Postpartum Mental Health Awareness

Mental health is just as important as physical health during pregnancy and postpartum. Most women think it is abnormal or embarrassing to hit a low mental state after delivering a baby, but it is very common, and help is always nearby.  Research has shown that around one in seven women can develop postpartum depression. I am sure everyone who reads this knows at least 7 mothers, so the chance of more than one of them having first-hand experience with PPD is very common. Knowing what to do when you have this experience or how to help a loved one that is struggling is so important during this life-altering stage of life.

Childbirth is a difficult and exhausting process. A female goes through a lot of hormonal, physical, emotional, and psychological changes throughout pregnancy. After childbirth, a mother can experience varied emotions ranging from joy and pleasure to sadness and crying bouts. Postpartum depression can begin at any time after birth up to three months postpartum, and last for months to years without treatment. As many as half of postpartum depression in new mothers goes undiagnosed because of privacy and not wanting to disclose their feelings to close family members in fear of scrutiny.

Postpartum depression can also lead to marriage problems, which leads to the worsening of the mother’s mental state. It is never possible for a couple to be 100% prepared for a new baby to join the family. Oftentimes, couples underestimate the amount of work that is required during the weeks following childbirth. For mothers facing postpartum depression, this increased workload turns into an overwhelming feeling of possibly losing control. Many new emotions and responsibilities arise after having a new baby. With the addition of postpartum depression, it is common for couples to cut off communication. Couples may find it difficult to describe their feelings or fear that they will offend the other person. They may also believe the condition will simply go away on its own. If you’re struggling with marriage problems during postpartum depression, know that you are not alone. Many couples face marital problems during this difficult time and learn to work through them in healthy ways such as setting a time for open communication, reassuring they are supporting each other, seeking counseling from a professional, and remembering postpartum depression is treatable and temporary.

Postpartum depression not only affects a mother’s relationship with their partner and family members, but it also affects her relationship with the infant. According to the Office on Women’s Health, a child may experience the following if their mother has untreated depression: problems with learning and language development, behavioral issues, more frequent crying, agitation and stress, growth problems, a higher risk of obesity, and difficulty adjusting to social situations like school. Seeking help for depression can help protect the well-being of both the mother and the child.

It is important to understand that postpartum depression is not due to anything that the woman has done. It is a common problem that many women experience, and it does not mean that they are bad mothers. Some risk factors for postpartum depression include depression before or during pregnancy, a family member with a diagnosis of depression or mental illness, experiencing a stressful life event around the time of pregnancy, a lack of support from a partner or other loved ones, and medical complications during the delivery.

Symptoms of postpartum depression vary from person to person, but some are feeling sad, worried, anxious, and overwhelmed; having fears of not being able to love or look after the baby; crying more than usual, feeling moody, restless, or angry; difficulty sleeping; eating too much or too little; experiencing aches and pains, including headaches, without a clear reason; social isolation and avoiding activities that used to be enjoyable; thoughts of self-harming or harming the baby; difficulty taking care of herself, the baby, and the family; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; difficulty focusing and making decisions.

Waiting for postpartum depression to pass is not healthy for a mother’s mental health or the infant’s. There are treatments to help a mother feel like herself again. After visiting a provider, they may recommend an antidepressant for the next few months, but make sure to discuss how this may affect breastfeeding. Two non-medicine alternatives include transcranial magnetic stimulation and counseling, which will not interfere with breastfeeding.  There are also some at-home techniques a mother can try such as getting as much rest as possible, asking others to help with tasks, resisting the urge to try to do everything perfectly, spending time with friends and other family members, sharing their feelings with others, joining a local support group, and getting some exercise.

Postpartum depression affects many women after delivery. Without treatment, it can persist for months or even years. However, treatment can help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Anyone who has concerns about their feelings should speak to a healthcare professional or doctor. A trusted friend or family member can often assist in getting help if the woman does not feel that she can do this alone. Seeking treatment for postpartum depression can bring benefits for the woman, baby, and family in the long term.