The pain of postpartum depression
Having a baby is a joyful moment for some women, but not for others. Postpartum depression is a mental condition that plagues women, thrusting them in profound despair, misery, and downheartedness at the thought or sight of their newborn. Janelle Reid is a mental-health counsellor at Caribbean Teens to Tots, who says that postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects women after childbirth, irrespective of their age, race, ethnicity, or economic status. "It is caused by combination of physical and emotional factors, due to a rapid decrease in hormone levels after childbirth. The chemical changes in the brain may trigger mood swings. In addition to this, the lack of rest subsequent to childbirth and constant sleep deprivation can also contribute to postpartum depression," she explained.
According to Reid, most times postpartum depression begins during pregnancy and can also occur one to four weeks after a woman has given birth.
WHO IS VULNERABLE TO POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
"Women who have given birth for the first time are vulnerable. Also, women who have had postpartum episodes from previous births have a 30 to 50 per cent chance of recurrence with subsequent delivery. And women with a prior history of, or who have been diagnosed with, depression or bipolar disorder, especially bipolar I, are prone to developing the condition," she said.
She added that some women with a family history of bipolar disorder and women who have experienced stressful events during pregnancy, such as the death of a loved one, job loss, or domestic violence, are also likely to fall victims to postpartum depression. Even though it's the mother who becomes overwhelmed by the mental condition, inevitably her child suffers, too. "It disrupts nurturing the newborn. As a result, it may hinder the mother's ability to connect and care for the child. Also, the baby may develop problems with sleeping, eating, and behavioural disorders as he or she grows," Reid said.
HOW TO DETECT POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
Several symptoms are associated with this mental disorder and varies according to women. These include, crying more than usual without a reason, extreme sadness, feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, thoughts of harming the baby and themselves, feeling extreme exhaustion, and anxiety attacks.
Reid emphasised that only a healthcare provider can accurately diagnose postpartum depression, as the symptoms are similar to several other mental conditions.
DEALING WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
There are different ways to treat the condition. Reid recommends the following:
- Counselling/talk therapy: This should be done with a mental-health professional such as a counsellor or psychologist.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy and interpersonal therapy: These are two approaches in mental health that have proven to be effective with postpartum depression.
- Get drugs that will help:
Use medications such as antidepressants to help regulate your mood. But, before women begin to use these, they should talk with their healthcare providers regarding the side effects of medication and nursing.
- Support system: A strong support system from family and friends may also help. Offering emotional support, encouraging a woman to talk with a healthcare provider, and helping with the newborn are all ways of providing help.