While the arrival of a newborn is a joyous occasion for the entire family, the new mother is probably going through mixed emotions – both joy and stress. Is it just baby blues or is she overwhelmed with Postnatal Depression (PND)?
Baby blues last anywhere between a few minutes to a couple of hours each day for a couple of weeks at most.1
PND is much more intense and lasts much longer. It is characterized by sudden mood swings, insomnia, irritability and a lack of interest in your baby. Postpartum depression can cause major attitude changes including negative feelings towards the child, worrying that you could hurt the child, a feeling of worthlessness, erratic sleep patterns, changes in appetite, lack of self-care, lack of pleasure and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
What Are The Causes of Postnatal Depression?
Doctors attribute hormonal fluctuations to be the chief cause of PND. Other attributes such as physical, psychological and social changes are also possible triggers.
As soon as a woman delivers a baby, her body’s chief hormones – estrogen, progesterone and thyroid levels massively drop down, which could cause depression, fatigue and extreme mood swings. The birth of a child can also leave a woman feeling insecure about her physical appearance.
The arrival of a newborn changes family dynamics and ushers in a fresh set of responsibilities for the mother, making her feel overwhelmed and stressed out. A combination of all these factors could render her depressed and prone to PND.
It is believed that women who have had a history of depression or severe Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) before childbirth are more prone to PND. Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies combined with health issues and personal reasons such as difficult relationships can trigger antenatal depression, which can lead to PND. Genetic or biochemical factors can also be involved.
How To Treat Postnatal Depression
Psychological and social aspects need to be addressed with corresponding treatment methods. While introspection and self-healing can help with mild “baby blues”, more serious depression might need a professional’s help to address specific issues.
Change In Diet
It is essential that new mothers overhaul their diet to stay fatigue-free after delivery. If a new mom goes back to her pre-pregnancy diet, her energy levels could fluctuate massively, leaving her more fatigued than ever. New mothers should include whole grains, lean proteins, leafy vegetables and foods that are a rich source of iron such as seafood and dried fruits in their diet.
Inadequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids have also been associated with depression, including PND. Mothers should consume foods rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (like fatty fish and nuts) during and post-pregnancy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (with a professional’s help) can help identify moods and thoughts that lead to specific actions and behaviors that are detrimental and perhaps dangerous.
Cue: Baby is not gaining weight in the first few days post delivery
Belief: My baby has a serious illness. My baby is going to die!
A CBT professional brings her attention to this belief and ask her to challenge it.
Other cues: The doctor is not worried; baby not drinking milk, crying and losing weight in the first few days is considered perfectly normal
Modified Belief: My baby is normal!
Regular positive reinforcement of this kind can help the mother replace negative beliefs with realistic, positive ones.
CBT also works well when employed in combination with medication. A diagnosis of 87 women with PND was conducted with either one or six sessions of CBT-based counseling and treatment with fluoxetine or placebo. The result showed that women who received six CBT sessions versus one had greater decrease in depressive symptoms.2
Psychosocial aspects may involve the family (or husband’s support), talking to other mothers and changing some daily habits. The immediate family of the new mom must also be supportive of her needs – physically and emotionally.
Besides external help, it is imperative that the new mom must not be too hard on herself when dealing with a newborn baby – instant bonding between the mother and the child may not happen. It could take a while for the mother to come in terms with the situation.Dealing with things one day at a time can help.
If things are still going awry, then perhaps it is best to seek medical help from a certified psychiatrist.