Postpartum depression: what it is and how to manage it

While the joy of giving birth to your little bundle of joy can bring you unprecedented 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 depression, more commonly known as postpartum depression.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is a mental health problem that affects individuals, primarily mothers, after giving birth. Dr Imraan Noorani, consultant psychologist at the Child Development Center at 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, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. This is different from the “baby blues,” which are milder, short-lived mood swings that many new moms 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, says Dr. Noorani.

  • Hormonal changes: The rapid and significant hormonal changes that occur during and after childbirth, particularly the sharp decline in estrogen and progesterone levels, can contribute to mood disorders.
  • Biological vulnerability: Some people may have a predisposition to mood disorders, and hormonal fluctuations associated with childbirth can trigger or exacerbate these conditions.
  • Psychological factors: Pre-existing mental health conditions, such as a history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, may increase the risk of developing PPD.
  • Stress and lack of support: High stress levels, coupled with a lack of emotional or practical support, can have a significant impact on a new mother’s mental wellbeing.
  • Sleep deprivation: Caring for a newborn often involves disrupted sleep patterns, which can contribute to feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion, and emotional instability.
  • Adaptation to parenthood: The transition to motherhood brings significant life changes, including changes in roles, responsibilities and identity, which can be difficult to manage.
  • Unresolved emotional issues: Past trauma or unresolved emotional experiences may resurface or be intensified 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 for managing and overcoming postpartum depression, and people suffering from PPD should not hesitate to consult a medical professional or mental health professional .

Hormonal changes often lead new mothers to suffer from postpartum depression.

How to prepare for postpartum depression?

Awareness of the possibility of postpartum depression and its causes can also help you prepare for it.

  1. Find out: Learn about the symptoms of PPD to recognize them early.
  2. Build a support system: Cultivate a network of friends, family and healthcare professionals who can offer emotional and practical support.
  3. Prioritize self-care: Take time to engage in activities that promote mental and physical well-being.
  4. Communicate: Be open with your partner and healthcare provider about your feelings and concerns.
  5. Seek professional help: If you think you may have PPD, do not hesitate to consult a mental health professional. Therapy and, in some cases, medication can be very effective.

    Read also : Know the common signs of postpartum depression

Can postpartum depression happen to men?

Postpartum depression can happen to anyone, even men, but it is more common in women. “Hormonal fluctuations, particularly the rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone levels after childbirth, are thought to play an important role. However, it should be noted that men can also suffer from a similar condition called paternal postpartum depression, although it occurs less frequently.

How can you help others suffering from 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 help is what you can offer them as their loved ones. Dr Noorani explains what can help.

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

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