What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is Postpartum Depression?

The respect and importance attached to motherhood is for a reason. Life changes many folds after pregnancy and then after the birth of the child. Usually the mother feels extremely joyous, happy and excited at the birth of her little one but in a few cases the situation may be to the contrary.

It is not that the mother feels sad about giving birth to the child but she may feel confused, blocked and unprepared for the changes that the birth of the child may bring. The feeling of being constantly worried, unhappy and weary can together bee termed as baby-blues. Baby blues may disappear in a week or two after the birth of the child But if they prolong beyond this time, they can be termed as  postpartum depression.

Postpartum Depression Vs Stress:

Postpartum Depression is characterized by feeling of fatigue, exhaustion, irritation, sadness and confusion too. One may also feel the same due to the fatigue that the mother may feel after delivering the child. Delivery is not an easy process and the body has to endure a lot of pain. This may be the cause of all of the above feelings in the mother. The sure way of identifying if you suffer from the usual stress due to the arrival of a child in your life or is it depression, is that if these feelings prevent you from focusing on your daily tasks, it is depression. When these feelings hinder you from performing your day to day activities, these may be called postpartum depression. It may be a serious condition and may lead to complete isolation of the mother from other people. The mother may feel aloof and angry all the time. This problem thus needs attention before it is too late.

Causes of Postpartum Depression:

1. Fatigue:

This fatigue may either be emotional or physical. Physical fatigue is felt due to the pain that the mother experiences during delivery. If the mother undergoes a cesarean delivery, chances are that she may have aching stitches. She is not able to walk for a day and needs to take rest. In such a time, she is showered with a blessing in the face of a child, one which appears to her as a liability.

Emotionally, a mother may feel very drained. The cause of this may be a lot of personal factors. These may be illness, financial constraints, social isolation, health problems and also if the mother lacks support from her partner. Single mothers, those whose husbands are not very supportive, or those who have nobody to share their problems with may face this problem.

2. Hormonal Changes:

A woman’s body undergoes so many physiological changes that it often becomes difficult for her to adjust with. These variations start from the first trimester of pregnancy and continue even after delivery. These hormonal actions also control the moods of the mother. This may also be the cause of negative emotions, feelings and also stress that may culminate to cause depression. The levels of progesterone and estrogen rise rapidly during delivery and then instantly fall back to normal. This abrupt hormonal action leads to Postpartum Depression in new mothers.

3. Inadequate Sleep:

Your new born is trying to adjust to the new world for a few days. As a result he/she may keep you up at odd hours of the day. This may lead to lack of sleep. This lack of sleep may cause fatigue in your body and can also result in stress and depression.

4. Inadequate Diet:

If your diet does not consist of healthy food that helps you recover from the pain of delivery, you may feel lethargic most time of the day. The lethargy may cause you to feel irritated because it prevents your body from performing your regular chores and also looking after your child. All this amounts to frustration and eventually may cause postpartum depression. Postnatal care with a proper diet is important.

5. History of Mental Illness:

If a woman has a history of depression, anxiety and other such mental illness, she may be more prone to falling prey to postpartum depression. The mental status of such a woman is already so weak that she may not be able to endure the changes in her life and body. These factors may cause her to fall prey to postpartum depression. One must speak to her doctor about such a history of a weak mental health so that she may be prepared to face this phase.

Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression:

1. Being Irritable and Angry without Reason:

The smallest of things may irritate you so much that your head may burst with anger. This is a symptom of postpartum depression. People around you may not be able to understand this about you and may also misunderstand you. The mother may display anger towards her new born.

2. Extreme Mood Swings:

You may be smiling at once and at another moment you will be shedding tears that nobody can stop. You do not understand the cause of such mood swings. There is nothing in particular that makes you feel that way. Blame your hormones for all these mood swings.

3. Loss of Interest in Activities:

You may not feel like doing what you have always liked to do. Pursuing your hobby looks like a boring activity to you. This is due to postpartum depression. Nothing that interested you earlier, makes you feel better in during this period of depression.

4. Feeling of Worthlessness:

You will begin to feel that you are undeserving. This is a very common feeling. Becoming a mother does not look like to you a very happy incident. You will feel unworthy and undeserving of all the positive things in your life. You may also feel lack of confidence. Most mothers cannot trust themselves with being able to bring up their child and take the responsibility of a new born.

5. Excessive Worry about your baby or Feeling disinterested in your child:

You may either feel overly worried about your child and begin to feel overly possessive about him/her or you may feel completely disinterested in his/her well being. These feelings are poles apart and indicative of postpartum depression.

6. Severe anxiety and Panic attacks:

The mother may begin to feel over anxious and also have panic attacks. Signs of panic attacks include involuntary movements in the body shivering, perspiration in a cold environment, being unable to concentrate, etc.

Treatment of Postpartum Depression:

The treatment depends on the severity of problem. Here are a few methods of treatment.

1. Psychotherapy:

Psychotherapy includes speaking about your problem to a psychiatrist or a psychologist about your condition. The counselor may prescribe medications to control your hormonal variations and their actions on your body. They also adopt methods to solve your symptoms. They give you realistic goals, speak to you, listen to your problem and try to pacify the situation for you. They use clinical methods and perform various task oriented sessions in each of the sittings that you may be called for by the doctor.

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

This therapy is focused on changing the way you think and behave. This treatment is known for its effectiveness to treat anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and other such mental- health problems. This therapy operates on the premise that thoughts, feelings and physical actions are all interconnected. It also devises method to provide practical solutions to your problems.

3. Interpersonal Therapy

This therapy includes direct interaction between therapist and the patient. It focuses on four key problem areas of the patient, namely, grief, role transitions, interpersonal disputes and interpersonal deficits. This has proven its supremacy in treating postpartum depression in many cases.

4. Antidepressants:

These are medicines and drugs used to treat major depressive disorders including postpartum depression. These medicines are designed to make you feel better. They have their bit of side effects too and must be strictly taken on prescription by the doctor.

Postpartum depression is very real. It is expected that the family, friends and the father of the child understand the mother during this difficult phase and behave patiently with her. She needs the love and support of the people around her. Bringing the child closer to the mother both emotionally and physically can also be a solution to the problem. Make sure you pay proper attention to the symptoms to avoid serious problems.

Shabnam Vandeliwala

Venturing into writing is my second most admired hobby after litigating in courts. An advocate by profession, writing gives me immense sense of satisfaction especially in the time that I'm free from other work.

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