While the happiness of giving birth to your bundle of joy can bring you unparalleled happiness, feeling emotional distress, sadness and anxiety is also common to new moms. It is quite normal to feel overwhelmed after delivery, but if these feelings continue, it can lead to a depressive state, more commonly known as postpartum depression.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a mental health condition that affects individuals, primarily mothers, after giving birth. Dr Imraan Noorani, consultant psychologist at Child Development Center, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, explains, “Postpartum depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and a general sense of emotional distress. PPD can also manifest as changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and difficulty concentrating. It is different from the ‘baby blues,’ which are milder, short-lived mood swings that many new mothers experience. PPD is a more severe and long-lasting condition, typically lasting for weeks or even months if left untreated,” he says.
Why does postpartum depression happen?
The exact cause of postpartum depression is complex and often involves a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors, Dr Noorani explains.
- Hormonal changes: The rapid and significant hormonal shifts that occur during and after childbirth, particularly the sharp drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, can contribute to mood disturbances.
- Biological vulnerability: Some individuals may have a predisposition to mood disorders, and the hormonal fluctuations associated with childbirth can trigger or exacerbate these conditions.
- Psychological factors: Pre-existing mental health issues, such as a history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, can increase the likelihood of developing PPD.
- Stress and lack of support: High levels of stress, coupled with a lack of emotional or practical support, can significantly impact a new mother’s mental well-being.
- Sleep deprivation: Caring for a newborn often involves disrupted sleep patterns, which can contribute to feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion, and emotional instability.
- Adjustment to parenthood: The transition to motherhood brings significant life changes, including shifts in roles, responsibilities, and identity, which can be challenging to navigate.
- Unresolved emotional issues: Past traumas or unresolved emotional experiences can resurface or be intensified by the demands of motherhood.
Understanding the multifaceted nature of PPD is crucial for effective support and treatment. It’s important to note that seeking professional help is essential for managing and overcoming postpartum depression, and individuals experiencing PPD should not hesitate to consult a healthcare provider or mental health professional.
How to prepare for postpartum depression?
An awareness about the possibility of postpartum depression and its causes can actually help prepare you for the same as well.
- Educate yourself: Learn about the symptoms of PPD to recognize them early.
- Build a support system: Cultivate a network of friends, family, and healthcare professionals who can offer emotional and practical support.
- Prioritise self-care: Make time for activities that promote mental and physical well-being.
- Communicate: Be open with your partner and healthcare provider about your feelings and concerns.
- Seek professional help: If you suspect you have PPD, don’t hesitate to consult a mental health professional. Therapy and, in some cases, medication can be very effective.
Also read: Know the common signs of postpartum depression
Can postpartum depression happen to men?
Postpartum depression can happen to anyone, even men, however, it is more common in women. “Hormonal fluctuations, particularly the rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone levels after childbirth, are believed to play a significant role. However, it’s worth noting that men can also experience a similar condition called paternal postpartum depression, although it occurs less frequently.
How can you help others with postpartum depression?
When a woman becomes a mother, she goes through many emotions and feelings. While they struggle to cope with their life situations, support and help is what you can offer as their loved ones. Dr Noorani explains what will help.
- Listen non-judgmentally: Provide a safe space for them to express their feelings without fear of criticism.
- Offer practical assistance: Help with household tasks, childcare, or meal preparation to alleviate some of their responsib ilities.
- Encourage professional help: Gently suggest speaking to a healthcare provider or a therapist.
- Be patient and supportive: Understand that recovery from PPD is a process that may take time. Offer encouragement and reassurance.
- Check-in regularly: Continue to be present and available, even after the initial diagnosis or acknowledgment of PPD.
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