July 20, 2019 6 min read

Oh, look at those tiny hands! She is so cute. Welcome to the parenthood club. Your diaper duty starts now. And, the wishing saga continues…

Hands down, you did a fantastic job during labor and when you held the baby in your arms for the first time “the tears of joy” were beyond expressing. Everyone around you is happy and celebrating the birth of your little one by wearing either a “new granny in town” print t-shirt or tying the “welcome home baby” balloon by the nursery cot. Everyone is elated, except you. In fact, you are feeling quite the opposite. You are angry, sad, exhausted, and err.. irritated post delivery.

Don’t worry. There is nothing wrong with you and what you are going through is something every 8 out of 10 women feel and experience. Why, because your mind and body go through sea changes during and after pregnancy. Here you were getting used to the baby bump and XL size jeans and suddenly you don’t have that protruding belly to rub or lemonade remedy to gulp for heartburn. You have the baby in the cradle all right but all those pre-preggers routines, they are gone!  

So it is natural to experience an emotional state called “the baby blues”, where mood swings, self-doubt, sadness come knocking in all thanks to the sudden change in hormones that happens during and after childbirth.

Now, baby blues usually go after a few days or a week, but if you still feel you are holding on to those why am I sad or Do I hate my baby thoughts, then you might be suffering from postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression (PPD): what is it?

I am sorry baby. I love you so much. But I can’t stop crying…

For some women, sadness, anxiety or exhaustion doesn’t seem to leave them even after the joyful air the baby brings in the hood. In the beginning, postpartum depression can be termed as a normal baby blues as they share similar symptoms like sadness, insomnia, and irritability. Butthings take can take a serious turn when you don’t feel like caring for your newborn or even feel suicidal.

Some of the red flags ofpostpartum depression are:

  • Crying without reason

  • Extreme mood swings

  • Loss of appetite or excessive eating that can lead to fluctuations in the body weight

  • Being irritable and angry 24/7

  • Obsessive care towards the baby or being uninterested in caring for the little one

  • Sleeplessness even after being tired

  • Avoiding people and loved ones by being in your own cocoon

  • Worrisome anxiety and panic attacks

As new mother feelings like these are truly painful, especially during a time that is supposed to be cheery and memorable. Instead of being vocal about it many women keep their agonies to themselves and aggravate the situation. Most of the time it takes a toll on their relationships with the nearest confidante like spouse, mother, friends, etc who are sidelined and becomes an easy target to the emotional outbursts of new moms.

PPD is a medical condition that needs attention and treatment before it worsens and becomes a chronic depression disorder. It can have a negative impact on the overall development of the child.

What causes PPD?

Although the exact causes of PPD are still not known, women with a history of mental health conditions or depression are typically at higher risk to suffer this emotionally drenching phase. That doesn’t mean women who are healthy and have had smooth childbirth won’t face this trauma. It’s a condition that gets triggered due to biological change and imbalance of brain chemicals or both.  

The following factors may contribute to PPD:

  • Difficult labor and childbirth

  • New responsibility of being a parent

  • The obvious physical changes post pregnancy

  • Sudden changes in the sleep cycle

  • Hormonal changes due to a sudden and severe drop in estrogen and progesterone levels

  • Difficulties in breastfeeding

  • Post delivery health consequences such as blood pressure, metabolism alterations, urinary incontinence, anemia, etc

  • History of mental health problems

  • Financial crunches

  • Lack of family support

Diagnosis

Doctors normally give the person with suspected PPD a depression-screening questionnaire to fill and based on the answers provided the diagnosis of the same is predicted.

Usual questions and inquiries like mood swing or hopelessness felt by the patient during the past month is noted by the doctor to detect the severity of the situation.

Some of the common questions asked by the experts are:

 An Expert may ask patients if she has:

  • Anxiety

  • Difficulty in sleeping

  • Concentration issue

  • Lack of confidence

  • Change in appetite

  • Guilt factor

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Self-criticism

  • Feeling suicidal

An individual who answers "yes" to three of the questions above probably have mild depression. A person with mild PPD is still able to continue with everyday activities. More "yes" answers suggest a more severe depression.

One who answers “yes” to three of the questions above is suggested to have mild depression and the mother with more yes answers suggests a severe depression.

If the mother answers "yes" to the question of harming themselves or the baby, it is automatically diagnosed as severe PPD.

Sometimes mothers with no spouse or relatives may not answer these questions openly for the obvious fear of the baby will be taken away from them if they get diagnosed with severePPD. But infants won’t be separated from their mothers unless in severe situations where the individual is admitted in mental health clinic and likewise.

Some diagnostic tests such as blood test can be suggested to check the hormonal problems caused mostly by the thyroid gland and anemia.

The Treatment

PPD treatment varies from patient to patient as the severity of the same matters the most. Even though the recovery may take several months or longer but the good news is it is treatable.

Antidepressants

Experts may prescribe antidepressants drugs that can help treat severe depressive disorders including PPD. These help to balance brain chemicals which then regulate the moods and behavior patterns of the patient. Antidepressants should be taken strictly under the doctor’s prescription as they are known to give side-effects and may merge with the breast milk.

Medication

In case of postnatal psychosis, medications such as tranquilizers may be prescribed where the mother experiences hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and extreme irrational behavior. These medicines are generally specified for a short period of time. Side effects such as drowsiness, loss of balance, giddiness, and confusion are indicated.

Psychological Therapy

It’s OK to bare your heart out. You will heal faster.

Sharing your thoughts and agony with a psychiatrist is proven to be the most effective treatment for PPD. In psychotherapy, mothers are encouraged to speak freely about their problems and definite guidance is provided to help one come out of depression.

Following are the most commonly followed therapies to treat PPD:

 1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Thinking positive and ways of looking at things with a fresh perspective are the sole motto of this theory. It is proven to be super effective in treating self-doubt, anxiety, obsession, and other mind related issues. This theory prepares you to face the negative thoughts with positive conviction and determination. Practical tips and tactics are advised by experts to face the day on a happy note even if some cloudy thoughts may bug mommies.

2. Interpersonal Therapy

Constructive and patient interaction with the therapist has proven to be very effective to treat the PPD. This therapy is aimed at finding the core problem of the patient and the reasons for the same. Mothers are then encouraged to provide answers or solutions for the same if the similar grief or situation would have taken place in their normal mental state. This theory is the perfect blend of expert advice and self-discovery.

3. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

When the PPD symptoms are severe and non-responsive towards the medications and cognitive sessions then electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) comes into the picture. It practices the use of a minimal amount of electrical current to the brain along with muscle relaxants which can help combat the PPD. One may experience severe headaches and short term memory loss post therapy.

Lifestyle Changes

Finish a book, it’s good for the soul!

PPD can be alleviated with the basic lifestyle changes that can help mothers overcome deadly depression times. Simple changes like these may help:

  •  Following a healthy, balanced diet.

  • Getting a good night sleep for 8 hrs and a cat nap during the afternoon.

  • Reading quality books that promote positivity and progression.

  • Bonding with the family, friends where laughter, fun, and comfort are promoted.

  • Pursue hobbies that stimulate creativity and concentration.

  • Indulge in simple pleasures like petting a furry friend or sipping coffee while enjoying rains.

  • Seeking help openly from others when the day doesn’t feel chirpy enough.

  • Being grateful for the life you have.

  • Taking one day at a time and slowly moving towards the depression-free life.

 Nothing lasts forever.. Depression too.

Live the mommy hood,

~Anna


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