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The phenomenon of Postpartum Depression

by Ben Abbot
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Postpartum Depression

Motherhood is an enormous experience and definitely one that’s accompanied by many new transitions. Indeed it is a great change for both the parents, but it has a major effect on the mother of the newborn. Motherhood changes a women, both physically as well as emotionally. It entirely changes the routine and lifestyle of the mother and brings with it a whole new set of responsibilities. As much as childbirth brings joy to the partners, it’s not always the case. Sometimes it has an overwhelming impact on the mother of the newborn baby. Some mothers start to feel exhausted and blue within 2-3 days following the delivery of the baby. They lose interest in life, experience anxiety, mood swings, weeping spells, sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness. If this condition prevails for a week or two, it is known as postpartum depression, also referred to as “baby blues”.  

When postpartum depression is left untreated, or when it lingers for more than two weeks, it can lead to a more severe condition known as postpartum psychosis, which is characterized by almost the same but more intense symptoms and can lead to hallucinations, delusions, and even self-harm, harm to others, and suicidal ideations. Postpartum psychosis has a longer duration than postmortem depression and can last a year.  

Mothers who are more likely to experience this condition are those who have given birth to their first baby, or to twins or triplets. However, it can effect mothers in their later deliveries too. Women with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies are at a higher risk for developing postpartum depression. Women who lack a support system or have an unsupportive partner, are also at a greater risk to experience depression after delivery. They feel alone and feel like they are unable to handle their new situation.  

Symptoms  

Postpartum depression is characterized by all or some of the following symptoms 

  • Loss of interest in life activities 
  • Eating too much or too little  
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much  
  • Lack of motivation  
  • No interest in baby  
  • Suicidal ideations  
  • Self harm or thoughts of hurting the baby 
  • Mood swings and weeping spells  
  • Emptiness and hopelessness  
  • Second guessing your parental abilities  
  • Feeling worthless and ashamed  
  • Hating the changes in their bodies after delivering baby  

Effects of Postpartum Depression 

Besides having an impact on the mother, postpartum depression can have an effect on the partner (father) as well as on the baby. 

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Effects on the partner 

Seeing his wife not happy on the birth of the child, it can have a negative impact on the father of the baby as well as on the relationship between the partners. It creates a confusion for him as to what is causing his wife to not react as one should after giving birth to a baby. Moreover, fathers can also experience postpartum depression. This type of depression isn’t restricted to women only. It brings a set of responsibilities, duties, and financial stress for the father. He is supposed to meet the needs and comfort of his wife as well as his child. He has to start planning ahead and start planning and deciding a future for his family, especially for the baby. Fathers with first born babies are more prone to experience postpartum depression as they can feel a loss of control over the situation. Not all fathers go through this condition, but for some, child birth can be equally difficult to process as it can be for mothers. 

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Effects on the child  

Babies born to mothers who have experienced postpartum depression, experience unhealthy or distant relationship with their mothers, as such mothers become negatively associated with their child. They neglect the child during their phase of postpartum depression and thus, fail to develop a healthy bonding with their child. Such children can develop a range of behavioural and emotional problems later, and are likely to have delays in language development. 

Postpartum depression and psychosis is a serious disorder and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It requires therapeutic intervention as well as medication. Yet mostly it gets away unrecognized. It is expected of mothers to be happy and joyful on the birth of the child, due to which even though the mother is going through a great deal of depression during this phase, she still pretends that she’s fine and that everything’s fine. Hence this makes it sometimes very hard to tell what the mother is going through. One of the other reasons postpartum depression is hard to recognize by other people is that the mother feels embarrassed and ashamed about why she’s feeling depressed on the birth of her baby. Hence she tries to mask her mood in front of her partner, family, friends, and people around her.  

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