Postnatal Depression (Postpartum illness)

This condition is a manageable and treatable mental health problem. The symptoms for this condition are anxiety, poor concentration and the inability to cope. Women who have just given birth could be afflicted with ‘baby blues’ or a temporary bout of mild depression. But approximately 8-15% of women who have just given birth suffer from postnatal depression (PND). A number of new mothers can experience severe depression without them knowing that they are suffering from it. This condition affects the new mother’s family and friends. A few new mothers could also have puerperal psychosis which is an acute state of psychosis that happens in the first 6 weeks of giving birth.

Symptoms

PND develops when "baby blues" becomes worse. This can also happen if depression develops slowly and is not noticeable until after several weeks of giving birth. There are a number of symptoms for PND which the new mother might experience:

  • Cannot cope up with caring for the baby so the new mother feels guilty
  • Feels sad and cries often
  • Feels anxious about their health and their baby’s
  • Suffers from panic attacks
  • Highly irritable
  • Depressed
  • Low energy
  • Always tired
  • Cannot concentrate on their tasks and is easily confused
  • Feels pain without any apparent cause
  • Poor appetite
  • Sleeping disorders
  • May lose sexual drive

The symptoms for puerperal psychosis are the following:

  • Manic or bipolar behaviour
  • Talks fast
  • Euphoric or always elated
  • Hyperactive
  • Cannot sleep due to always rushing to do things
  • Can become bossy or demanding
  • Angry
  • Aggressive
  • Depressed
  • Delusional or suffering from hallucinations

Medical treatment

If the new mother is depressed for so long, she may need to seek medical help from her doctor. She should detail her feelings and the symptoms. PND is highly manageable and can be successfully treated. There are many drugs available to treat PND but most of them are anti-depressants. Anti-depressants are not addicting. These drugs show their results gradually. But should the drugs not work on you for a couple of weeks, then ask your doctor to shift to a much stronger dose or to a different drug. Progesterone therapy is done when the symptoms of depression is severe before and during your period. 

For new mothers who have puerperal psychosis, they need a psychiatrist for help. It is possible to receive treatment from home but hospital admission is needed because some hospitals have a specialist mother and baby psychiatric unit.

Help from family and friends

The new mother’s family and friends should be understanding and supportive. PND is temporary and can be successfully treated but the patient need help and support to recover. To be able to accept that someone is sick with PND can also help. The family of the patient should make sure that she is getting the proper treatment from her doctor and make sure that she receives proper medication as well. The patient should also rest and not do house chores. Leave your work and concentrate on getting well. Being alone can be a liability for someone with PND. If the patient does not want to be alone, someone should accompany her. Physical forms of intimacy like hugging or kissing is very helpful especially since it can reassure both partners of their affection.

Counselling

If someone you know has PND, you can encourage her to talk to you or to some mental health professionals about her feelings and symptoms. Socializing with family and friends is always helpful but seeking medical help from medical professionals can also be a big step.

Self help

Thinking and visualizing that you will be cured after a long time of battling with PND is a positive sign that you do want to recover and lead your normal life again. Recovery can be slow at times but never give up and always keep a sunny disposition. Do not worry too much of the pain that you will experience. Try to look out for yourself, rest, eat properly and think about your baby who needs you warmth and love. Should you feel isolated or alone, seek support groups that are available on your locale. Of course, being able to keep in touch with your family and friends as you go through PND is also beneficial.