Postnatal (Postpartum) Depression
Table of Contents
Giving birth and raising an infant is a life-changing event that is often accompanied with the responsibility of taking care of the new life. However, despite the joy of bringing new life to the world, to some mothers such experience can be extremely overwhelming and at times cause negative emotions that result in depression. Since it requires some time to embrace parenthood, taking care of an infant can be exhausting, as well as stressful to some new mothers. As a result of the stress, one can exhibit such symptoms as having difficulties in bonding with the child, lack of social interest, frightening thoughts, and low moods among others. In essence, such characteristics are the signs of postnatal depression, which can escalate into a mental health problem, if not intervened at the initial stages. Despite the fact that these symptoms may be manifested immediately after delivery, the case is different for some mothers as they may experience them months after giving birth. Consequently, it is sometimes difficult for them to realize that they are actually suffering from postnatal depression. Furthermore, postpartum is often gradual, thus diagnosing it at the initial stage may be difficult. Even though the given condition is mostly associated with women, research has revealed that postpartum also affect men, but on a smaller scale as compared to women. Despite extensive research, the actual cause, prevention, and cure for postnatal depression is not known. Nevertheless, there are factors closely associated with it that can be useful in detection, as well as overcoming postnatal depression.
Causes of Postnatal Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, childbearing years are the period when women are at risk of experiencing depression (Daley et al. 45). Despite the fact that there is no clear cause of postnatal depression, several factors have been indicated as the potential causes of this condition that has been experienced by new mothers across the globe. In general, having a history of mental health problems, especially depression, exposes a great risk of suffering postpartum depression. Since motherhood is accompanied with numerous challenges in addition to stressful tasks of looking after the baby, the chances of mental problems recurrence are high. Similarly, mothers with a history of mental problems during pregnancy are likely to experience postnatal depression. Taking into consideration that mothers need support to recover after delivery and take an effective care of the baby, lack of social support stimulates negative emotions that can result in depression. At the same time, different stressful moments, for instance lose of a close relative or a friend, may trigger negative emotions towards the baby and other family members (Almond 223). Furthermore, strained relationship with the partner may result in depression when coupled with overwhelming situations after delivery. At the initial stages, people tend to associate these trends with the normal baby blues and assume that the condition will disappear on its own. However, they fail to recognize that these are the signs of postnatal depression, which is as dangerous as any other forms of depression, which requires professional attention.
Symptoms of Postnatal Depression
Generally, new mothers may experience exhaustion and negative moods, which are common signs of baby blues. However, prolonged baby blues in addition to lack of concentration, as well as difficulties in decision-making, may be symptoms of the postnatal depression. Comparatively, new mothers experiencing depression may feel sleepy during day time and, on contrary, remain restless during the night and thus feel tired all the time. Filled with negative emotions, depressed mothers lack affection towards their babies as they experience frightening thoughts, for instance, that they can hurt their infants. In the US, for example, the leading cause of murder of the children under one year old is postnatal depression (Musters, McDonald and Jones 39). It is partially caused by the fact that depressed mothers have no interest in what occurs around them as they feel alienated from the rest of the world. It is significant to note that normal baby blues may last for a short time as opposed to postnatal depression, whereby its symptoms develop, as well as deteriorate if not intervened early enough.
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Prevention and Treatment of Postnatal Depression
The same way there is not known cause of postpartum, there is no evidence that something in particular that can prevent it despite numerous studies. However, there are strategies that are believed to prevent postnatal depression. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help overcome the condition as by living a healthy life, one is able to avoid stressful moments that might stimulate depression after delivery (Gray, Debra and Yan-Shing 109). In addition, women with the history of depression may prevent its reoccurrence by communicating to the health care provider for appropriate follow up, as well as treatment when need arises. In the event of undergoing through a stressful incidence during pregnancy, it is advisable to seek for counseling in order to heal and avoid depression in the future. In relation to the cure, there is no established cure for postnatal depression as well, but support and effective treatment are always available. First, it is advisable that new mothers openly talk about their feelings to family members for assistance as concealing the problem worsens the situation. It is caused by the fact that exposing feelings relieves psychological stress that might otherwise cause depression. Since some family members may not be aware of this condition, explaining personal feelings to them will make the relatives pay more attention to a new mother and offer support needed (Gray, Debra and Yan-Shing 109). At the same time, a healthy diet and sufficient exercise help many women avoid stress. Secondly, one can seek cognitive behavioral therapy that relieves the depression, while in more severe cases, anti-depressants are recommended. Furthermore, local and international bodies, for example Association for Postnatal Illness (APNI) and Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS), offer sufficient help to depressed mothers.
In general, postnatal depression is a lonely, disturbing, as well as most frightening period in a new mother’s life. However, since the society members do not always understand what it is, especially considering the fact that the condition lacks actual cause and cure, mothers, experiencing such depression, face difficult times. The condition can be worsened when the family members fail to recognize that the new mothers are in dire need for psychological help. Taking into account that some women may face rejection from the society, particularly immediate family members, their condition may escalate into a mental disorder that may pose more health challenges to such mothers. Therefore, it is important to educate the society members on the issue of postnatal depression so that they could be able to detect it and help mothers overcome it at the initial stages instead of ignoring depression symptoms. Moreover, it is significant to know that postnatal depression is not only a women’s condition but it affects men as well, though at a lower rate compared to women. Since mothers have a higher anxiety level towards motherhood and take direct care of infants, their susceptibility to postnatal depression is higher than in fathers. Therefore, it is important to understand and take care of new mothers in the events when they develop depression as they are not always capable of coping with the problem on their own. Instead of assuming that depression symptoms would disappear with time, it is advisable to assist the patient to overcome or seek psychological help before developing more serious psychological problems. Generally, developing centers for counseling new mothers can help reduce chances of exposure to postnatal depression among them and provide ample time to take care of their babies.