Postpartum depression is a serious condition and may require treatment

12:13 pm Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

Awareness should be created among new mothers on how to cope with this condition

New Delhi, 29 December 2017: Recent research has indicated that a protein regulating a system in the brain that mediates physiological response to stress may be responsible for depression in women during and after pregnancy. The study demonstrated the involvement of the neuroendocrine system that mediates physiological response to stress, called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is normally suppressed during and after pregnancy.

About one in five new mothers are affected by postpartum depression. This condition leads to anxiety, severe fatigue, inability to bond with children, and suicidal thoughts in mothers. It has also been associated with developmental problems in infants. Among other factors, stress in new mothers has been identified as one of the significant risk factors leading to this condition.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past President, Indian Medical Association (IMA) said, “There is no single causative factor for postpartum depression but a combination of physical and emotional factors. It is not due to something that a mother does or does not do. Post childbirth, the levels of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body drop quickly leading to chemical changes in the brain. This phenomenon can in turn trigger mood swings. Many mothers are also unable to get the amount of rest needed to recover from childbirth. This and sleep deprivation can cause a lot of physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression. With postpartum depression, feelings of sadness and anxiety can be extreme and might interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family. Because of the severity of the symptoms, postpartum depression usually requires treatment.”

Some risk factors that can exacerbate this condition include previous experience with depression or bipolar disorder, a family member with depression or other mental illness, a stressful life event during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth, medical complications during childbirth, mixed feelings about the pregnancy, lack of strong emotional support from the spouse, and alcohol or other drug abuse problems.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, “A major challenge in the detection and treatment of this condition is the lack of awareness, ignorance, and social stigma surrounding this condition. Many women do not recognize or are unable to understand the symptoms that follow childbirth. Then there are others who are unwilling to seek medical help as psychiatric problems are not taken very well in the Indian society even today. There is a need to create awareness about this condition among pregnant women, new mothers, and the family and counsel them on how they can support the women through this phase.”

Some tips for would-be mothers to cope with childbirth and postpartum anxiety include:

  • Get enough rest. Tiredness can make anxiety worse and give you a constant gloomy feeling. Try catching small naps when the baby is asleep.
  • Eat at smaller intervals. Low energy levels can impact mental health.
  • Try not to feel guilty about not helping around the house. Understand that this is a temporary phase and it is not wrong to ask for help.
  • Indulge in activities that can help you in getting distracted from any negative thoughts, such as reading a book and listening to music. Take a short walk if it helps you feel better
  • Lastly, do not compare yourself with other mothers. Each pregnancy is different and understanding this will help you feel better.

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