New mothers need proper care and support to deal with postpartum depression

Support and care are keys to their mental and physical well-being. Illustraton: Nikitha R

Becoming a mother is one of the most anticipated and cherished moments in the lives of several women. However, instead of being exhilarated after the delivery, some mothers experience a sense of depression. They start to withdraw, develop troubled patterns of eating and sleeping, experience frequent mood swings, overrun by negative thoughts, are pitted in a constant state of anxiety and are often found crying. There is a complete lack of motivation and energy. That is how postpartum depression (PPD) mostly is.

The first six weeks after delivery is known as postpartum and it is during this time that the mother slowly adjusts to the new life. What is more commonly seen, according to Dr. Mathangi Anand, consultant obstetrician, and gynaecologist working in Vijayalakshmi Medical Centre, Ernakulam is the postpartum blues. They are milder compared to PPD and tend to cease quicker. "What these mothers need is care. They have gone through a great change and what is crucial for them is support," adds Dr. Mathangi.

Causes of postpartum depression

During pregnancy and after delivery, mothers undergo drastic hormonal changes which is the root cause of PPD. Other causes of PPD are heavily dependent on the environment that surrounds the mother. There are several psychological and physiological changes that the mother undergoes after pregnancy.

"There are several difficulties that come along with raising a child and you see that a lot of mothers might not be able to produce enough milk for their infant all the time, especially, if they have given birth to twins or so. This is quite natural but they either get blamed for it or end up feeling guilty," notes Dr. Mathangi and adds it is one of the most discussed reasons for new mothers' mental health.

With the birth of a child, a parent is also born. New mothers are often bombarded with advice, rules, and restrictions as to how to take care of themselves and their infant. Dr. Mathangi also points out "Mothers are told to do this and that, not to go there, what to eat and what not. They tend to be criticised for every little thing. This can cause a lot of psychological disturbance for the mother."

How to face postpartum depression

From waking up in the middle of the night to care for their child to having no time to themselves - these mothers might already be experiencing mental turmoil. Facing such constant judgments can be quite taxing on their well-being. Dr. Mathangi says that what they need is nothing other than tender loving care.

What mothers who are going through PPD need the most is care - avoid blaming them, avoid making them feel guilty, understand their struggle, give them time to rest and heal, share tasks of handling a newborn and so on. Dr. Mathangi provides insight into how a mother feels by saying, "She might be thinking that she is the only one staying up, making adjustments, compromising, and things like that. Sometimes staying up with her is all that the spouse needs to do to make her feel better."

Mothers usually get back on their feet after the first six weeks and after a maximum of one to two months. Providing support and comfort to new mothers who are struggling with PPD till they can get back to normal is the best thing one can do for them. Dr. Mathangi emphasizes that "in severe cases of violence, hallucinations and suicidal tendencies known as postpartum psychosis, proper treatment and medication are required," but in most other cases, support and care are the key to their mental and physical well-being.

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