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The anxiety of nine months finally comes to fruition with your baby coming home. This is an exciting and beautiful, if also overwhelming time for you, and you cannot contain your delight when you hold your baby in your arms. But in some cases, this happy occasion can be turned into a huge crisis due to a condition we often tend to ignore. It is a problem that as many as 1 in 5 Indian women have been diagnosed with after childbirth, and it seriously impacts both their and their baby’s well-being in this critical time!
Have you experienced feelings of extreme sadness, loneliness or irritability, after your delivery? Do you feel guilty about everything, especially your “lack of emotional connect” to your baby or the people around you, and have you broken down into tears more often than usual? These could be tell-tale signs of postnatal depression which has become increasingly common among new mothers today. As per recent studies, one in five mothers suffer some form of postpartum depression. In India too, this number is steadily on the rise, with the social pressures and judgement we feel for our parenting skills only compounding our vulnerability to this problem.
Paediatricians and psychologists have noted that babies whose mothers report high-stress cry and fuss more than babies whose mothers report little or no stress. Yes, even young babies can pick up on how their loved one, especially their mom, feels. For your baby to grow up healthy and happy, it thus becomes critical that you pay heed to your mental and physical state. Many factors are collectively responsible for postnatal depression, right from hormonal changes and anxiety to financial or physical concerns. The important thing to remember is that this is NOT a newfangled concept or problem that only modern mothers face, or something that happens when you just don’t love your baby enough. It is as real and tangible a problem as a case of flu or a bout of cough, and as progressive women, it is time we understand and accept this reality.
These Signs will Tell You if You are Suffering from Postpartum Depression
The last thing that you would expect to find is depression in new mothers. However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you might just be suffering from postpartum depression.
- You are experiencing sadness and lethargy. Despite the joy of bringing your baby home, you suddenly find yourself low and depressed
- You are feeling lonely, despite being close to other family members
- You experience food aversions, lack of concentration, and inevitably low self-esteem
- You are feeling intense guilt and have started blaming yourself for everything
- You are always irritable and tearful. Small things can make you gloomy and you start crying
- You are constantly worried about your newborn’s health and often blame yourself for being a negligent mother
- You have problems sleeping and often wake up in the middle of the night – and for reasons not related to your baby
- You fear that you may end up harming your baby in some way or the other
- You develop suicidal feelings demanding immediate expert intervention, though this is relatively rare
So, What Causes Postnatal Depression in Mothers?
First and foremost, this has NOTHING to do with how you are as a mother and as an individual. In no way does it mean that you love your baby less or are a “bad person”. Postpartum depression is a medical condition – much more serious than just ‘new mom anxiety’ – whose primary cause is hormonal fluctuation and acute physical and mental stress. It is needless to mention that a new mother goes through a lot to give birth to a child. In addition, she has to pay a lot of attention to the newborn baby which often leads to lack of sleep and self-care. The level of emotional and physical stress can peak during the first couple of months after delivery. For some women, this stress can become severe enough to lead to the onset of postpartum depression. It generally evolves within the first two weeks after childbirth or any time within the next six months.
In addition to emotional and physical stress, postnatal depression can also be a result of the following reasons:
- Financial concerns
- Lack of social recognition
- Poor family support
- An anxiety-related problem
- Weakened physical condition
- Becoming a mother at a very young age
How to Treat Postnatal Depression
Fortunately, postpartum depression in new mothers often goes away with time. The key is to get as much support and help from your family as possible, and adhere to the following guidelines. Doing this every day in the period after childbirth has been noted to help women deal with postpartum depression.
- Try and take time out to relax as much as possible. Taking good care of your health by letting your husband and family members help with baby care responsibilities is of paramount importance to recover from this condition.
- Try to develop a supportive family environment during these initial months. Have a conversation with your loved ones and explain to them how you feel and what you are going through. Do not hide your feelings; share your frustrations with your close ones. Join mom support groups. This will help you overcome your feelings of loneliness and desolation.
- Do not compromise on your sleep. Adjust your sleeping schedule according to your baby’s schedule to get more rest.
- Try to engage in entertaining or relaxing hobbies. Do something that has always given you happiness, such as reading a book, gardening, or watching a favourite movie.
- Engage in some light physical exercises to divert your mind from the daily routine. This will also help you restore your health and vitality sooner, which will eventually help you feel stronger mentally.
However, in some cases, the situation can become clinically serious. This is usually because depression can go unnoticed in many women for an extended period of time. Many of us with this condition may confuse the situation with post birth consequences or baby blues. But there are striking differences between post birth consequences and postnatal depression! While postnatal blues or gloominess is mainly an emotional crisis having little effect on the physical health of the woman, depression can effect her overall well-being and lingers for a much longer duration. If the above methods of treatment don’t help you feel better, medical treatment may be essential. Your doctor or psychotherapist will recommend effective treatment via therapy or medication.
Postnatal depression is a common condition. There are many treatments available for this condition, the first and most effective one being generous self-care and attention to your emotional and physical needs. Do not lose hope. Also remember that if you are unable to deal with postnatal depression on your own and with your family’s help, do not hesitate to seek expert guidance.