Postnatal Depression

Giving birth to a new creation is one of the happiest moments of life for most of the women. At the same time it can be even stressful as it requires a lot of strength and support to deliver a child. That is why most of the women experience a transient period of mood dysphoria after giving birth. Anyhow, about 13% of mothers show symptoms of major depressive disorder, which is also known as postpartum depression (PPD) or postnatal depression. This usually occurs within four weeks to three months after giving birth. But sometimes, it may even occur at anytime up to 1 year after birth.

Postnatal depression is given a very high importance as it can disturb the relationship of the mother and the child. In severe cases, this condition can cause a negative impact on the mother and even the child. The psychiatrists say that severe PPD can increase the risk of marital disruption, divorce, child abuse, maternal suicide and even infanticide.

The reasons behind this condition are thought to be multi factorial. While female sex hormones play a major role in PPD, there are also many other risk factors such as immune reactions, sleep disturbances and psychological factors recognized. Reduction of oestrogen and progesterone levels after childbirth is known to cause negative psychological effects, while the mother’s exposure to foetal antigens during labour and related immune reactions might worsen this situation. Also, some specialists have suggested that sleep disturbances and disturbances in the nocturnal rhythm due to the struggle of feeding and making the baby sleep might also be a reason behind these psychological changes.

PPD can be manifested as depression (sad, unhappy and tearful most of the time), irritability, tiredness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, inability to enjoy anything, loss of interest in sex and feeling of guilt and negativity.

If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, do not ignore it thinking that it is baby blues. It is always better to talk and seek help. Your GP or your health visitor can help you if you are ready to seek help. It is really unnecessary to be afraid if you are diagnosed with PPD. It is important to know that this happen with many women and with proper treatment it gets better with time.

Treatment is a necessity and this is due to the fact that some people experience symptoms for up to about one year which will spoil the experience of being a mother. It can also have negative consequences on your child’s development. Many studies show that PPD of the mother can reduce the cognitive development of the young child.

While certain medications such as fluoxetine and cognitive behavioural therapy can manage PPD, it is necessary to support yourself by avoiding being a ‘superwoman’. Try to eat well, sleep whenever possible, relax, enjoy and let others help you with your house work and baby care. Self-help books, reliable sources of health advice and also medical help from your family doctor can be of great benefit. Always know that you can seek help and it is the wisest thing to do to make your motherhood one of the life’s best experiences.

1. Appleby, L., Warner, R., Whitton, A. and Faragher, B. (1997). A controlled study of fluoxetine and cognitive-behavioural counselling in the treatment of postnatal depression. BMJ, 314(7085), pp.932-932.
2. Cogill, S., Caplan, H., Alexandra, H., Robson, K. and Kumar, R. (1986). Impact of maternal postnatal depression on cognitive development of young children. BMJ, 292(6529), pp.1165-1167.
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