The gift of welcoming a new life into this world is an overwhelming, wonderful, and amazing journey. From tears of joy, love, and happiness to tears of sorrow and despair, this emotional roller-coaster does not necessarily come to a halt once you’ve delivered your baby. Sometimes, it culminates in postpartum depression and psychosis.
Often after bringing your bundle of joy into your life, you will find yourself asking questions like, “Why am I so low and miserable all the time?”,” Why don’t I feel like playing with my baby?”, “Am I a bad mother if I’m not feeling happy about having a baby?”. This is where we’ll dive in and provide you information about post-partum depression and psychosis, a condition that is responsible for all these postpartum blues.
What is Postpartum Depression and Psychosis?
The birth of a baby sets into motion a multitude of emotions – from happiness, joy, curiosity to fear, worry, and anxiety. A common set of emotions that most new mums experience include mood swings, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and other problems with sleep as well as crying spells. These signs are known as postpartum baby blues. They appear a few days after delivery and may persist for 1-2 weeks.
Approximately 1 in 7-10 of these women will develop a more severe and prolonged depression- postpartum depression – which usually develops in around 4 weeks after delivery. In rare cases, approximately 1 in 1000 of these women will develop a more severe condition known as postpartum psychosis.
Also Read: How To Raise Your First Child?
Postpartum depression and psychosis are problems, and can be considered as a complication of childbirth, rather than as a weakness or disability. So the question that would pop up in your mind here is, “How did I get the depression?”, “Why am I the only one suffering?”.
Postpartum depression can be looked upon as a complex mixture of physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral changes that the new mummy faces after welcoming her baby. Postnatal depression is a major form of depression. Let’s break down some of the causes involved:
Postpartum depression and psychosis: Physical causes
The human body is an amazing machine that is capable of nesting your baby for 9 whole months. Apart from the physical changes that the body undergoes throughout this period, your hormone levels also go up and down.
Estrogen and progesterone, the two major female hormones reach their highest levels during pregnancy and their levels drop back to the normal pre-pregnancy levels almost within 24 hours after giving birth to your baby. This sudden and abrupt drop in your hormone levels is one major factor causing postnatal depression. Some other factors include:
- Low levels of thyroid hormones.
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Lack of sleep
- Inadequate diet
- Age less than 20 years
Post-partum Depression and Psychosis: Emotional and Behavioral Causes
You are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression and psychosis if you previously had a history of a psychological or mood disorder or there is a history of such a problem in your family.
Other emotional and behavioral factors that pose an increased risk of postnatal psychosis and depression after pregnancy are as follows:
- Recent death or divorce in your family
- Having an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- Financial burden
- Too little or lack of support from family and friends
- Having a baby with special needs or other disabilities (Learn about Premature Baby Complications)
- You suffered from depression during pregnancy
- Had problems in a previous pregnancy or childbirth
Also Read: Health Risks During First Pregnancy
Postpartum Depression and Psychosis: Symptoms and Signs
The process of bringing a life into this world is associated not only with an incredible physical transformation over 9 whole months, but also an emotional metamorphosis in which you will find yourself feeling a myriad of emotions.
This emotional outburst can get overwhelming and you may wonder if having a baby is taking a toll on your mental health. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, it may be an alarm for you to seek help or consult with your doctor.
- Low energy levels, with you feeling excessively tired most of the times
- Frequent mood changes
- Restlessness, irritability, and agitation
- Unable to look after yourself and the baby
- Feelings of you being worthless, helpless and hopeless
- Changes in sleep pattern with either too much sleep or unable to fall asleep at all
With postpartum psychosis, you may experience a more serious range of symptoms as it is a more severe mood disorder, especially if you have a previous history of bipolar disorder.
- You may be hallucinating – that is hearing and seeing things that aren’t there
- You may develop suicidal ideation
- You may experience paranoia
- And you may have thoughts of self-harm or of harming your baby or actually do so
How to treat it?
The first and foremost thing to do is to normalize talking about it. If you have postpartum depression and psychosis or if you know of someone dealing with it is to eliminate all the social stigma and taboo surrounding this or any other related psychological disorder and encourage yourself to be open to help. There is nothing to be ashamed of in having a weakness or not being able to enjoy the birth of your baby as you thought you would. So primarily, the fear of being judged or scorned should be removed and you should seek help as early as possible.
Regarding treatment options, the following have been found effective:
- Medications: Antidepressants can be prescribed by your doctor or health care provider to help in reducing these postpartum baby blues. One thing to remember is that antidepressants often take weeks to act; hence you need to be a tad bit patient here.
- Counseling: You can have regular therapy sessions with a psychologist, social worker, or therapist, in which you would be taught coping mechanisms to manage depression after delivery.
You may have heard of the saying, “A sound mind in a sound body”. Your physical well being is very important for you to be in a good headspace. Apart from medications and therapy, you can help yourself by eating well, adopting a healthier lifestyle with regular exercise, and timely sleep. Surround yourself with help and support from your partner, friends, and family to make sure you are doing well because a happy and healthy mum means a happy and healthy baby.
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