It is estimated that 8-21% of mothers to newborns have depression and mood swings shortly after birth of the baby. Women’s care is not only important during pregnancy but also after pregnancy that must be looked after by the mother, family and the doctor.
It is essential for the women to get awareness about postnatal depression during their pregnancy and if required seek appropriate help.
What is Postnatal Depression?
It is common for mothers to have mood swings within first few weeks of delivery. Mothers could feel miserable or irritable. Crying episodes are very common. But they continue doing their normal physical activities and can take care of self and the baby.
These emotions usually last for less than a week, but may sometimes persist for a month. The support of your partner, family and friends is usually enough to help you get through it.
When to be concerned?
When the feelings of despair, sadness and tearfulness last beyond early days and continue to get worse, your daily activities may suffer and care for your baby may begin to be affected.
This is when you have to be concerned because this worsening of your feelings, may be a sign of developing depression. In some women, it may get so serious that they develop delusions and hallucinations.
Who is at risk?
Women developing postnatal depression are observed to have following risk factors:
1. Age under 16
Women who give birth in the age under 16 years are found more at risk of going into depression post birth. This is because young girls mostly are unaware of process of pregnancy and are unable to bear pain of labour. Their mental unreadiness for the baby brings more stress on the young mother, which affects baby’s growth and nourishment.
2. Inadequate Antenatal Care
Many women frequently miss their prenatal visits to the doctor due to any personal reasons such as work and /or lack of knowledge. Due to patient’s negligence or the aforementioned reasons doctor is unable to provide the appropriate management during birth process and care after birth.
3. Complicated pregnancy
Pregnancy is a long and tedious process and every mother tries to make sure that she delivers a healthy baby at the end of it. If the pregnancy and/ or delivery become complicated due to some reason which may require operational delivery such as forceps delivery or a caesarean section, it might cause the mother to become really anxious for the well being of her baby.
Constant worry leads the mother to eventually suffer from depression.
4. Depression before or during pregnancy
It is common knowledge that a patient who has suffered from depression in the past might experience it again in future. Pregnant women in particular are susceptible to depression as pregnancy is a very important phase of a woman’s life which keeps her on edge at all times, thereby adding to the level of her anxiety and subsequently depression.
5. Psychiatric disease in past
Multiple diseases which affect the brain such as schizophrenia, dementia, bipolar disorder etc. might cause a pregnant woman to develop symptoms of depression later in pregnancy or after child birth.
6. Depression or psychiatric disease in family
Family history is the most important component of prenatal history taking. This explains that even if the pregnant women has never been diagnosed with any psychiatric illness but any psychiatric illness running in the family puts her on the risk of developing it sooner or later in pregnancy and most commonly after pregnancy.
7. Unstable family
Being raised in an unstable family or any related hostile environment causes a child to lack confidence and grow up to become a shy and timid person, gradually giving rise to depression. This applies to a pregnant woman as well.
8. Uncooperative partner
Every pregnant woman wishes to have her partner to stay and support her throughout the pregnancy. Unfortunately, if a woman happens to have an uncooperative partner, her confidence might take a hit and that might lead her towards depression.
9. Lack of support from relatives or friends
Everybody needs support from their loved ones, this applies to a pregnant woman and a mother to a newborn even more so, if a pregnant woman or mother finds herself lonely and isolated during such a critical period of her life or she doesn’t get any help in handling the baby, she might lose hope for the future of both herself and her baby, thereby falling into a state of depression.
How does postnatal depression affect?
It is important that postnatal depression is recognized early and help is provided, because it has serious consequences. Mother feels hopeless, doesn’t take care of herself and neglects her baby.
Maternal-infant relationship may be adversely affected and also cognitive development of the baby may potentially be affected.
How to manage postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression can be managed by support initially. Listening to the mother, and understanding her concerns regarding taking care of the baby, is sometimes what all she needs. But if it doesn’t help, then cognitive behaviour therapy, psychotherapy or even antidepressant medications may need to be initiated.
However, when the mother has delusions or hallucinations, she needs hospitalization. Both the baby and the mother need to be under supervision till depression gets settled.