Contributed by Dr. Meghana Reddy, Senior Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield
The birth of a baby is certainly a life-changing experience, especially for the parents. It simultaneously brings along a plethora of strong emotions in the new mother or father, be it excitement, joy, fear and/or anxiety. But what is often not understood is that it can also result in something one would usually not wonder, depression. Yes, we hardly hear depression and childbirth together but they do have a relation.
Experiencing postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth in the form of mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping are quite commonly observed. However, some of the new mothers tend to experience a more serious, long-lasting form of depression referred to as postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression sometimes is a mere complication as an aftereffect of giving birth. It must also be noted here that it’s not only the mothers but even new fathers can go through postpartum depression, too. It is natural for even the fathers to feel sad or fatigued, be overwhelmed, or anxious or have changes in their eating and sleeping patterns.
Young mothers who have a history of depression, emotional or relationship issues or are struggling financially are more likely to go through postpartum depression. Postpartum depression in fathers is sometimes also called as paternal postpartum depression.
There isn’t a single particular cause identified for postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a major role.
- Physical differences: Post childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones in the body can contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by the thyroid gland also tend to drop sharply and bring the feeling of tiredness, sluggishness and being depressed.
- Emotional concerns: When one is sleep deprived and overwhelmed (which is usual with childbirth), one may have trouble handling even handling minor issues. They may get anxious about the new responsibility and own ability to look after a new life. Some people also experience a sense of losing one’s identity or feeling the absence of control over one’s own life. Any of these can lead to postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can hold a negative effect on the new mother or father’s health by affecting their relationship with their respective spouse or even with their own child. Not only that, but this also tends to negatively impact the child’s growth as well. It is helpful to acknowledge these changes in yourself and visit your health care professional. If left untreated, postpartum depression can last for many months or even longer than that.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are generally more intense which last longer and can also interfere with your routine tasks. Symptoms are usually observed within the first few weeks after giving birth but they could begin even earlier than that. In some cases, they can even be seen as later as a year after birth.
Some of the noticeable symptoms in postpartum depression include:
- Severe mood swings or depressed mood
- Excess of crying
- Difficulty in bonding with the baby
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of appetite or eating way more than usual
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Excessive fatigue or loss of energy
- Lack of interest
- a lot of anger and irritability
- Fear of not being a good parent
- Loss of hope
- Feeling of worthless, shameful, guilty or inadequate
- Reduced ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Strong anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
If someone is feeling depressed after a baby’s birth, they can likely be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it because of the emotional bliss and extravaganza that surrounds childbirth. But if you think that you have symptoms that are suggestive of postpartum depression then you must overcome the hesitation and seek help. It is important to reach out to a medical expert at the earliest. With appropriate treatment and support, most women make a full recovery, although it can take time.