Postpartum Depression

You’ve probably heard the term “postpartum depression” or “baby blues” common in new mothers after delivery. While some of the symptoms may overlap, they are two different things.

It is quite common for a Mom to be fatigued or worried after delivery. No matter the amount of books you read or apps you study, when you finally give birth, reality set in.

It’s completely normal to feel worried or anxious about dealing with your baby and it usually fades in a few weeks.

Postpartum depression is a lot more powerful and lasts longer.

Depression is characterized by 3 core symptoms 3 core symptoms namely:

Persistent sad feeling.

Low energy.

Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities.

When it occurs in the postpartum period, that is, the first 6 weeks after delivery, it is referred to as postpartum depression.

In a study conducted in Plateau state, Jos, postpartum depression was found in a quarter of the sample size.

Postpartum depression is common in first moms. But recently I’ve been seeing more case of postpartum depression in those who have given birth before especially when there is little or no support system. They face serious overwhelm from the demand of taking care of the new baby and the older children already at home.

It can cause severe mood swings, exhaustion, and a sense of hopelessness. The intensity of those feelings can make it difficult to care for your baby or yourself.

Postpartum depression shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a serious disorder, but it can be overcome through treatment.

What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?

Symptoms of postpartum depression vary from person to person and even day to day. If you have postpartum depression, chances are you’re familiar with several of these indicators:

– You feel sad or cry a lot, even when you don’t know why.

– You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep.

– You sleep too much.

– You wake up feeling weak and exhausted despite sleeping all through the night.

– You have no interest in things you used to enjoy.

– You can’t stop eating, or you aren’t interested in food at all.

– You have various unexplained aches, pains, or illnesses.

– You don’t know why you’re irritable, anxious, or angry.

– Your moods change suddenly and without warning.

– You feel out of control.

– You have difficulty remembering things.

– You can’t concentrate or make simple decisions.

– You feel disconnected from your baby and wonder why you’re not filled with joy like you thought you’d be.

– Everything feels overwhelming and hopeless.

– You feel worthless and guilty about your feelings.

– You’re tempted to go and be apologizing for your past wrongs.

– You feel like you can’t open up to anyone because they’ll think you’re a bad mother or take your baby, so you withdraw.

– You want to escape from everyone and everything.

– You blame your baby for your current predicament.

– You think a part of your body is paralyzed or dead.

– You believe that something is crawling on your body or that your body is peppery or hot from within.

– You have thoughts about killing yourself or your baby.

With all these symptoms, you can see that sadness is different from depression. Depression goes beyond being sad over one thing or the other.

Friends and family may also notice that you’re withdrawing from them and from social activities or that you just don’t seem like yourself. This is why it is important to be vigilant and pay attention to people’s responses, WhatsApp status, and other online chats. I’ve seen a patient that left her suicide note on her WhatsApp status.

Symptoms are most likely to start within a few weeks of delivery. Sometimes, postpartum depression doesn’t surface until months later. Symptoms may let up for a day or two and then return. That simply means it is possible to appear seeming happy for one or two days, and then symptoms resurface. To diagnose depression, you need to have the symptoms for most days in a week for at least 3 weeks.

Without treatment, symptoms usually continue to worsen. Depression is not something anyone can get rid of by will of mind or snap out of. Rather than berating the person or telling her to pull herself together and think of her baby, take her to the hospital.

Causes of postpartum depression?

The exact cause isn’t clear, but there are some factors that may contribute to postpartum depression. Postpartum depression may be triggered by a biological factors, psychological factors, and social factors.

One of the biggest biological changes after giving birth involves hormones. While you’re pregnant, your levels of estrogen and progesterone are higher than usual. Within hours of giving birth, hormone levels drop back to their previous state. This abrupt change may lead to depression.

Some other biological factors may include:

Low thyroid hormone levels

Sleep deprivation

Inadequate diet

Underlying medical conditions

Drug and alcohol misuse

Family history

You may be more likely to develop postpartum depression if you’ve had a mood disorder in the past or if mood disorders run in your family.

Psychosocial factors may include:

Recent divorce or death of a loved one.

You or your child having serious health problems leading to prolonged hospital admission after delivery.

Social isolation.

Financial burdens.

Lack of support.

These days, I’ve been seeing cases of Depression from lack of support,  social isolation, and financial burden.

A lot of New Moms only have support for the first one month after delivery. Some even less than that. Having to take care of the baby, yourself, husband,  older children, and the home alone can be exhausting.

Feelings of inadequacy, Mom guilt, and so many other thing sets in.

Some New Moms are struggling with financial burden. Maybe your salary is the only constant income for the family and your Company is now paying you half of your salary because you’re on maternity leave.

Your husband might even be financially stable and helpful with the care of the home but when he leaves home for work, you’re usually home alone with the baby.

All these factors can result in the symptoms of postpartum depression.

Management of Postpartum Depression

First thing first, consult with your doctor. When you see a specialist, you will be managed holistically.

Some people will go to a Chemist, explain their symptoms and they will start antidepressants but the patient will still not improve.

The reason is not far fetched. Sometimes drug alone cannot effectively manage depression. Psychosocial factors factors present need to be addressed.

Communicate with your family or see a Psychologist.

You may be tempted to keep your feelings to yourself, especially if you’re a naturally reserved person. But it might be helpful to talk things over with someone you trust. You may find out that you’re not alone and that others are willing to listen.

Fight isolation

This is especially for those who are usually home alone with the baby.
Remaining in seclusion with your feelings can feed into depression. It’s not necessary to have a whirlwind social life, but do try to maintain your closest relationships. It can help you feel connected.

If you’re comfortable in a group setting, you can join a depression support group or a group specifically for new moms. If you’ve stopped participating in previously enjoyable group activities, try them again to see if it helps. Being in a group can help you focus on other things and relieve stress.

It helps you have a decent adult conversation rather just playing with baby all day long.

Cut back on housechores

You need help! You cannot do it alone. Effective motherhood and parenting requires a whole village.

Get a Nanny, recruit family and friends if possible.

If you’re not up to chores and errands, let them go. Use your energy to take care of basic needs for you and your baby.

A wise woman once said that only two things should be on the to-do list of a new Mom.

1. Care of the Baby

2. Care of Me.

Simple but very effective.

Eat Healthy and Exercise

I tell everyone that cares to listen that exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant out there. You can start by taking a walk or dancing as early as possible. Whether you’re motivated or not, get off the couch and move your body.

Eat healthy so that you will not have to deal with cravings and excessive weight gain. I’ve helped people lose weight and their Mummy pouch while managing depression. It might not feel like it but when you have someone cheering you on, it is achievable.

Rest and relax

Both your body and your spirit need a good night’s sleep. If your baby doesn’t sleep for long periods, get someone to take a shift so you can sleep. If you have trouble drifting off, try a hot bath, a good book, or whatever helps you relax. Meditation and massage may help ease tension and help you fall asleep.

As much as possible, try not to overwhelm yourself. Unwashed dishes will not explode! Treat yourself with kindness. Remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup.

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