Postpartum depression: what is it and how to deal with it?

While the happiness of giving birth to your bundle of joy can bring you unparalleled happiness, feeling emotional distress, sadness, and anxiety is also common among new mothers. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed after giving birth, but if these feelings persist, it can lead to a depressive state, known as postpartum depression.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a mental health condition that affects individuals, especially mothers, after childbirth. Dr. Imraan Noorani, consultant psychologist at the Child Development Centre, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, explains: “Postpartum depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety and a general sense of emotional distress. PPD can also manifest as changes in appetite, sleep disturbances and difficulty concentrating. It differs from the “baby blues,” milder, short-lived mood swings that many new mothers experience. PPD is a more serious and long-lasting condition, typically lasting weeks or even months if left untreated,” he says.

Why does postpartum depression occur?

The exact cause of postpartum depression is complex and often involves a combination of biological, psychological and social factors, explains Dr. Noorani.

  • Hormonal changes: The rapid and significant hormonal shifts that occur during and after childbirth, especially the sharp drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, can contribute to mood disorders.
  • Biological vulnerability: Some people may be predisposed to mood disorders, and the hormonal fluctuations associated with childbirth can cause or worsen these conditions.
  • Psychological factors: Pre-existing mental health problems, such as a history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, can increase the chance of developing PPD.
  • Stress and lack of support: High levels of stress, coupled with a lack of emotional or practical support, can have a significant impact on a new mother’s mental well-being.
  • Sleep deprivation: Caring for a newborn often involves disrupted sleep patterns, which can contribute to feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion and emotional instability.
  • Adjustment to parenthood: The transition to motherhood brings significant life changes, including shifts in roles, responsibilities and identity, which can be challenging to manage.
  • Unresolved emotional issues: Past traumas or unresolved emotional experiences may resurface or be amplified by the demands of motherhood.

    Understanding the multifaceted nature of PPD is crucial for effective support and treatment. It is important to note that seeking professional help is essential to managing and overcoming postpartum depression, and people experiencing PPD should not hesitate to consult a health care provider or mental health professional.

Hormonal changes often cause new mothers to experience postpartum depression.

How do you prepare for postpartum depression?

Being aware of the possibility of postpartum depression and its causes can help you prepare for it as well.

  1. Teach yourself: Learn more about the symptoms of PPD to recognize them early.
  2. Build a support system: Create a network of friends, family, and health care professionals who can provide emotional and practical support.
  3. Prioritize self-care: Make time for activities that promote mental and physical well-being.
  4. To communicate: Be open with your partner and caregiver about your feelings and concerns.
  5. Seek professional help: If you suspect you have PPD, don’t hesitate to consult a mental health professional. Therapy and, in some cases, medication can be very effective.

    Also read: Know the common symptoms of postpartum depression

Can postpartum depression occur in men?

Postpartum depression can affect anyone, even men, but is more common in women. “It is believed that hormonal fluctuations, especially the rapid decline in estrogen and progesterone levels after childbirth, play an important role. However, it’s worth noting that men can also experience a similar condition called paternal postpartum depression, although it is less common.

How can you help others with postpartum depression?

When a woman becomes a mother, she goes through many emotions and feelings. As they struggle to cope with their life situations, support and assistance is what you as loved ones can provide. Dr. Noorani explains what will help.

  • Listen without judgement: Provide them with a safe space to express their feelings without fear of criticism.
  • Provide practical help: Help with household chores, childcare, or meal preparation to alleviate some of their responsibilities.
  • Encourage professional help: Gently suggest talking to a healthcare provider or therapist.
  • Be patient and supportive: Understand that recovery from PPD is a process that can take time. Offer encouragement and reassurance.
  • Regular check-in: Stay present and available even after the initial diagnosis or recognition of PPD.

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