Pregnancy can be the happiest period for a woman and her spouse or partner. It can come with a feeling of complete bliss. The thought of creating life can be overwhelming. However, it can also come with morning sickness, difficulty managing work-life balance, physical transformation, mood swings, etc. Some of us manage to cope with the same. However, some of us feel a little low throughout the journey.
There is no correlation between a happy pregnancy and a comfortable birth-giving experience. Similarly, a difficult pregnancy can lead to a feeling of sheer joy and a beautiful birth experience. Since the mind and body go through a transformation during the nine months, every experience of pregnancy and motherhood is unique. There is no right or wrong here.
A study suggests that postpartum depression affects up to 15 % of people after having a baby. In addition, you should not mistake “baby blues” with postpartum depression. Baby blues include symptoms like sadness, tiredness, worry, etc. It will resolve on its own within a few days. However, postpartum depression can be long lasting with intense symptoms like physical, emotional and several behavioural changes, loss of energy, loss of appetite, feeling irritated, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and more.
The levels of hormonal changes that occur in the body during pregnancy come back to normalcy, usually within three days. We start feeling like our previous selves with a sense of completeness. We start getting back to a rhythm with the newborn, which becomes the new fabric. However, some of us go through physical discomfort for a longer duration. Also, with it comes several other changes: role and responsibilities, nurturing and breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, bodily changes and weight gain, and feeling alienated from the older life. However, this could lead to a gloomy feeling known as baby blues. This seemingly innocent phrase can take a mammoth proportion, if not untreated. The condition may worsen and lead to full-blown postpartum depression. So, if you are a new mom and feeling low, the experts at HealthifyMe urge you to talk to near and dear ones or any mental-health specialists through the app.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Feeling worried, tired, or having mood swings is normal during pregnancy and the birthing process. However, there is a need to address it when you experience extreme emotional outbursts, anger, anxiety, fatigue, loss of appetite, sudden drop or gain in weight, insomnia, panic attacks, mistrust, overall irritability, and feeling of loss. Also, the symptoms may not be visible to others. Suppose the symptoms are intense and last more than 2-3 weeks. In that case, it is PPD (postpartum depression). You can conquer it by simply speaking to your partner, support system and mental health professional. Take a baby step, speak out and please know that it is not a stigma, and you are empowered to normalise it.
Some symptoms of PPD (postpartum depression) are:
- Depression and Severe Mood Swings
- Feeling Anxious and Irritable
- Frequent Crying and Sadness
- Feeling Down and Unhappy Most of the Time
- Loss or Change of Appetite
- Feeling Disconnected from Your Baby
- Showing Significantly Less Interest in Doing Activities for Your Baby
- Trouble in Sleeping or Insomnia
- Severe Fatigue
- Feeling Helpless, Lonely or Worthless
- The Problem in Staying Concentrated or Doing Daily Task
- Less Energy and Motivation to do Things
- Feeling Suicidal
- Feeling Distant from Friends and Family
- Supposing You will Harm the Baby
Suppose any of the above symptoms persist for about 15 days post-delivery. In all likelihood, it is postpartum depression. Therefore, it is essential to communicate without suppressing the emotional upheaval you are experiencing. New mothers can find it very difficult to cope with such symptoms as they may be experiencing a mixed bag of emotions. Giving birth can trigger emotions, and fighting with them alone can harm you and the baby’s well-being. Therefore, it is best to get help from a mental health medical professional in such cases.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can occur for various reasons,
Past History of Depression or Trauma
A study suggests that a history of depression and past trauma is the most vital risk factor for postpartum depression in mothers. However, there are psychometric tests. There is no specific diagnostic test to show the triggers of PPD. Still, Therefore, it is essential to seek medical attention if the condition worsens.
The Transition from Being an Active Person to Homebound
It is beneficial to stay active and follow your daily routine; It comes with numerous physical and mental benefits. Staying active also helps in quick post-delivery recovery. Unfortunately, some mothers can’t follow their daily routine and continue with the activities they used to do before. Therefore, sudden changes in the environment and being homebound can cause stress and disturbed sleep cycles in the mothers, which can later cause PPD.
Fear Related to the Newborn’s Health
Fearing a little apprehensive about childbirth and the health of your newborn is entirely normal. However, if you start being paranoid about their health and cannot engage in any other activity and start shying away from daily chores, it can lead to postpartum depression.
Moreover, a study proves that among the 30% of women, fear of childbirth, cesarean birth, nulliparity, and the significant congenital anomaly can lead to postpartum depression.
Distance between the Spouse and the New Mother
The birth of your newborn can affect your relationship with your partner in many ways. Parental mood swings are a leading cause of distance between partners. Things like taking care of the baby, sleepless nights, managing the house, and a messed-up schedule can be overwhelming to a new mother. Hence, anxiety can create a stressful relationship between partners which can cause PPD.
Inability to Bond with the New Baby
Some studies show that postpartum depression is associated with poor bonding between the mother and the baby. However, forming a healthy maternal bond can happen gradually. It is the most crucial psychological process for a mother. In addition, women who experience postpartum depression may find it challenging to take an interest and spend time with the baby compared to those who don’t. Acknowledging the feeling that you are not forming a connection with your baby is a step forward in dealing with your issues.
Inability or Difficulty Breastfeeding
Study shows that inability to breastfeed is associated with postpartum depression. Women who have difficulty breastfeeding are more likely to experience PPD than those who don’t. Still, they don’t often talk about it because they feel embarrassed and ashamed. In addition, women who cannot breastfeed also experience self-criticism and guilt for not being good mothers.
Hormonal Changes Imbalance Changes
After childbirth, a massive drop in hormones can cause postpartum depression. Estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones in your body also drop rapidly after birth, leading to different mood swings, and feeling anxious and depressed.
How Does Pregnancy Affect Your Relationship with Your Partner?
Postpartum depression affects the new mothers and affects new fathers as well. The study suggests that 4% of new fathers experience postpartum symptoms in the first year of a child’s birth, including changes in sleeping patterns, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
In most cases, it isn’t easy to adjust to the transition of parenthood because it comes with a lot of responsibility. In addition, men who experienced PPD find it challenging to handle parenting and cope with the situation. Moreover, a study proves that partners of women with PPD have difficulty overcoming the symptoms because their experiences get entwined.
The same research also shows that men with PPD partners often feel helpless because they could not help their partners overcome the situation. Inability to take equal responsibility for the child, interference from other family members, lack of emotional and physical intimacy, the expenses of raising a newborn, and changes in the home fabric can affect their relationship with their wives or partners. Also, most men do not discuss how they feel due to societal conditioning. Bottling up emotions can lead to long-term PPD.
Effects of Postpartum Depression
PPD affects the healthy development of the newborn and affects the mother’s relationship with her partner, friends, family members, and relatives. Some effects of PPD are listed below:
- Postpartum depression can affect your relationship with your newborn. As a result, you will find it challenging to connect with your baby.
- You are not able to communicate your emotions well.
- Feeling distant from your family members and your partner
- Having difficulty in learning your child’s behaviour
- Feeling guilty and criticising yourself for not being able to cope with parenthood
- Misunderstanding between you and your partner
- Feeling the pressure of not fulfilling the requirements of your baby
- PPD can also affect your confidence and self-esteem
- Feeling tired all the time but not able to sleep properly
What Should the Closest People Do in Such a Situation?
Mothers with postpartum depression may not recognise or acknowledge that they’re depressed. Suppose you suspect that your friend, wife or daughter has postpartum depression or is developing postpartum depression. In that case, you can help them in various ways apart from seeking medical attention.
Do not shun a new mother in one corner of the house:
It is essential to communicate and let her know that you are there to help her cope with the responsibility and changes that parenthood brings, and she is not alone. Dividing your responsibilities equally, taking turns to take care of the baby etc., will help her handle the situation better.
As a partner, show your support:
As her partner, it’s your responsibility to support her after the newborn’s birth. A woman’s body goes through many physical, emotional, and hormonal changes, which affect her body image and mind. Therefore, spending some quality time with her, telling her how beautiful she is, and letting her know it’s okay to feel low will help her overcome the situation quickly.
Encourage her to go out and meet her friends:
As a partner or a caregiver helping her go back to her routine, offering to help with household tasks, and encouraging her to spend quality me-time you take care of the baby will help her feel relaxed and refreshed.
Do not make her feel guilty:
It is essential not to make a new mother feel guilty about not doing something the way you want. For example, she wants to get back to shape, and she doesn’t want to eat so-called nutritious and milk-inducing foods. In that case, you should understand that the dietary guidelines have evolved with changing times and do not force her to do something out of her will. Instead, have faith in her that she would nourish herself and her newborn as a mother.
Encourage her to seek help:
Learn to recognise the symptoms of depression and anxiety and ask her how she feels. If you spot any telltale signs, consult a mental health professional. Then, make her feel comfortable and show her that she can share how she feels, that there is nothing wrong with it, and that she is not at fault.
Few Ways to Overcome the Postpartum Depression
Have you felt that you cannot connect with your baby? Do you miss being independent? Seeing pregnancy announcement stories make you feel sad? Well, you are not alone. It’s completely normal to feel this way and what you are experiencing is Postpartum Depression.
Although these can be very stressful times, here are a few ways that can help you overcome these challenging times:
The Michelangelo phenomenon is an interpersonal process in which close. Romantic partners influence each other’s emotions and feelings. Therefore, how you feel is how your partner and your family will feel. Consequently, it’s essential to keep your goals positive and work on regulating your emotions rather than letting emotions get the best of you.
Engaging in Mindfulness Activity
Staying aware of your surroundings and practising mindfulness will help you reduce your fears of childbirth and increase your confidence to handle parenthood better. Mindfulness also reduces labour pain and helps in process delivery.
Practising Sleep Hygiene
Practising good sleep hygiene is essential for your overall health. It also helps in overcoming insomnia. Sleep hygiene refers to a healthy sleeping habit. It includes, following a calming night routine, staying active and doing mild stretches during the day, turning off the electronic devices half an hour before going to bed, limiting caffeine intake, deep breathing and more. Also, as a partner, please take your turn to wake up at night to change diapers. A new mother needs to feel that her spouse or partner is equally involved in the process of raising a baby.
Improving Communication with Your Partner
Postpartum depression affects your relationship with your partner badly. It is essential to communicate with your partner and let them know you are together. You both can join couple counselling and seek help from a professional to strengthen your relationship.
Seeking Help and Enjoying the Journey
Talking to a counsellor if you feel the symptoms of PPD as soon as possible helps you overcome the problem quickly. Keeping yourself motivated and focused on the baby and your set-up is essential to enjoying the recovery journey from PPD.
Find Support Online
There are many online counselling and support groups where you can find mothers going through PPD. You can join a group to see how other people are dealing with the problem; it will give you confidence and a sense of support that you are not alone in this.
ABC Method of Thought Log
The ABC method of thought log is an essential thinking technique. It helps in channelising your thoughts and your beliefs about a specific situation. Your therapist may use the ABC technique to help you challenge irrational thoughts.
The Bottom Line
Many new moms suffer from postpartum depression and baby blues. It can get difficult to cope with these symptoms. However, postpartum depression is not a flaw or a weakness; it’s simply a health condition that causes complications for new moms after the baby’s birth.
It is essential to acknowledge that PPD also requires medical attention like any other disease. And it is necessary to show your support towards the mother suffering from PPD and tell her that you understand her condition. In addition, if you have postpartum depression, seeking medical attention can help you manage your symptoms and help you bond with your baby.
PPD affects the mother and everyone around her, mainly her partner. Hence, it is essential to take couples counselling if you and your partner suffer from PPD. It helps you strengthen your relationship and help you manage parenthood better.