Postnatal depression is a type of clinical depression which can affect women after childbirth. Symptoms may include sadness, low energy, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, reduced desire for sex, crying episodes, occasional or frequent anxiety, irritability, inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, social withdrawal, feeling inadequate in taking care of the baby.
The cause of postnatal depression is not well understood. Hormonal changes, genetics, and major life events have been hypothesized as potential causes.It can develop within the first six weeks of giving birth, but it is often not apparent until around six months. Postnatal depression is more common than many people realise, as it affects around one in 10 women after child birth.
Postnatal depression can sometimes go unnoticed and many women are unaware they have it, even though they don’t feel quite right. Most times the first person to notice these behavioural changes is the husband who might be at the receiving end some of these symptoms and might feel very uneasy and somewhat confused and unhappy about the development.Mood swings, irritability and episodes of tearfulness are common after giving birth. These symptoms are often known as the “baby blues” and they usually clear up within a few weeks. However, if these symptoms are more persistent, it could be postnatal depression.
Some women don’t recognise they have postnatal depression, or they choose to ignore their symptoms because they’re afraid of being seen as a bad mother. It’s very important to understand that postnatal depression is an illness. If you have it, it doesn’t mean you don’t love or care for your baby. Statistics show that mothers of African decent have a highest risk of postnatal depression. As long as it’s recognised and treated, postnatal depression is a temporary condition you can recover from.
Postnatal depression can be lonely, distressing and frightening, and this is when the mother needs the emotionally help and understanding of her partner, family and friends. Don’t alienate yourself from these set of people.Postnatal depression can greatly affect marriages and also affect other interactions and relationships between the mother and her friends or colleagues.
The first stage to coping with it is, bringing your husband into the picture. He needs to know it’s a phase that won’t last. The husband is best poised to manage this condition and having a good knowledge of the illness will help him to understand your moods and react to them in the best possible way required. He needs to know that you would definitely recover from this .So make it a duty to inform him of this condition.
He needs to know that he ought to try and be sympathetic even if it is boring to listen to the same thoughts , emotions over and over again. He needs to know that he doesn’t need push you to do things or go places that you feel uncomfortable with.The mother needs all the support and care from family and friends and she is advised to see a doctor who can refer her for counselling if she feels that she needs it. Medical treatment can include talking therapies and antidepressant medication. In this view, mothers with postnatal depression do not have a mental illness, but instead cannot afford to take care of the new infant without more social support, more resources, etc. So treatment should therefore focus on helping mothers get what they need.
By Daniel Angou