Depression is a destructive mental health disorder that not only affects your mood but also your whole lifestyle. Approximately 264 million people all over the world are suffering from depression. According to the World Health Organization, between the age group of 19-25 y/o suicide because of depression. Although the world is slowly realizing of the harms of depression there is a certain kind of depression that is usually not taken into consideration and leads towards the unbearable suffering of the affected individual, and that is postpartum depression. Postpartum depression need specific circumstances to trigger. Females in postpartum depression bear emotions of incompetence, inferiority complex that lead to suicide if it doesn’t treat.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is defined as the hormonal, social, and psychological changes a new mother experience after delivery.
New mothers go through lots of physical and emotional changes and without proper care and support these changes can lead to depression.
The hormonal changes involve the rapid decline of the reproductive hormone which triggers depression-like symptoms. Furthermore, there are social and psychological changes as there is a rush of emotions and feeling of adjustment for your new life.
With all these sudden changes a mother may feel under pressure and depression. There is a flood of emotions for a new mother that includes joy, astonishment, relief as well as anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration.
Depending upon how prepared you were for your baby, there are going to be some ups and downs. While talking about the hormonal influence of postpartum depression there are two human models:
Reproductive hormone model
This model is based upon the temporal changes in the hormone level and composition after childbirth and during pregnancy.
Reproductive hormones not only maintain pregnancy but also play a significant role in mood development. Therefore, variations in these hormones especially estradiol and progesterone level decrease are thought to be associated with the onset of depression.
Alternative biological model:
According to this model reproductive hormone alone is not enough to contribute to depression there are other biological systems as well that are dysregulated after delivery and lead to postpartum depression
Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to what happens after childbirth such as rapid mood swings.
Almost 7-15% of women experience postpartum depression.
It is documented that women who experience postpartum depression are 50-62% more likely to get depression in the future. Some of the symptoms include:
- Feelings of agitation and anger
- poor appetite
- sudden crying and sadness
- feelings of hopeless and guilt
- poor libido
- loss of interest in things you enjoy
- showing to much or not enough interest
- emotional numbness
Risk Factors Associated With Postpartum Depression
There are lots of factors that can contribute to postpartum depression such as:
- Family or personal history of depression and anxiety
- Financial stress or Marital stress
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD is a health condition in which a woman feels severe depression, irritability, and tension 1-2 weeks before her periods starts because of hormonal changes).
- Your age at the time of pregnancy: the younger you are the more likely you encounter postpartum depression.
- Women with any form of diabetes (diabetes 1 and 2)
- Mothers who have gone through infertility treatments
- Inadequate support in childcare
- Complications in childbirth, pregnancy, or breastfeeding.
Different types of depression after childbirth
A new mother can experience three types of depression depending upon her circumstances and child support.
This is a psychological condition that is considered normal for a new mother. It occurs in most women right after birth and symptoms include mood swings such as a sudden feeling of happiness or sadness.
She may be irritable and cry for no reason, she may feel restless, anxious, lonely, and sad.
50-80% of women experience baby blue and it last from a few hours to 2 weeks after delivery. The symptoms are not severe and can be overcome with some simple tracks such:
- Get plenty of sleep or sleep when your newborn is sleeping.
- Get help from your spouse and family.
- Don’t overexert yourself! do what you can and leave the rest for others.
- Avoid spending too much time by yourself.
- Join a support program and do mild exercises
This term includes both prenatal depression (during pregnancy) and post-partum depression (a few hours after delivery to the following year). The symptoms of prenatal depression are more severe and last longer than ‘Baby Blues’. Every 1 in 5 new mothers experiences prenatal depression.
A pregnant and new mother may find themselves overwhelmed with emotions of joy relief at one time and feel sad, teary, and depress the very next moment. However, as a mother, you should not be silent or ashamed of your feelings.
Talk to your confidence or if symptoms persist, ask support from your doctor. Sometimes prenatal depression co-exists with the obsessive-compulsive disorder in which the mother is obsessive about the safety and health of her baby.
There are constant fear and panic. The frequency of occurrence of ‘Baby Blues’ is 26% – 85% reportedly while the reported occurrence of postpartum depression is 6.5%- 20% in the general population.
Some tips to overcome ‘Baby blues’ can also be effective for prenatal depression and talk therapy is an excellent solution for postpartum or prenatal depression.
It is a rare and severe form of depression that affects (1in 1000) new moms. This is a serious mental illness in which a person loses a grip on reality and starts hallucinating things. The symptoms may appear within first 3-4 weeks after childbirth and some of the symptoms are;
- Extreme confusion and hallucination
- Feeling agitated and restless
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby or others
Women with postpartum psychosis need immediate treatment and medication.
Long Term Effect Of Postpartum Depression On Children
Depending upon the severity of the condition the women suffering from postpartum depression, characterizes into the mild or severe category. This not only affects the health of the mother but also her children.
A recent survey by scientists revealed that if symptoms last from 2 to 8 months post-delivery then this is a severe case of postpartum depression and it will affect the health of the child in the long run.
It observed that children whose mothers are suffering from severe cases of postpartum depression, lack cognitive-communication development, anger issues, and behavioral problems, lower grades, and depression in teenagers.
Some effects of maternal depression on infant development are liste below:
An infant involves in an interactive routine with his mother daily and concludes the response of their mother. A woman suffering from depression will show either one of two psychological responses that are intrusiveness or withdrawal.
An intrusive mother will show hostility towards the action of their infant and limit its activity. Consequently, the infant will experience anger, turn away from its mother to limit that hostile behavior, and develop an angry a protective style of coping such kind of behavior.
On the other hand, a withdrawal kind of behavior means mother shows a lack of interest in her infant’s activities. It results in self-withdrawal, passive, and self-withdrawal behavior such as lack of attention, looking away or sucking the thumb for comfort.
Cognitive development means how a child perceives the world around him and developing new skills, problem-solving, and analyzing capacity.
In the case of a depressed mother, she is less likely to stimulate these behaviors in her infant and as a result, such children are late bloomers and adapt to basic skills later in life. In short, they are behind their peers of the same age.
Behavioral changes of postpartum depression on school-going children
School-age children of depressed mothers are more prone to psychopathology then children with normal mothers.
The attention deficiency of the mother downregulates the child’s capacity to learn new things, perform well in academics, or even show good social skills. Such kids have violent behavior and anxiety.
Studies suggest that there is a strong link between maternal depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The children show low IQ scores, attention deficiency, and difficulty in analytical reasoning. In general, boys were more affected by maternal depression than girls.
Adolescent and maternal depression
Adolescence is a sensitive age and children are going through lots of emotional and hormonal changes therefore it is a risky stage for psychiatric disorders especially if their parents are suffering from depression.
There are high chances of such children developing depression between the age of 15 to 20. This type of psychopathology is more common in adolescent girls than boys. Ultimately it not only affects their personal life and social circle it deteriorates their academic carrier.
Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression
Initially, it was considered that there was a unidirectional relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum depression but recent studies have shown that there is a bidirectional relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum depression.
Several recent studies proposed that women who breastfeed their infants have a low risk of depression than women who formula feed their children.
There is a diverse relationship between breastfeeding initiation and intention by new mothers because these decisions are influence by the mother’s health, cultural values, and environment.
Doctors suggest that there are more symptoms of depression in women who are not breastfeeding then the mothers who choose to breastfeed and PPD identified as a strong cause of early breastfeeding cessation.
Mothers feel less depressed after breastfeeding while bottle-feeding mothers experience a decrease in positive energy and increase depression. Depressed mothers are more likely to have breastfeeding problems than normal mothers.
Some tips for new moms regarding Postpartum Depression:
- Be realistic about your anticipations regarding your motherhood.
- Lessen the gap between you and your partner.
- Keep in touch with your family and friends. Don’t live in loneliness.
- Follow a sensible diet and exercise routine that is favorable to your current physical condition. If necessary, ask your doctor for advice.
- Limit visitors and spend more time with your spouse and family.
- Take plenty of rest. Although being a mom with a newborn is tough but try to get as much sleep as your body demands.
- Last but not the least, give yourself some space and be realistic about your expectations regarding your baby and you.
Some Treatments for Postpartum Depression
Like any other medical condition, postpartum depression is treatable. Depending upon the type and severity of symptoms there are different treatment options.
At initial stage talk therapy and participating in a community gathering of new mothers will help but if that is not working then there are antidepressants and psychotherapy.
A lot of breastfeeding mothers think that medication during breastfeeding will have harmful effects on their baby’s health but under the supervision of a doctor, these medication poses no threat to your baby.
As a matter of fact, the medication treatment will help you recover quickly, and you will be able to spend the precious time of your motherhood with full zeal.
Social support and social interventions for new mothers
Because of the deleterious effects of maternal depression on an infant’s growth a lot of social welfare and interventions have targeted the postnatal mothers for support.
Social support and house visiting interventions prove to be helpful in reducing the depression.
Because there are defined curriculum to enhance mother-infant interaction and bonding, improve the mood of depressed mothers, and making her understand the cues of her infants for better infant care.
It has been proven that mothers who have interacted with such interventions and followed the guidelines have improved their mental state. And it shows positive interaction behavior with their child.
There are two kinds of therapies in this regard such as psychodynamic therapy and interaction guideline therapy.
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the bonding between mother and her infant. While using mother’s own childhood as a reference while interaction guideline therapy focuses on positive care giving.It forge a deeper bond between mother and her infant to make her more observant and sensitive to the infant’s cues.
After around 10 sessions of either therapy, there is considerable improvement in maternal mental health and childcare.
The medication of a pregnant or postpartum woman is a delicate matter. And depending upon the situation there are different antidepressants for treatment.
For example, if a woman who has been taking antidepressants has just recovered from depression and became pregnant there is a high risk of relapse.
And they are usually treated with tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
These two classes of antidepressants are not associate with any adverse effects on the health of infant.
However maternal medical history should thoroughly revise before prescribing any medication to breastfeeding or pregnant women.
Because women with a prior history of PPD are at 25% more risk of postpartum depression.
When to seek professional advice
Postpartum depression is often an underestimated phenomenon in our society. And mothers suppose to keep up with all these pent-up feelings without complaining. But this is a serious mental health issue and if leave untreated it will have nasty consequences. A new mom should seek medical advice if:
- The symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks
- The mother is unable to carry out her daily chores properly.
- She is under constant stress and can’t cope with the situation anymore.
- She is in a constant state of anxiety, panic, and depression.
Becoming a mother is a magical feeling. And can’t be described in words but so are the responsibilities that come with the baby. Postpartum depression is a serious health issue and should consider as an important health concern for the new mother.
Every child deserves a healthy mother. Meanwhile every mother deserves to spend the precious time of her baby’s arrival without worries. There is a constant need for awareness of mental health problems and their treatment.
Most of the time the society makes it impossible for the person to accept their mental health problem. It leads to destructive consequences.
There should be proper screening for women who are at high risk of developing PPD.
This can do by healthcare professionals during pregnancy. While mothers are coming for checkups and establishing ground support for these ladies.
Apart from awareness campaigns, this issue should highlight by government personals. There should proper psychological support and interventions should provid to mothers.
Apart from that, as a new mother, you should not be shy about your problem. And seek medical advice when necessary. Your baby needs a healthy mother. Do it for yourself as well as for the sake of your baby.