Updated: Jun 26, 2020
Ever heard of ‘baby blues’? It is a common temporary psychological state right after childbirth when a new mother may have sudden mood swings which may last for only few hours or as long as 1 to 2 weeks after delivery. As many as 80% of mothers have these feelings for a couple of days following childbirth.
While some of the symptoms sound the same, ‘Postpartum Depression (also called Postnatal Depression)’ is different from baby blues. It is a lot more powerful and lasts longer and follows about 15% of births. It can cause severe mood swings, exhaustion, and a sense of hopelessness. The intensity of those feelings can make it difficult for the person to take care of oneself and the baby. Men can also develop a type of postpartum depression, called ‘Paternal Postnatal Depression’. Symptoms of postpartum depression can include extreme agitation and anxiety, rapid mood swings, confusion and disorientation, unusual behavior, changes in sleep and eating pattern. If not treated, postpartum depression can also cause you to have hallucinations (perceptions of having seen, touched, heard, smelled or tasted something that weren’t actually there) and irrational beliefs such as feeling worthless, feeling guilty and/or ashamed, and can cause suicidal thoughts or actions. The risk of hurting oneself or the baby is real.
A number of factors can increase the risk of postpartum depression (PPD), including a history of depression prior to becoming pregnant (or during pregnancy), age at time of pregnancy, ambivalence about the pregnancy, having a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), limited social support, and marital conflict, among others.
The most severe form of postpartum depression is ‘Postpartum Psychosis’. Postpartum psychosis is a rare occurrence. Psychosis is more likely if you have a history of mood disorders. Psychosis means a person is no longer grounded in reality. When it does happen, it’s usually within the first few weeks after you’ve given birth.
Postpartum depression, like any other mental illness shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can be overcome through therapy and counselling. Look for a psychologist who has prior experience dealing with postpartum depression clients. 'Cognitive-Behavior Therapy' and 'Interpersonal Therapy' are two common types of therapy used for women with postpartum depression. You can also try natural remedies such as exercise and getting the right amount of sleep, resisting isolation, making time for yourself, and maintaining a diet high in nutrients, but low in processed foods. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices can help a client with postpartum depression feel better. Medication can also be sought for the same.