anxious feelings, crying spells, problems sleeping and loss of appetite. But these complaints are mild in form and go away on their own after sometime.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression can range from mild to severe form and last for longer duration.
- Frequent and excessive crying spells
- Mood swings are severe
- Difficulty or inability to bind with own baby
- Cutting off from friends and family
- Eating too much or complete loss of appetite
- Troubles in sleep or sleeping a lot
- Loss of energy or feeling of overwhelming
- Feeling and fear of not being a good mother
- Interest is decreased in the recreational activities which one used to enjoy earlier
- Intense anger or too much irritability
- Feeling of hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, inadequacy and guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
- Thoughts of harming own baby
- Confusion of thoughts and not able to make decision or concentrate on any work
- Severe panic attacks or anxiety
- Anger fits
Postpartum depression is usually triggered by the hormonal changes which occur during and after pregnancy and childbirth. When a woman is pregnant the levels of progesterone and estrogen, which are the female hormones, are at their highest point and within the 24 hours of the baby’s delivery levels of these hormones drop very quickly to normal or pre pregnancy levels. Studies have shown this sudden drop in hormone level is the cause for postpartum depression. Similar very milder form of changes in the hormones of a woman occurs before the menstruation period but as already said it is very mild in comparison to the one after delivery of a child. Also after childbirth there is drop in the thyroid hormone which results in signs and symptoms of depression.
Other than there are some risk factors which contribute in the causation of postpartum depression
- Tiredness after delivery or prolonged labor
- Tiredness from disturbed sleep or lack of it
- Overwhelming feeling due to new baby in the life
- Unrealistic self-pressure and need to be a perfect mother
- Doubting own ability to be a good mom
- Lack of free time for one own self
- Sadness and grief about their previous life or body structure before having the baby
- If the child is less attractive
- Stress to manage the home and work life along with baby
- Subsequent pregnancies and more number of children
- History of depression
- Disputes or differences in married life
- Less social support
- Living alone
- Younger woman are prone to it
We are discussing the postpartum depression in females but this doesn’t mean males do not get it. New fathers can also get depressed due to their nature of not discussing the problems and not expressing the feelings. Such fathers who struggle to support their baby and wife can also be a risk factor for the respective wife to develop postpartum depression as she feels less supported by her partner.
Postpartum depression is a result of a mixture of social, chemical and psychological changes through which a woman goes during pregnancy and after childbirth. Baby blues and Postpartum psychosis are considered to be the types of Postpartum depression. Baby blues have been defined, coming to Postpartum psychosis, this form is much more severe than the former one. This type of depression can develop suddenly within the three months of childbirth. In this condition a woman loses touch from reality and starts listening to the voices or things which are not happening in reality like hearing someone talking (auditory hallucinations). She starts to believe strongly in the things which do not exist or are irrational (delusion). In some cases patients even start to see the things which are not present there in reality (visual hallucinations). Women suffering from Postpartum psychosis need immediate treatment and should be kept under observation until stable as chances of harming oneself or the baby or maybe anyone near her are very high.
Woman suffering from Postpartum depression if not treated correctly and timely can lead to various complications for herself, her baby and her partner. If this disorder lasts for a longer time it can be converted into chronic depressive disorder. Babies can have several development problems like eating, sleeping, crying a lot and delayed speech. Partner of the patient is also at risk of developing depression due to less or nil support from the wife in balancing life and looking after the baby post the child birth.
Postpartum depression can be prevented if proper care is taken regarding risk factors during pregnancy and after childbirth. If you are feeling even mild symptoms of depression you should start to talk about it to your partner, doctor or any near one so that it can be solved just by therapies and no further damage is done.
Childbirth can be a whole new experience for anyone and you should always set your mind to expect some good and some bad days so that a sudden rush of emotions does not take you away leaving you overwhelmed. Try to have a good diet even after childbirth as it will help in healing the body and mind as well. Even if you suffer from postpartum depression do not get sad and anxious about it as it is very common but yes correct and timely diagnosis and then treatment is must for any disorder.
Dr. Vikram Chauhan (MD-Ayurvedic Medicine) is an Expert Ayurveda Consultant in Chandigarh (India). He has vast experience of herbs and their applied uses. He has successfully treated numerous patients suffering from various ailments, throughout the world. He is CEO and Founder of Krishna Herbal Company and Planet Ayurveda in Chandigarh, India. He researched age old formulas from ancient Ayurvedic text books to restore health and save human beings from the worst side-effects of chemical-based treatments.