BENGALURU: Having a child is one of the most enriching experiences for parents. But for some it may get turbulent because of certain factors. Pregnancy and lactation are critical periods in a woman’s life. Depression may occur for the first time in a woman during postpartum period or may be recurrence or a relapse. Postpartum blues (PPB) are relatively common phenomenon, occurring in 50 to 80 per cent of women. PPB usually starts after the third postpartum day, peaks by fourth or fifth day and remits within two weeks of delivery. PPB are a group of transient symptom mainly characterised by rapid mood shifts such as tearfulness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite. However, 20 to 25 per cent of women may continue experiencing more severe symptoms that may persist for more than two weeks.
This condition is classified as Postpartum Depression (PPD). It is equivalent to major depression that occurs within four weeks postpartum. The symptoms include depressed mood, frequent crying spells, feelings of inadequacy and guilt, irritability, inability to cope, unusual fatigue, lack of interest in pleasurable activities, decreased sexual interest and sleep disturbances.
The common risk factors are financial instability, low education levels, depression in spouse, relationship issues and pre-existing mental health issues. Factors such as lack of intimacy or lack of time spent with the spouse can also be major contributory factors.
Unrecognised PPD may negatively affect mother-child bonding. It may also affect the infant’s well-being. For a child, it increases their risk of delays in cognitive development, emotional and social dysregulation and exhibiting behavioural problems, such as sleep and eating difficulties, temper tantrums, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and attention seeking behaviour. It also puts the child at a risk of early onset of depressive illness. It affects the attachment that a child has to his/her mother, which is quite important for the child’s development. For mothers, it increases the risk of further complications, self-harm tendencies, emotional neglect towards the child, active suicidal ideation and physical problems as well due to poor sleep and appetite.
One can get over it by talking about it, by being more communicative with their partner – but avoid complaining – and also being receptive to partner’s needs. By sharing responsibilities with partner so that both get fair share of experiences, both enjoyable and stressful, with the baby. Also participating in decision making as new parents right from the beginning as a unit help.
During postpartum depression it is very important to take help either from a mental health professional or a gynaecologist. A separate counselling session proves to be beneficial for new mothers as it helps them release their burden without fear of judgement.
The author is a clinical psychologist, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore