Postpartum depression in young mothers: Tips on early identification, management
According to health experts, postpartum depression is fairly common in India as it affects approximately 20-25% of first time mothers in our country where women go through life-changing physical, mental and emotional experiences at the time of childbirth. With mental health care at a breaking point, many new mothers feel increasingly isolated and left to fend for themselves hence, postpartum depression can either occur for the first time in pregnancy, for the first time post delivery or it could be preceded by a problem recognised or unrecognised before the woman is pregnant.
Symptoms and early identification:
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Nimmi Mahajan, Lead Gynaecologist at Proactive For Her, explained, “Postpartum Depression or PPD is a form of depression that occurs after childbirth. You can differentiate PPD from 'baby blues' by understanding the intensity and continuity of the feelings."
Dr Prathima Reddy, Director and Lead Consultant at Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Sparsh Hospital for Women and Children, elaborated, “Unfortunately, depression is something that is not given much importance or attention and in pregnancy, people tend to think that postpartum depression will settle itself or it’s just the hormones or that it doesn’t matter. This is definitely not true. Postpartum depression has to be taken seriously and one has to take cognizance of the fact that it exists. The important thing is to identify it, recognize it and then seek appropriate treatments.”
Stressing upon its early identification, Dr Nimmi Mahajan revealed, "Most symptoms of PPD are similar to symptoms of clinical depression such as constantly feeling sad, angry, hopeless, helpless, tired, irritable, as well as common behavioural changes like facing difficulty falling asleep, sleeping too much, overeating and/or suffering from loss of appetite. Other symptoms also include crying more often than usual, feeling distant from your baby, feeling constantly worried or overly anxious, thoughts about hurting oneself or the baby and doubting your ability to care for the baby.”
Adding to the list, Dr Prathima Reddy shared, “It’s very important to educate women about the symptoms of antenatal and postnatal depression. Some women may experience tearfulness for no particular reason, feelings of anxiety, irritation, feeling low or depressed. In extreme cases, some may even have suicidal thoughts. All this can happen before or after the baby is born. For many women, once the baby is born they might feel pressured and overwhelmed with issues such as sleeplessness, breastfeeding and physical bodily changes. All these can worsen depression.”
Tips for managing postpartum depression:
Sharing her piece of advice, Dr Nimmi Mahajan suggested, “The first step towards managing postpartum depression is recognising it. If you feel like you have persistently experienced any of these symptoms especially closer to childbirth, you should consider visiting your OB/GYN or a mental health expert to understand your symptoms better.”
Asserting that postpartum baby blues are different from depression, Dr Prathima Reddy highlighted, “The former is a passing entity whereas depression can stay. The most important thing that a family can do is identify that the girl is suffering from postpartum depression and be open enough to tell her to seek help or take her to a qualified medical professional."
She added, "They must support her through the process and help her overcome it. A lot of families are hesitant to openly address or talk about these issues because they don't like their daughters and their daughter-in-laws to be labelled as someone suffering from depression. A lot of times it's swept under the carpet. Families must come forward as soon as they see a few signs.”