Your baby has just arrived. You are basking to be in the new mom bliss. Your every moment is filled with anxiety, joy and excitement. However, soon you realize that this joy is losing and is gradually surrounded by the negative feelings of exhaustion, weepiness and irritation.
Though not so common, but about 85 percent of mothers go through this stage after delivering her baby. Being referred as baby blues, the situation is marked with tension, sadness, moodiness, difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite. You feel miserable and edgy. Even the new fathers may feel distressing with the birth. Nevertheless, one should know that this is a manageable condition and the symptoms usually disappear within some days or few weeks. Studies say that the hormonal shifts in the body cause you to feel so.
However, if your symptoms do not go away in few days and get worse day by day, it leads to a more serious problem commonly known as postnatal depression.
What is Postnatal Depression
Postnatal depression or PND is a kind of illness which occurs in about 10-15 percent of mothers post delivery. This is often mistaken with baby blues as the symptoms are almost common; however, this is longer, deeper and more serious. Baby blues generally go away by themselves within few weeks but postnatal depression requires some support to be treated. This may be a potentially life threatening condition. It occurs within few weeks to few months after the delivery.
The situation is more common if it is your first pregnancy. The condition may suddenly develop or can come gradually ranging from relatively mild to very severe.
Symptoms of Postnatal Depression
Mostly characterized by low mood or inability to enjoy the childbirth, the symptoms of postnatal depression had a wide range. Sometimes, they are abrupt and severe requiring instant treatment while sometimes; they are indistinguishable from the baby blues. In the later case, women may delay seeking help which causes this depression to linger for longer.
Here are some symptoms which help you identify the postnatal depression at an early stage:
- Being awake for hours even after baby sleeps or having vivid nightmares, unlike the normal woman who dies to sleep when her baby sleeps.
- Feeling sick with the thought of food or losing interest in it. You just force food into you because you are breastfeeding.
- You feel sad and cry for the whole day without any apparent reason. Tears flow out of your eyes anytime.
- Feeling overwhelmingly exhausted physically and emotionally. Losing interest in household chores, baby care or self care.
- Getting irritated and frustrated, snapping at your partner or other children, not feeling to talk.
- Living in the state of anxiousness and or getting panic attacks without any reason which cause high heartbeat, sweaty palms and feelings of sickness or faintness. The anxiety can be related to baby or your own health.
- Severe heart palpitations which make you fear of a heart attack.
- Be hostile and indifferent to your partner and baby.
- Low sex drive.
- Feeling low, despondent and hopeless.
- Your thoughts get occupied with the obsession, negativities, irrational thoughts and unrealistic fears associated with your partner’s or baby’s well being. You may fear letting your partner go to work by car or leaving your baby with someone. You get so much consumed in your thoughts that they disrupt your ability to listen, concentrate or remember things.
- Feeling insecure, lonely and afraid and wanting your partner or family members to be with you all the time. You doubt your ability to handle the baby by yourself. You even look for some outer help and try to get connect with people.
- Loss of memory is the most common issue. You even forget what you were saying in mid sentence.
- Lack of concentration in doing daily and simple tasks of life. Fail to organize yourself and family
- Inability to resolve simple and manageable issues.
- Sense of inadequacy and guilt. No encouragement helps you in the thought of being a “bad mother”.
- You might lose confidence in the errands which you were once doing with extreme confidence and pleasure, be it going to office, preparing food or attending visitors.
- Low self esteem.
- Physical discomfort like headaches, body aches etc.
- Disturbing thoughts about harming oneself or baby.
Risk Factors of Postnatal Depression
Till date, no exact reason for postnatal depression has been pointed out. Sometimes, it may trigger with no obvious reasons while for some other cases scientists suggest varied possibilities.
Nevertheless, it is considered to show its effect due to combinations of biological, psychological, physical and other factors. Let us discuss some common factors, which prompt it to start.
- Extreme tiredness and exhaustion.
- Body aches and pains which makes it difficult to manage baby care well.
- Bouts of intense anxiety and depression during pregnancy.
- Physical changes like distorted body figure, stretch marks and swollen breasts.
- Sudden hormonal shifts after delivery.
- Prior history of depression or mental illness.
- Sleep deprived.
- Lack of proper diet.
- Complicated delivery experience.
- Premenstrual tension.
- Difficulty in breastfeeding.
- Depression in your first pregnancy.
- Baby health issues like premature birth.
- Family history of postnatal depression or mental illness.
- Lack of good parenting skills from your parents.
- Hard relationship with partner and lack of his support.
- Financial strain after having a baby.
- Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
- Negligence or abuse in childhood.
- Being highly anxious.
- Low self esteem.
- Irrelevant guilt feelings.
- Childcare stress.
- Postpartum blues.
- Baby crying.
- Loss of independence.
- No practical and emotional support from family.
- High expectations and demands to be a good mother from others.
- Had social pressure of delivering son during pregnancy.
- Difficulty managing household chores with baby.
- Stirring up of sad memories related to stressful life events like death of any family member.
- Shifting to a new house.
- Fear of losing job.
- Low socio-economic status.
Postnatal Depression and Relationships
Relationship with Baby
Postnatal depression may take away your ability to function and you find it difficult to even take care of your new born. You just like to withdraw from every near and dear ones including your baby.
These emotions may develop behavioral issues in your child like temper tantrums, sleep issues or hyperactive. They may delay their development and psychologically become weak in handling their relationships with anyone. They may feel low self esteem, fearful and anxious in their growing years.
However, you must not disheartened or feel guilty or ashamed of the same. It does not mean that you are a bad mother or bad parent. It’s just that you cannot control your emotions. Nevertheless, the treatment is in your hand. Bring it to the notice of your family or partner if you are feeling such emotions.
Relationship with Partner:
Despite your partner being caring, patient, loving and supportive, your relationship with him can be in strain. The behavioral and emotional changes in you can turn your relationship sour which may be beyond repair. So, it’s better to discuss about the issue in the beginning and go for some professional help.
How to Deal with Postnatal Depression
When your baby is born, your needs and wants can fall to the back burner. However, you must take care of yourself along with your baby.
- Try to be kind to yourself and understand that parenting is demanding and you can fail sometimes in this.
- Taking lot of rest can help you come out of this mental stress. Skimping on sleep can also worsen your negative thoughts. Sleep as and when baby sleeps. Relax yourself with some soothing music or by taking a warm water bath.
- The demands of your body increase when child is born. So, eat healthy, nutritious and energy boosting food so that you do not run down of energy.
- Though, exercise looks like a nasty idea but it will help your mind and body feel better, manage stress and boost your energy. You can join some exercise classes or can take help of a professional trainer.
- Get yourself some time to be out in sunshine as it helps in lifting mood.
Others Help (Partner, Relatives and Friends)
- Get Support: Need not feel alone and isolated and bear the postnatal depression alone. If your partner, family or friends wants to support you, do not hesitate to accept help. When people will support you in chores, things will be easier. It will also give you some time off from baby and you can do something for yourself.
- Talk with Others: Sharing feelings can make you feel better as you can be understood and supported. When your family, friends or partner become a sympathetic listener, you can come out of all negativity. Releasing your feelings in person or over the web will give you enormous relief.
- Don’t Feel Alone: Every new mom and dad goes through similar fears, anxieties and frustrations. If you will share your feelings with them, you will feel connected. You may also share their skills and experience and realize you are not alone going through such emotional wrecking.
- Spouse’s Help: Confide in your spouse your feelings and needs so that he can support you well. This will also improve your relationship.
Counseling: Counseling with some trained health professionals may prove helpful for you. He will listen to your problems and worries and can suggest you things and help you in making decisions.
Psychologist: Another professional help can be from a psychologist. The psychological treatments can be of different types such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Herein, the therapist tries to understand your thought pattern and then try to identify any harmful, unhelpful or negative thoughts which are taking you into depression. Upon identifying them, he works to change them and build some realistic and helpful thoughts which can help you come out of this mental illness.
- Interpersonal Therapy: In this, any relationship or other interpersonal issues between family, friends, partner or relatives are identified and see how they are relating to your postnatal depression.
- Problem-solving Therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy are other types of methods in psychological treatment.
Some medications are often prescribed if your postnatal depression is moderate to severe. These medications help to relieve problems like poor sleep, low mood, and irritation so that you can act normal and can cope in a better way with the new situations.
Antidepressants do not cause instant effect. Instead, it will take around 2-3 weeks for them to act. Though, they are often not addictive but occasionally one can become dependent upon them.
However, before picking any such medication, you must consult and discuss the risks and benefits involved in using especially when you are breastfeeding.
How can I Avoid This Postnatal Depression
There are not any said ways to prevent PND, however support from friends, family and partner may help you embark on the new and huge responsibility of motherhood. So, follow these tips so that your baby blues do not turn into depression.
- Do not bottle up the things. Discuss and tell people about your feelings. Doing this will not portray you as weak.
- It is not a permanent issue, so need not despair to its thought.
- Give up unhealthy practices of drinking alcohol, smoking or taking any type of drugs.
- Try to snack on something regularly.
- Distract yourself from negative thoughts by doing something you are interested in.
- If any harmful thoughts are getting your way, bring it to the attention of someone closer.
How to Help Someone with Postnatal Depression
- If your wife is going through PND, you must be there to listen her problems. Do not judge or fix things, just be there to lean on.
- Extend your help in household activities and childcare responsibilities.
- Try to give her rest and relaxation as much as you can.
- Physical affection is needed but do not test her sex drive. Give her some time to be ready.
- Join her on a walk, take her to a date in the weekends or plan a short trip. These small gestures will relieve her of her emotional and physical stress.
- Friends and family may also help to zest up your mood by sharing, talking and spending time with you.
Though postnatal depression needs a treatment but it is not at all a big issue. You just have to be little careful about your thoughts and feelings, need partner’s and family support and keep the excitement and happiness of having your baby alive. This simple theory can prevent you in getting into PND.