“I used to think over ways to kill myself.” This is surely is not a sentence you would want to hear from a new mother. For many mothers, this was the life even after four years of delivering their child. Post pregnancy anxiety influences no less than 80 percent of women after delivering the child and yet it remains an ‘Unspoken’ issue in the country.
What is Postpartum Depression or post pregnancy anxiety?
Postpartum Depression is a type of Depression that happens after childbirth. Since a lady’s body is experiencing an variety of hormonal changes, the feeling of being sad and alone regularly overtakes her. However, it is inappropriate to state that these sadness of trouble and loneliness are because of post birth anxiety or Postpartum Depression. Sometimes they are temporary in nature and fade away in a short duration.
“Many ladies can overcome this stage and return to their ordinary schedule. However, there is a number which suffers through it and acknowledges it considerably later than they ought to have.”
This is a form of depression which not only affects the mother but also the father in the first year of having the child.
“Fathers also go through postpartum depression. This leads to a weak bonding with the child in its key development years,” says Dr. Rajesh Sagar, professor of psychiatry, AIIMS. It affects almost 20 per cent of men. However, in India, postpartum depression among fathers is still rare and has remained pretty much unacknowledged yet. This is also because this depression is not a sudden phenomenon but occurs only gradually.
For another mother, Kalyani Pardeshi, postpartum depression was ignored for two years and this led to her feeding her emotions with cakes, pastries and everything that satiated her mood. “My depression had become so bad that I considered suicide for two long years. I constantly battled feelings of not being ‘good enough’. To make matters worse, there were always people who criticised me on my home management skills, parenting skills, cooking skills – you name it. This aggravated my depression to the point that I felt my life had no purpose, no one needed me and if I ceased to exist, no one would notice.”
In mothers, the biggest and sole reason of postpartum depression is the multiple hormonal changes they are going through after childbirth. But, it is wrong to only blame the hormones. Postpartum depression is also due to factors like domestic violence, unpleasant relationship with spouse and in-laws and sometimes even exhaustion due to the additional responsibility of handling a new life.
In fathers, on the other hand, postpartum depression can set in due to adjustment issues, sudden realisation of too much responsibility and/or an imbalanced relationship with their spouse.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include feelings of vulnerability, of being sad, loneliness and lethargy. These symptoms can often culminate into more serious symptoms like the urge to kill oneself and/or the child.
“Sometimes we mistake mental health disorders with postpartum depression. What may be postpartum psychosis can be misguided for postpartum depression. In post partum psychosis, the patient may start hallucinating with a permanent feeling of anxiety,” says Dr. Ripan Sippy, senior clinical psychologist, BLK super speciality hospital.
Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency where in a person goes through extreme emotions of hallucinations, confusions and delusions. A postpartum depression can often turn into postpartum psychosis, if not treated in time.
How to go about it?
Different experts give different methods of dealing with postpartum depression.
Dr. Patri talks about how the mother needs to understand that this is a biological phenomenon. “The patient needs to take focus to oneself and the child. Lying down the entire day will not help. Getting back to your normal routine as soon as possible will,” she said.
While most people tell you to go out, meet friends, play with the child, most experts believe that getting professional help, if required, is necessary and should not be taken casually.
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