Postnatal depression (PND) is sometimes confused with the baby blues. The baby blues are when you feel moody, weepy, tired or anxious during the first week after giving birth. These feelings will usually pass within a few days. However, unlike the baby blues, PND is an illness that is unlikely to get better quickly, and without help. The sooner you recognise that you have PND, and get the support that you need, the less likely it is to become a severe or long-term problem.
While everyone talks about pregnancy, no one ever says what goes during postpartum. There are two reasons for this, as I see: lack of awareness and gross ignorance. Most people consider childbirth as the most beautiful phase and refuse to believe that a mother can feel low or disturbed post childbirth. But understand that both, birthing and pregnancy, can take a toll on her and this is the reason why postpartum depression affects most women. I can say this because I had to fight postpartum depression and it was an uphill task.
What is postpartum anxiety?
Many women with PPD feel worried or anxious, but if you have persistent feelings of intense worry or panic that cause severe distress and keep you from doing your daily activities, you might have an anxiety disorder. Recent research has shown that 8.5 percent of postpartum moms have clinical anxiety.
Common fears include uncontrollable worry about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or fear that your baby will be taken away from you. You might worry excessively about being criticized for your parenting skills or about not having the support of friends and family. You may also feel intensely self-conscious about your postpartum body and fear being intimate with your partner. An anxiety disorder can also affect your physical health. For example, you might experience muscle tension or have trouble sleeping.
Treatment is available for postpartum anxiety disorders, so let your provider know right away if you have any feelings of overwhelming worry or panic.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Okay. Here we go. You may have postpartum depression if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:
# You feel overwhelmed. Not like “hey, this new mom thing is hard.” More like “I can’t do this and I’m never going to be able to do this.” You feel like you just can’t handle being a mother. In fact, you may be wondering whether you should have become a mother in the first place.
# You feel guilty because you believe you should be handling new motherhood better than this. You feel like your baby deserves better. You worry whether your baby can tell that you feel so bad, or that you are crying so much, or that you don’t feel the happiness or connection that you thought you would. You may wonder whether your baby would be better off without you.
# You don’t feel bonded to your baby. You’re not having that mythical mommy bliss that you see on TV or read about in magazines. Not everyone with postpartum depression feels this way, but many do.
# You can’t understand why this is happening. You are very confused and scared.
# You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything annoys you. You feel resentment toward your baby, or your partner, or your friends who don’t have babies. You feel out-of-control rage.
# You feel nothing. Emptiness and numbness. You are just going through the motions.
# You feel sadness to the depths of your soul. You can’t stop crying, even when there’s no real reason to be crying.
# You feel hopeless, like this situation will never ever get better. You feel weak and defective, like a failure.
# You can’t bring yourself to eat, or perhaps the only thing that makes you feel better is eating.
# You can’t sleep when the baby sleeps, nor can you sleep at any other time. Or maybe you can fall asleep, but you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep no matter how tired you are. Or maybe all you can do is sleep and you can’t seem to stay awake to get the most basic things done. Whichever it is, your sleeping is completely screwed up and it’s not just because you have a newborn.
# You can’t concentrate. You can’t focus. You can’t think of the words you want to say. You can’t remember what you were supposed to do. You can’t make a decision. You feel like you’re in a fog.
# You feel disconnected. You feel strangely apart from everyone for some reason, like there’s an invisible wall between you and the rest of the world.
# Maybe you’re doing everything right. You are exercising. You are taking your vitamins. You have a healthy spirituality. You do yoga. You’re thinking “Why can’t I just get over this?” You feel like you should be able to snap out of it, but you can’t.
# You might be having thoughts of running away and leaving your family behind. Or you’ve thought of driving off the road, or taking too many pills, or finding some other way to end this misery.
# You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy.”
# You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.
# You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.
What causes PND?
Experts don’t fully understand why some women become depressed and others don’t. It’s likely to be for a few reasons, rather than just one cause. You could be vulnerable to depression with your second baby, even if you were fine with your first, or vice versa.
# Sometimes, the things you have to face every day just get on top of you, and make it harder for you to look after yourself, rest and eat well. Certain circumstances may make it harder for you to cope, such as if:
# You have been depressed before, or have had problems with your mental health, or were depressed during a previous pregnancy.
# You don’t have a supportive partner, or have no family or friends living nearby.
# You’re having money, housing, work or relationship problems.
# You had a difficult labour, and health problems afterwards.
# Your baby was born prematurely, or is unwell.
# You are finding it difficult to breastfeed.
# Sad memories have been stirred up after your baby was born, such as the death of one of your parents.
How do I cope with postpartum depression?
Be good to yourself by making sure your own basic needs are met: Try to sleep and eat well, and do your best not to feel guilty. Having PPD doesn't mean you're a bad mother or don't love your child.
Don't demand too much of yourself as if you have clinical depression or anxiety, it can be hard enough just to get out of bed and face the day. Be gentle with yourself, and take things one at a time.
Ask for supportby letting your partner know about different ways to help, whether it's taking care of the baby, handling chores, or going with you to doctor appointments. Relatives or close friends may be able to help as well.
Share your feelings by keeping the lines of communication open with your partner and talk about what's going on.
Pamper yourself by taking care of your physical self can sometimes help you feel better inside. Have your partner or a friend watch your baby so you can take a shower or a relaxing bath. Put on makeup if you usually wear it. Go on a shopping trip just for yourself and buy something new for your post-baby wardrobe. Wear a favorite outfit on especially difficult days to give yourself a boost.
Get some rest as the rigors of caring for a newborn 24/7 can leave you exhausted. But it's still important to take breaks to rest, even if you just read a magazine or watch TV. Taking 10-minute naps is helpful
Venture outdoors by putting your baby in a stroller and take a walk , or meet a friend .
Slow down by resisting the temptation to do the laundry or other chores while your baby sleeps – the housework can wait.
How can your partner make life easier for you?
What's most important is that you gets proper treatment. You can't fix PPD, but your partner can be there for you.
Their support is vital to your recovery, so ask your partner help whenever you need it and don't hesistate and let yourself be judged. Your partner can talk to your obstetrician, midwife, or therapist to get more information about the condition and better understand what you are going through.
Dr. Khushboo Murarka
NagpurJuly 21, 2017