Looking after our Mothers: Delivery and Depressionby Revati Tongaonkar September 12 2017, 9:44 pm
A recent study found that almost one in five mothers experience severe post-partum depression, but the illness is hardly known, and even less spoken about in public, which further aggravates the stigma surrounding the illness.
Post-Partum Depression,also called postnatal depression is a type of depressive mood disorder linked to pregnancy and childbirth. More prevalent in new mothers, although it may sometimes affect the father as well. Its onset is usually around one week to one month following delivery, and differs from the condition called baby blues in terms of its severity. Post-Partum Depression also lasts longer (for at least over two weeks), and is harmful to the mother's health, in some cases, affecting the child negatively as well.
PPD is thought to be caused due to a combination of physical and emotional factors that take place after childbirth, caused by sudden changes in hormone levels in the mother's body, sleep deprivation and neglect to one's own health.
Radio host Frank Stasio spoke with doctorate student Betty-Shannon Prevatt, who studies at the North Caroline University. Prevatt carried out a study, screening new mothers for Post-Partum Depression and found that almost one in every five mothers experience PPD. What was worse, she found that almost 20% of mothers did not confess to experiencing its symptoms, even when asked.
Prevatt also found that the mothers who suffered from the illness shared a few common symptoms, such as experiencing a feeling of extreme guilt for not bonding enough with the baby, mood disorders and manic stress disorders. It is usually accompanied by feelings of sadness and anxiety, and a misdirected sense of failure. Quite a lot of these women don't report their experiences because they are afraid of the stigma associated with persons with mental illnesses, but Prevatt found that women with a well-developed support networks were more likely to share their need, and take an active part in recovery. The ones who are most at risk are the ones without any support system in their lives.
Dr. Kamal Khurana, a senior psychologist, says that postpartum depression, much like depression, is a manifestation rather than a cause, and is deeply embedded in psychology. Though the condition is person-specific, Dr. Khurana maintains that there are certain common symptoms. He adds that one of every three women cry incessantly after giving birth, or are overcome by a general sense of apathy towards life. They exhibit perceptible traits of aggression, irritation, and sometimes even complete refusal to take care of the child.
We take new mothers for granted, and never truly estimate the severity of the damage, but it can be very serious. Barely a few months ago, 32-year old Kara Kovlakas ended her life following her crippling struggle with the disease, shocking her family and friends. Her five sisters then took up the cause, slowly spreading awareness about the silent illness.
We need to normalise post-partum depression, and be more vocal about the phenomena to encourage mothers to talk about it. We need to recognise symptoms of PPD, and tackle it heads-on. In many cases, after the delivery, the baby becomes the center of focus, but the mother needs to be looked after as well, and taken care of enough, atleast as much as she was used to during the pregnancy. Family and friends need to be aware, and notice symptoms such as extreme sadness, low energy, feelings of guilt in the mother, anxiety, crying episodes, and major changes in sleeping and eating patterns. We also need to prompt mothers to seek medical help as soon as they can, without feeling a sense of having been a failure.