Usually, when we find ourselves talking about pregnancy-related challenges in Nigeria, postpartum depression (PPD for short) doesn’t top the list. Nonetheless, recent data have reported that depression is the most common postpartum complication.
In simple terms, postpartum depression is a type of depression that occurs after childbirth. It is a mental health condition that affects the emotional, behavioral, and physical health of a mother, father, or child.
The first few days and weeks of caring for a newborn can leave a new mom feeling anxious, sad, frustrated, and even overwhelmed. This is absolutely normal. However, when these feelings do not go away after two weeks of birth then it is called postpartum or postnatal depression.
It is different from baby blues and postpartum psychosis. Postpartum blues (or baby blues) is a transient condition with mood swings, mild anxiety, and tearfulness that most mothers could experience shortly after delivery while whereas postpartum psychoses is a psychiatric emergency that requires hospitalization with symptoms that vary and change very quickly, ranging from high mood, racing thoughts, depression, restlessness hallucinations, irritability, insomnia to delusions that appear suddenly 2 – 12 weeks after childbirth.
I know we have been referring to moms in this article, but it also affects fathers. It is important that fathers speak up
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and no one size fits all
- Prolonged sadness and feeling disconnected from the baby
- Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and emptiness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of guilt
- Negative feelings towards the child
- Thoughts of harming the baby
- Constant Fatigue
- Decreased Libido
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Crying spells and mood swings
- Changes in appetite.
What are the Risk Factors?
Women with these factors are more at risk than others:
- Personal or family history of depression
- History of postpartum blues
- Single parenthood
- Low social support
- Stressful pregnancy
- Marital & financial problems
- Lack of sleep for longer periods of time.
- The long wait for the child
- Previous stillbirth
- Multiple births (such as twins or triplets)
When Should You See Your Doctor?
It may be difficult to admit that as a mother, or father, you don’t feel a connection with your baby, so a lot of women keep quiet about it. This may only worsen the situation. If you notice any of the symptoms described earlier and they are present for more than two weeks it is best to speak with your doctor about it before it degenerates into something more chronic. Symptoms can turn to major depression so it is important to seek help.
Remember, this is a diagnosable and treatable condition, which means you need a clinical diagnosis from your doctor or psychologist.
Treatment can be with child-safe antidepressants and therapy.
Remember, the most important thing is to have a healthy mother and child. You can practice these self-help tips to help manage the risk.
Learn more about depression and the facts around depression myths.
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