Irritability and mood swings. Crying bouts. Insomnia.
These are just some of the telltale signs of postpartum depression.
An estimated 300 million people suffer from depression globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more women are affected than men. This would include mothers who had just given birth.
While most mums breeze through pregnancy and motherhood, there are some who are afflicted with a debilitating form of depression.
Instead of being buoyed by feelings of joy over the birth of a son or daughter, some new mums sink into the dark hole of depression. They are plagued by irrational fears, deep sadness, and feelings of low self-worth, among others. Some mistake this for the “baby blues,” feelings of anxiety and fatigue that about 80 percent of new mothers go through. Usually, though, the blues go away on their own within a week or two.
When the blues go on for longer, it is a whole different story. Postpartum depression is a more serious problem that can lead to dire consequences. Others are fortunate enough to recognize the signs right away and try to find a psychologist who can help them get out of that dark alley. However, there are others who remain unaware that what they are undergoing is actually a mental disorder.
If you are a new mum or a family member or a friend of a new mother and think that you may be under the postpartum depression spell, here are the red flags that you should watch out for:
When you see these signs in yourself or in someone you care about, it is best to get professional help as soon as possible. Only a health care provider can properly diagnose if someone has postpartum depression or not.
Postpartum depression not only affects mothers. The effects also trickle down to other members of the family. The growth and development of the child may be affected.
Fathers may also experience postpartum depression that may also be correlated with the mother’s depressive state. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one out of 10 fathers around the globe experience paternal postpartum depression (PPPD).
Postpartum depression can be overcome. With the help and support of family members, friends, and the professional guidance of a psychologist or healthcare provider, a new mom can break free from the claws of this mental disorder.
These are some of the ways that can help mums cope with postpartum depression:
A breakthrough study published by The Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development reported that the attachment bond formed between mothers and their babies is crucial to the child’s development. The attachment bond is an emotional connection that is formed through nonverbal communication between a child and its primary caregiver.
For newborn infants and mothers, nonverbal cues such a crying can be responded to by the mother through mirroring the child’s expression followed by a hug. A smile should also be responded to with a smile. Mothers with postpartum depression may have difficulty forming such an attachment. If mothers are unable to manage their own stress, how can they calm and soothe their babies?
It is, therefore, encouraged that mothers try to use more nonverbal communication with their newborn babies to forge that attachment bond. These can be through maintaining eye contact, using gentle facial expressions, using a soothing tone of voice, a tender touch, and calm and positive body language.
New mums should practice self-love to help them avoid postpartum depression. After giving birth, mums should skip the housework and focus on recovery. For the first few weeks, other household members should do the heavy housework and chores. If the mum is living alone, she can ask for help from family members nearby, trusted friends, or hire a cleaning agency.
Mums should also make sure to set aside time for themselves. This can be as simple as taking time off to get some much-needed sleep or having a long, warm soak in the tub. Going out for a quick chat with friends, watching a movie with family, or treating oneself to indulgentbeauty salon services are also great activities that can improve the well-being of new mums.
Getting back into shape through light exercises and meditation will also help. A nice sunny stroll outside or a light dose of yoga or swimming can help lift the spirits. Eating well-balanced and nutritious meals is also essential in the recovery process.
While mums are excused from receiving guests right after giving birth, it is advisable that family connections and friendships be nurtured. As the months go by, mums can benefit from familial visits or quick escapades or getaways with friends.
More importantly, partners should make time for each other after their child is born. The demands of having a new family member in the household can be quite challenging, so it is crucial that partners make sure to set aside time for themselves.
Partners should take turns with responsibilities, especially when it comes to caring for the baby. They should avoid finger-pointing, and always consider that they are in it as a child-rearing team.
They should also keep the communication lines open. It is best to talk about issues including expectations and responsibilities to avoid misunderstandings. Lastly, couples should set aside time to just focus on each other. It may be a romantic night out or just 15 minutes of just cuddling with each other.
Postpartum depression can be treated. Mums can undergo therapy sessions with a psychologist to find a way to manage and treat their mental disorder. Even couples and families can undergo counseling together to better cope with the challenges of depression.
New life should be welcomed and celebrated. With postpartum depression out of the way, a new dawn will come, and the family can welcome their new addition with high spirits together.
Dr. Gemma Gladstone is an endorsed clinical psychologist and certified schema therapist, supervisor, and trainer. Along with Justine Corry, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 24 years of experience within mental health.