Motherhood can be the happiest time in a new mother’s life. It can also be the time when she is the most emotionally vulnerable by feeling anxious, weepy, and temperamental, while working on very little sleep.
More than 80 percent of new mothers experience some form of the “baby blues” during the first two weeks following birth. However, statistics reveal that half a million women exhibit more severe forms of postpartum depression symptoms every year. These symptoms can last several months to a couple of years, and affect a mother’s ability to function in everyday life. It can also prevent her from adequately caring for her baby.
The American Psychological Association describes postpartum depression (PPD) as “a serious mental health problem characterized by a prolonged period of emotional disturbance, occurring at a time of major life change and increased responsibilities in the care of a newborn infant. PPD can have significant consequences for both the new mother and family.”
What causes postpartum depression?
It’s still not clear what exactly causes postpartum depression, although some experts believe that it may be the result of hormonal imbalances during pregnancy and post-child birth. Some other causes of postpartum depression include:
- Personal history of panic attacks, anxiety disorders
- Family history of depression
- Difficulty transitioning into parenthood
Postpartum symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of joy
- Intense irritability
- Exhibiting excessive anger
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Severe mood swings
- Loss of interest in sex
- Feelings of shame
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Problem bonding with the baby
Strategies for dealing with the baby blues:
- Lower stress levels by accepting help from family and friends.
- Eat healthy and do moderate exercise (with your doctor’s permission).
- Practice yoga under guidance.
- Get outside and take the baby for walk in the stroller.
- Spend quality time with yourself by taking a break whenever possible.
- Join a support group for new mothers.
- Get adequate rest and sleep.
- Talk honestly and openly about what you’re feeling to others such as a spouse, family member, or friend.
Untreated postpartum depression may last for several months causing undue stress for the mother and baby. Mothers suffering from PPD should receive adequate mental health care as soon as possible to ease suffering, and bring harmony and balance back into the family. There are several different psychological remedies to treat postpartum depression, including cognitive-behavioral therapy. Your physician may also prescribe antidepressants and/or hormonal therapy.
If you or a loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, please contact a qualified mental health professional as soon as possible. Motherhood is a special time and should be enjoyed to the fullest extent possible!