Becoming a new parent is an exciting, fulfilling and life-changing experience, but at times, It can also be overwhelming and stressful. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our mental health deeply, and many people are still experiencing grief and facing daily challenges. In such an uncertain world, it's normal to have feelings of worry or doubt, especially if you are a first-time parent.
What is Postpartum Depression(PPD)
The birth of a baby can flood the parents with diverse forms of powerful emotions, from joy, fear, pride, excitement, and many more, But sometimes it can also result in something unexpected, like depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a prevalent name for depression, which starts after pregnancy and continues for a long time. People first started getting aware of postpartum depression in the late 1980s. Since then, many studies have been conducted on its causes, risk factors, and treatments worldwide.
It is said that PPD affects new parents, surrogates, and adoptive parents. According to data from the US and UK, every 1 in 10 women experience PPD after giving birth, and research in 2017 showed that 22% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression in India. Around 50% of mothers are undiagnosed by health professionals, making it a serious global problem. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 15% of mothers experience PPD after childbirth. As a shocking result, over the past decade, suicide attempts during and after pregnancy have nearly tripled worldwide.
Causes of Postpartum Depression(PPD)
Any hormonal, physical, emotional, financial, genetic and social changes after childbirth can cause postpartum depression. As per research, it's confirmed that violence against women also increases the chances of the development of this depression. And our Modern culture also plays a significant role, making it harder for new parents to focus on self-care. Another important factor about PPD is that it can affect people from all races irrespective of cultures, educational and economic backgrounds. It has been suggested that rapid changes in hormones like estradiol and progesterone are the main factor of PPD, but the exact cause is still unknown. With the help of the Perinatal Mental Health discussion tool and other tools like Online Quiz and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, you can find out your symptoms and discuss them with your healthcare provider. It is diagnosed and confirmed if at least five symptoms are present for a minimum of 2 weeks.
Symptoms & Treatment of Postpartum Depression(PPD)
Some common symptoms that can be easily traced in PPD may include frequent crying, irritability, fatigue, feeling guilty and hopeless, inability to do self-care or baby care, severe mood swings, isolation, loss of appetite, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts etc. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and continue for up to a year. It can be very frightening to have thoughts of harming your baby, but it doesn't mean that you're actually going to hurt them. If left untreated, it can adversely affect partner relationships, child development, mother-child bonding, and family. Early recognition and treatment of PPD can lead to better symptom management and faster recovery rates. Treatment for this condition can include psychotherapy (mental health counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy), support group participation and medications like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines.
In 2021, researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that breastfeeding women had a lower risk of postpartum depression. Among those at risk, providing psychosocial support by family, friends or community, like food, household chores, and mother care, including good maternal sleep, can help prevent this condition. The overall success rate for treating postpartum depression is 80% for the one who really wants to heal. It's important to remember that your family can only thrive if the mother's mental health is not compromised.
Something that can help protect against postpartum depression is developing positive coping strategies and understanding mental health, well-being, and stress management. And hence one can recover better if one gets both practical and emotional support. Learning coping strategies for mood disorders and anxiety, decrease the burden of your expectations of yourself, stop neglecting self needs and start self-care as a mother. People with depression may not recognize or admit that they're depressed. So, if you suspect anyone around you, help them seek medical attention immediately.
With proper therapy, medication and a healthy lifestyle, It's possible to recover fully from PPD. The important thing to be noted here is becoming a responsible parent is not " a walk in the park. "A person goes through a lot of physical and emotional challenges, and it takes a lot of time & doesn't happen in the blink of an eye. Everyone dealing with PPD must know that they are not alone, they are not to blame, and with help, they will get better, said Postpartum Support International.
Research shows that the ideal therapy for these women is still unknown. It's the silent war every woman is fighting in this world, and they can win by providing the necessary help at the right time. None of us expects to have this condition, but there is no harm in being prepared for them by making your mental health your priority. The sooner you reach out for support, the sooner you will feel better, and it's never too late to ask for help.
Written By: Shreya Arora