The postpartum gamut of emotions can sometimes be daunting. So we bring you a place to start: often-asked questions with some straightforward answers.
By Dr. Shefali Batra (InnerHour) in collaboration with Together- For Her Health
Part 2: KNOWING YOUR RISK OF POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AND THE RIGHT STEPS TO TAKE
What could put me at risk?
Forewarned is forearmed.
There are certain factors that could increase the likelihood of a woman developing postpartum depression after giving birth. These include:
- A personal or family history of mental illnesses like depression or anxiety
- Biological factors like changes in hormone levels
- Stressors in the form of financial difficulties or marital concerns
- Traumatic experiences such as violence, or even losing a close family member or a friend
- Factors linked with motherhood, for example having a child with special needs or being a first-time mother
- Lack of emotional support from loved ones
What Could Postpartum Depression lead to?
If untreated, it could become chronic and increasingly serious.
Postpartum depression cannot, and should not be left untreated. Without treatment, its impact can be felt in the following ways:
- Without proper care, postpartum depression can develop into chronic depressive disorder. Symptoms of depression might remit only to reappear and trigger a relapse.
- Mother-child bonding might be affected with mothers emotionally and physically distancing themselves from their children due to feelings of guilt and inadequacy
- Feelings of sadness, guilt and blame might become overwhelming and result in thoughts of self-harm. This puts mothers at a high risk for suicide or suicide attempts.
- In rare cases, postpartum depression might even cause the mother to harm her child resulting in infanticide
Will I ever feel better?
YES! You just need the right treatment.
Research has shown that women suffering from PPD can and do feel better after being treated by qualified mental health professionals. Effective treatment options are:
- Talk therapy with a psychologist or a counsellor. Seeking help from a nonjudgmental, empathetic professional can not only be reassuring but also comforting in difficult, transitional periods. Particularly effective therapeutic interventions are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). CBT helps individuals identify negative thoughts that might be contributing to their emotional distress. Research shows that it has a high success rate when it comes to treating depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. IPT, on the other hand, is more focused on difficult relationships and social interactions.
- Medication prescribed by a psychiatrist or a physician can be effective in alleviating some of the physical symptoms experienced by mothers. It is also helpful in regulating mood by balancing brain chemistry. However, for breast-feeding mothers, these medications should only be taken with the advice and under supervision of a specialist such as a psychiatrist.
Don’t miss post-delivery health check-ups
Even with the launch of the Indian government’s mental health programme in 1982, maternal mental health has never really received the level of attention it deserves. Health surveys in the country indicate that many women miss post-delivery check-ups, especially those with low literacy levels.
If women do attend regular check-ups, health-care workers might lack proper training in order to identify symptoms and deliver the appropriate care. Additionally, screening tools to simply identify the symptoms of postpartum depression are absent or inaccessible.
Amongst the Indian population, stigma surrounding mental health concerns is widely prevalent. This extends to postpartum depression, where a lack of awareness about the disorder and the implications it might have for the mother and child means that it very often goes untreated.
Culture-specific factors like rituals surrounding pregnancy and birth, preference for sons rather than daughters might also act as additional stressors for the mother, putting her at risk for developing postpartum depression.
However, it’s not all bleak. Maternal mortality is on the decline and awareness about mental health concerns is growing. As mentioned previously, postpartum depression can be treated with the help of counselling, medication or a combination of both. It is important to seek help from someone who is qualified, supportive and experienced in dealing with the disorder.
If you, or anyone you know, might be suffering from postpartum depression, do not hesitate to seek help from a trained Psychologist or Psychiatrist.
Dr. Shefali Batra uses a preventive and psychological focus in her psychiatric practice of 14 years. She founded MINDFRAMES, a wellness organisation, a decade ago to make mind support more widely accessible both in person and online. Through media excerpts and participation in press conferences on social issues, Shefali aims to prompt people towards their own wellness. She has worked with corporates in employee wellness and human factors to guide people towards holistic living. She completed her MBBS and postgraduate training in Psychiatry in Mumbai and holds a Leadership Certificate in Healthcare Management from University of California, Los Angeles. She is also co-founder at InnerHour, an online platform committed to promoting emotional and psychological health and well-being.
Do you have a question about postpartum mental health we haven’t answered here? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!