Giving birth to a baby is one of the most precious and happy moments in a woman’s life. But for some women, this supposedly boundless moment of joy can very easily turn to sadness thanks to the curse called Postpartum Depression (PPD). Also known as Postnatal Depression, PPD is simply defined as a form of clinical depression caused by pregnancy and childbirth. Symptoms may include insomnia, loss of appetite, intense irritability, difficulty bonding with the baby, sadness, low energy, crying episodes and anxiety.
Though PPD is a very common disorder post childbirth, with more than 10 million cases per year in India alone (Source: Apollo Hospitals), most cases go undiagnosed and untreated because people are afraid to talk about it or educate themselves due to the stigma attached to it. This figure stands at an equally worrisome 600 thousand in the US with 1 in every 7 women experiencing it.
THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE.
So, here’s my attempt at spreading the word about PPD: Below are the 5 things you must know, at the very least, about Postpartum Depression not only when you are expecting, but also to keep an eye out for your near and dear ones who are about to start a family of their own.
1. Postpartum Depression is much more prevalent than you think
- 10 million cases per year in India
- 600 thousand cases per year in the US
- 1 in every 7 women/10-15% of women
- Only 15% women ever seek help in the US (I believe, this percentage is much lower in India)
The data doesn’t lie. Though the degree and intensity of postpartum depression and corresponding treatment – Counselling, Anti-Depressants, Hormone Therapy – vary widely from case to case, but unless you are aware of the high prevalence of this condition, helping a new mother in the throes of PPD is never going to be easy. So yes, before you dismiss PPD and attribute a new mom’s sadness to the sleepless nights and exhaustion, think harder.
2. Postpartum Depression can happen to anyone
Anybody can suffer from PPD. In fact, for 50% of the women, PPD is their first brush with any sort of depression. Yes, earlier episodes of depression can and do increase the risks of getting PPD, no doubt; but it does not inversely mean that people who have never had an episode of depression prior to childbirth are automatically exempt from it.
Again, like all cases of depression, it does not mean that there is something wrong with you or that it’s an indication of your being a bad parent. Childbirth is a complex process of many physiological and emotional changes. Post childbirth, there are many reasons that can knock you off balance (which could also contribute to PPD as well) including but not limited to hormonal variations, lack of support system, body image issues etc. but putting the blame on yourself for getting PPD is definitely not one of them.
3. Postpartum Depression is “Baby Blues” that don’t go away even after weeks
Every mother feels slightly blue after childbirth. And many of the symptoms associated with PPD are exactly the same as what one would experience as “Baby Blues” (which doesn’t need any treatment). But what separates the two is the duration for which those symptoms are felt.
First few weeks of a child’s birth are always overwhelming (You are just getting to know your new baby’s rhythm and temperament), but if the feelings linger on and escalate as time progresses instead of going away, that’s when one should seek help.
4. The Silver Lining: Postpartum Depression is treatable
The only difficulty in treating PPD is getting the suffering mother (and her family) to acknowledge her condition and making her walk through the doors into a doctor’s clinic. The treatment beyond that is easy and involves psychotherapy, anti-depressants, hormone therapy etc. depending on the intensity of the diagnosis (Not all sufferers need medication).
5. …And A Warning: If left untreated, Postpartum Depression can turn to Chronic Depression over time
Postpartum Depression should never be taken lightly. If it remains untreated, it could linger on for years and turn to chronic depression over time. PPD severely affects not only the mother’s health but also the overall quality of family life and more importantly, the child’s emotional and behavioral patterns which may lead to future problems.
Please check out this post on Fix: How to Recognize and Reduce the Risk of Postpartum Depression for additional resources and information on Postpartum Depression.
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Deepika Padukone created tremendous awareness on Clinical Depression when she shattered the stigma associated with the disease by talking about her own story last year.
I wish celebrity moms here in India would do the same and take a leaf out of the books of their Hollywood counterparts Brooke Shields, Hayden Panettiere, Drew Barrymore etc. and at least make the topic discussion-worthy in the media and not something to be brushed off as jibber-jabber.
Source: Fix.com Blog