Thousands of women suffer from a mild to moderate form of depression during pregnancy and post-delivery. But it is surprising how postpartum depression is still considered a taboo in many societies. Women are usually told to bear with it as it is normal to feel depressed but this is not entirely true, and it is very important to identify and deal with post-partum depression (PPD) promptly otherwise it can cause a lot of other health and relationship-related problems.
Postpartum Depression can be confused with baby blues
Baby blues are a mild form of mood swings and sadness that a woman experiences after delivery due to tiredness, lack of sleep, sudden changes in routine, etc. There are many symptoms of post-partum depression and baby blues, which are similar, such as being extremely moody, inability to sleep, feeling overworked, sudden crying spells, and getting irritated.
But PPD is not the same as baby blues!
One of the most common misconceptions is that PPD is the same as baby blues. Although both begin as a result of sudden and extreme fluctuations of the hormones, there is a marked difference between both. Baby blues begin right after delivery and end within a week, whereas, symptoms of post-partum depression develop a few weeks after birth and last for a month or longer. The severity of baby blues is also much less when compared to post-partum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression
Other than the symptoms mentioned above, women suffering from postpartum depression may experience some very specific (red flag!) symptoms like a woman might become super anxious, by that I mean you will find her anxious ALL-THE-TIME! Even when her baby has been fed well and is fast asleep. Women also report withdrawal from partners, constant fights, a complaining behavior, and poor bonding with their babies. All these symptoms are accompanied by feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, sadness, and even suicidal thoughts in severe cases.
Common causes of postpartum depression
Women have very delicate yet complex physiology, and it can be very tricky to pinpoint at one specific cause for how she behaves. Similarly, the causes of postpartum depression vary greatly among different women, and multiple risk factors contribute to the onset of PPD.
1. Changes in hormone levels.
A disturbance in the normal levels of hormones is considered a primary cause of the onset of Postpartum depression. Following the birthing process, the body of a woman experiences a drastic drop in the levels of progesterone and estrogen hormones. Some women may additionally suffer from a drop in thyroid levels too! A weak immunity, disturbed metabolism, along with hormones going haywire can trigger the onset of postpartum depression in a majority of women.
2. Emotional Changes.
The entire process of pregnancy and delivering a baby can take a severe toll on a woman’s health, giving rise to numerous emotional and physical changes. Emotionally she might have a hard time accepting her new body and scars because women keep on wanting to have their pre-baby body back ASAP! They may also struggle emotionally while adapting to breastfeeding as it is a very demanding task. Some women also miss the good old days of freedom when they could do whatever, whenever they wanted to. Being bound by the numerous responsibilities of a new-born can definitely turn a woman into an emotional wreck.
3. Physical Changes.
Physically, a woman goes through an excruciating amount of pain during labor and delivery. But the pain doesn’t end there, after delivery, there is pain associated with surgical incisions and stitches, especially in case of babies born via C-sections. Then there are aches and pains linked to the contraction of the uterus to its original size and general weakness. These too can cause women to feel depressed and hopeless.
4. Heightened Stress Levels.
New mothers usually have unrealistic expectations for themselves. A very common one is to be the BEST mother with no room for mistakes for their newborn. But when managing to get 20 mins of uninterrupted sleep through the night, taking a shower, changing into clean clothes, or even brushing hair becomes impossible, the reality of the situation hits women like a ton of bricks, which makes them question their ability to be a good mom. This can unnecessarily increase their stress levels by ten folds!
5. A History of Depression.
A record of non-pregnancy related episodes of depression can increase the risk of a female to experience post-partum depression.
6. Miscellaneous Factors.
Other than these causes, women may suffer from PPD if they do not have the emotional and moral support of their family members, friends, and especially their partners. Men need to understand the gravity of the situation, and to play their part in supporting women through this tough time. Women who are involved in an abusive relationship, or have to bear the financial responsibilities of the family tend to easily fall into the trap of depression.
How can you help yourself or others around you?
Timely identification of the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression is the key to its prevention and treatment. It is extremely important to keep yourselves well informed about what post-partum depression is and how does it affect women’s post-delivery.
2. Reaching out for Help.
Know that it is totally okay to reach out for help. In some countries, nurses keep close contact with women throughout their pregnancies and guide them accordingly before and after birth to help them overcome their depression as soon as possible. Similarly, you can contact a counselor or a therapist at your local clinic to get some guidance, support, and treatment (if required). You should feel no shame in doing so!
3. Take it Easy.
Don’t be hard on yourself, give yourself some time to transition and adjust into the world of “motherhood”. Skip the housework, sleep whenever you can, take care of yourself, and enjoy these precious moments with your new bundle of joy.