By Dr. Shakuntla Shukla, Gynaecology
It is no surprise that women, after going through the various stages of pregnancy and childbirth, are normally susceptible to experiencing different types of emotional mood swings, but they are also prone to experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness. If this form of depression lasts for about two weeks, then it is commonly referred to as &; postpartum baby blues. If it persists for a longer period, then it is known as postpartum depression, which is a more severe form of the baby blues.
Symptoms normally associated with the baby blues are anxiety, sadness, irritability, appetite disorders and trouble while sleeping. Unlike postpartum depression, whose symptoms last for more than two weeks from delivery, postpartum baby blues usually disappears in less than two weeks, therefore requiring no serious medical or psychiatric treatment. Postpartum depression, however, includes symptoms of higher intensity, like overwhelming fatigue, difficulty in bonding, withdrawal, reduced interest in activities and indulgences, severe loss of appetite, inability to concentrate or think clearly, self-denial and even suicidal tendencies.
Causes and complications :
Since there are no exact causes for postpartum depression, signs and indicators can be inferred from physical and emotional factors. Estrogen and progesterone levels generally drop after childhood, and this could perhaps be one of the reasons. Other factors include emotional issues, like anxiety or self-doubt and self-denial. Sleep deprivation can also contribute to postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression, if left untreated, can result in interferences in mother-child bonding as well as disruptions in familial relationships. Besides increasing the risks of chronic depression, it also has a ripple effect and can adversely affect both father and child, in time causing them to experience depression as well.
Drugs and treatments :
Postpartum depression treatments usually involve psychotherapy and mental counseling, medications or even both. Talking out your problems with your psychotherapist or even to your close ones like family and friends is always helpful. However, medication is also required. Your doctor would most probably recommend antidepressants.
Further, a more critical and rare condition than postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis. This is a severe case of clinical depression and usually requires immediate medical attention and healthcare. If you do experience postpartum psychosis, medication, like antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers, is strongly recommended, but if it does not respond even to medication, then an Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is probably needed.