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Understanding Postpartum Depression

Project PPD

Stepped Care Intervention for Postpartum Depression in Rural India

Every year in India, 26 million Women become mothers and about 75% of new mothers experience ‘Baby Blues’ or ‘Postpartum Blues,’ out of which 20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression in India. About 85% of mothers with postpartum depression never receive any professional treatment or intervention services to cater their psychological security. Hence, approx. twenty thousand mothers commit suicide every year because of postpartum depression, making postpartum depression as the major leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality.

  1. What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious mental health disorder that affects women after childbirth. Postpartum depression creates feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression and exhaustion that can greatly inhibit their ability to care for their newborn child.

  1. Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum depression affects each person in a different way and to a different degree. Some women experience rare but extreme cases of the condition known as postpartum psychosis. On the other hand, some women experience a milder and more short-term type called “baby blues”. Although this condition affects different people in different ways, there are clear symptoms that reveal when a woman is facing postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression symptoms range for each affected person but they generally include a combination of mood swings, anger and irritability, fatigue, excessive crying, inability to bond with your baby and anxiety, worry and fear. For most, these feelings and symptoms develop within the first few weeks after childbirth and can last up to six months.

Postpartum depression symptoms are similar to any other type of depression. There are some additional symptoms that include specific feelings toward or about the baby that are characteristic of postpartum depression.

  1. Emotional Symptoms:

During postpartum depression, women most commonly experience emotional symptoms that affect how she is feeling.

These emotional symptoms include:

  • Excessive and uncontrollable crying
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Feeling numb or empty
  • Extremes in mood swings
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Feeling anger and rage
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Feeling guilt and shame
  1. Mental Symptoms:

In addition to emotional symptoms, there are also shifts in her thoughts and mentality during postpartum depression.

Here are some of the mental symptoms of postpartum depression:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Trouble remembering details
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Doubting her ability to care for her baby
  • Thinking things are too overwhelming to handle
  • Thinking she has failed or is inadequate
  1. Physical Symptoms:

Postpartum depression also manifests itself physically and creates symptoms that affect the body.

Physical symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Changes in appetite such as eating too much or too little
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Oversleeping
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pains
  1. Behavioral Symptoms:

Women suffering from postpartum depression also exhibit behavioral changes. Often times, it may seem as though she is behaving as a different person.

Here are common behavioral symptoms of postpartum depression:

  • Acting distant with her partner
  • Withdrawing from friends and social activities
  • Inability to form a bond with the new baby
  • Unwilling to care for the baby out of fear of harming him or her
  • Not being able to enjoy time with friends and family
  • Not wanting to be alone with the baby
  • Exhibiting angry behavior toward others
  1. Postpartum Depression Causes & Risk Factors

There is no one particular cause of postpartum depression. It’s typically caused by a combination of physical and emotional factors that occur after childbirth. It’s important to emphasize that postpartum depression doesn’t develop as the result of something the mother does or doesn’t do. Significant changes in hormones combined with physical and emotional exhaustion and sleep deprivation can significantly contribute to postpartum depression.

A mother’s history of depression and mental illness or a family history of depression and mental illness are possible risk factors for postpartum depression. Other risk factors include experiencing severe emotional, financial, health or relationship stress within the past year.

Unplanned pregnancies, being under the age of 20 or a lack of support system can also possibly increase the risk of developing postpartum depression.

In fact, many studies have been done to explore the association between postpartum depression and maternal age. In a recent study, researchers have found that women in their 20s as well as women in their 40s may have an increased risk of developing postpartum depression.

How to Deal with it?