DEALING WITH POSTNATAL DEPRESSION
to 15 percent of women will develop postnatal depression in
the months after the birth of a baby. Depression may also start during
pregnancy, and, if untreated, continue and perhaps get worse
after the baby is born. During this time mothers may experience
depression and feel tearful and sad. This may prevent them
from thinking clearly and result in feelings of failure and
inadequacy as a mother. This normally happens in the first
month after the birth of the child and most of the time mothers
are not even aware that they are experiencing PND(Postnatal Depression).
causes PND (Postnatal Depression)
The reason behind postnatal depression has been linked with
many things like hormones, stress, exhaustion etc but it is
difficult to actually link it with any of these factors. It
is difficult to say why women get it and also who will get
it. It seems likely that PND (Postnatal Depression) is related to the huge hormone
changes, which take place at the time of giving birth, but
this evidence is still lacking. Levels of oestrogen, progesterone
and other hormones to do with reproduction, which may also
affect emotions, drop suddenly after the baby is born, but
no real differences have been found in the hormone changes
of women who do and do not get PND(Postnatal Depression). Some women, though, may
be more vulnerable to such changes than others.
This is the most common symptom of PND (Postnatal Depression). During this time a
woman feels low, unhappy and tearful all the time. Sometimes
the depression is worse at particular times of the day, like
mornings or evenings. She becomes emotional and tearful for
no reasons at all and also harbours a feeling that noone takes
care of her.
Irritability is mostly caused due to frustration and depression.
Irritability is often taken out on near and dear ones, for
example, other children, and occasionally the baby, but most
of all the husband, who may be quite taken by surprise and
wonder what on earth is wrong!
All new mothers get pretty tired and weary, but the depressed
mother is so utterly exhausted that she may think that there
is something physically wrong with her.
This is a condition, which is also experienced by women who
suffer from PND (Postnatal Depression). Even if she is exhausted and sleepy but as
soon as she hits the bed she just can't go to sleep - or if
she does, she wakes up early, even if her husband is feeding
the baby that night. While it is usual for mothers to have
their sleep interrupted by a waking baby, women with postnatal
depression often find they cannot sleep even when the baby
is settled. For example, they may lie awake worrying about
the next feed or the next day.
Loss of appetite
Loss of appetite is the first thing that is experienced by
women who experience PND(Postnatal Depression). During this time women don't feel
like eating anything and though they are concerned about the
baby's health but it is quite difficult for them to eat. Some
women will have increased appetite, often without taking any
pleasure in eating.
Loss of zest
What used to be a pleasure is unappealing, what used to be
of interest is a bore. This may be especially true of sex.
Some women regain interest in sex (if they ever lost it) before
the 6 weeks post-natal examination, but PND (Postnatal Depression) usually takes
any enthusiasm away. The partner who seeks to share the comfort
and excitement of intercourse meets reluctance or a rebuff.
This puts further strain on the relationship.
Mothers often experience anxiety because of a number of reasons.
The mother worries desperately about the child in case she
should lose her precious baby through infection, mishandling,
faulty development or a 'cot death'. She frets over how much
weight has been (or not been) gained; she is alarmed if the
baby is crying or if it is too silent - has it's breathing
stopped? So there are number of small things that keep her
on her toes and adds on to her anxiety list.
A few do's and don'ts
DON'T try to be a superwoman: having a baby may be a full-time
job, so try to reduce commitments during your pregnancy. Don't
bother too much about household chores. (If you are at work,
make sure you eat nourishing food and don't tire yourself
out. Try to put your feet up during lunch time.);
DO make friends with other couples who are expecting or have
just had a baby. This will help you clear your doubts in many
fields and also provide you some support.
DO make friends and keep close contacts with friends. This
is very necessary since you will need a friend to whom you
can speak with and confide in.
DO take plenty of rest once the baby has arrived. Try to learn
the knack of catnapping. You can ask your husband to bottle-feed
the baby at night so that you can take rest at a stretch.
DO get enough nourishment. Healthy foods like salads, fresh
vegetables, fruit, fruit juices, milk and cereals are all
nice, packed with vitamins and don't need much cooking.
DO find time to have fun with your partner. Try to find a
baby sitter and get out together for a meal, a show, to see
friends or just visit to the pub;
DO let yourself and your partner be intimate, even if you
don't yet feel like sex: at least kiss and cuddle, stroke
and fondle. This will comfort you both and lead all the sooner
to the return of full sexual feeling.
DON'T be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There is
help out there for you so feel free to discuss about your
problems with your doctor.
Risk Factors in
There are a number of risk factors, which increase the chances
of developing postnatal depression. These symptoms if not
treated at the earliest can develop into severe complications.
Risk Factors Before Pregnancy/Birth
- past history of depression or other mental health problem
- tension in relationship with husband
- having little social support
- feeling depressed during pregnancy
- having financial tensions
Risk Factors Related to the
- birth complications, such as caesarean delivery
- birth of a handicapped or ill baby.
Risk Factors After Birth
- feeling depressed and neglected
- persisting postnatal "blues"
- not wanting to hold the baby or having negative thoughts
about the baby
- experiencing sleeplessness
- cannot cope with the baby's demands
- finding difficulties feeding the baby
What is most important is to identify the cause of postnatal
depression and which are the symptoms that are present through
pregnancy, birth and afterwards, as then only it will be possible
to give her proper treatment and solve her problems. The husband,
doctor or anyone involved with the treatment has to remain
alert for signs of any developing depression. This is particularly
important as the weeks and months following the birth are
a critical time for both mother and baby to establish a good
bonding relationship. A long period of depression can ruin
this and cause turmoil in the whole relationship between the
mother and the child as well as the couple.