Giving birth is life-changing for a mother. It is the most painful experience a woman can ever endure in her lifetime. Giving life to a child is risky; it can drastically change a mother’s mind and body, post-partum hair loss for instance. These brave women are never the same; they can recover, but sometimes their psyche takes on a different direction. Women experience varying mood shifts post-partum. While the majority can be elated and exhausted, the few unexpectedly slide into gloomy post-partum blues or even depression.
Signs of Post-Partum Depression
A new mother experiences a myriad of emotions. She can be tearful then suddenly laugh the next second. It is understandable that a woman can get moody “blues” post-partum but if these signs are persistent for more than two weeks, a woman can be suffering from post-partum depression. Persistence of the following signs for a month or two may signal depression:
- There is an evident lack of interest in common activities, lack of concentration and difficulty with completing common/routine tasks. Disinterest on grooming, refusing to clean self and refusal to engage in social activities can be also observed.
- Indifference towards the baby is a call for help. Loss of appetite despite attempts to breastfeed is also an alarming sign. When the mother appears to lack emotions looks indifferent or seems unattached to baby, this is a call for action.
- Unpredictable or exaggerated behavior that persists for a month or two is also a sign of budding depression or even psychosis. She might feel too tearful and overwhelmed for no reason at all. There are also feelings of shame, guilt or worthlessness as if she is not being a good mother. She can also be irritable or suffers from random panic or anxiety attacks.
Postpartum Depression: The Reasons Behind
For a mother suffering from the “blues” or from depression, coping and healing isn’t easy. Some heal and go back to normal in a few weeks’ time; but for others, it takes months or even years to recover. The blues occur to around 10% of women that had recently given birth. Family members must be observant and immediately act upon if they suspect a woman to be suffering from this disorder. Untreated and unresolved post-partum depression will greatly affect the mother-infant bonding. The depressed mother may not be able to immediately and properly respond to a newborn’s needs, for the reasons that she is pre-occupied with overwhelming sadness or confusion.
This perplexing phenomenon is a product of various interrelated factors. Irritable, exhausted, sleepy, tearful and sad; these emotions are common to a new mother. This is due to the following factors:
The waning of pregnancy hormones after the childbirth ordeal
Immediately after delivery, the hormones come back to its pre-pregnancy levels. This can come as a shock to the body, although most mothers hardly feel the transition. Some women are more susceptible to these changes, particularly if they have a pre-existing mood disorder or an old health problem.
External stress prolongs the recovery period after delivery
A new mother might be suffering from a major life change such as neglect from the newborn’s father, loss of a job or a difficult financial situation. The newborn might have been diagnosed with an illness and the mother’s worries add up to her depression. It can also be due to lack of support or because the mother is enduring a difficult career shift or life change.
Physical adjustments brought about by a long and tough delivery
The new mother might have lost a lot of blood. Her blood pressure or blood sugar might have spiraled up and down which is causing her to be irritable and unpredictable. Or it can also be due to her previous medical history that had been aggravated.
Lack of sleep
She might not have enough support during the first weeks after delivery. She can get overwhelmed with looking after baby’s needs round-the-clock without fail. She might need a lot of sleep but is instead perplexed with how to properly feed or care for her new baby. It might seem simple but it is difficult for a new mom who has no idea and no support system. Add to that the lack of sleep and the mother can expectedly burst out and feel lonely.
Coping and Healing Post-Partum Blues / Depression
An extra hand to care for the baby
A woman who looks withdrawn, sad, tearful or depressed will need lots of help. The first step is to give her a hand with childcare. She might not have much energy to nourish the baby. Help her with her own grooming and with baby’s basic needs such as feeding and diapering.
Ask for the doctor’s advice
Post-partum blues are not meant to last that long. The new mother must gradually recover in a week or two. If two weeks had already passed and there aren’t any changes, chances are, the woman will need professional help.
Read something positive and uplifting
Browse magazines and read some inspirational books. Browsing the internet and social media can be stressful. Instead, engage in simple pleasures such as reading and meditation.
Get lots of sleep
Quality sleep of just a few hours works wonders on clearing the mind of negative emotions. A clear head after a good night’s sleep helps to put things in perspective. Sleeping pills are not advisable; natural tools such as aromatherapy or music can help.
Listen to a good quality of music
Music therapy is one of the best ways to ease the blues and uplift a depressed mother’s mood. The right type of music can immediately affect a person’s heartbeat. It is amazing how with the right tunes and harmony, brain waves and mood can immediately stabilize, even without the help of medications. With music, panic attacks and anxiety can be curbed and a gloomy disposition can be uplifted gradually. Choose upbeat music with inspirational or affirming lyrics and play it throughout the day. At night or at rest time while feeding the baby, play soothing beats such as slow jazz, acoustics or classic tunes.
Meet or join mothers support groups
Mothers are the most patient listeners among them all. A confused new mom can gain support and validation from mothers who have also experienced childbirth. This experience bonds women and makes them instant friends, unlike anything! It is important that a mother suffering from the “blues” gain encouragement; it is not easy to overcome the feelings of loneliness and worthlessness alone.
There are times when a new mother that suffers from post-partum blues fails to recognize the signs of depression on her own. It is important to keep a watchful eye and to be observant around her. Depressed persons might not have that much energy to talk, let alone to seek help. Consider being sensitive and give her assistance, some time to talk and lots of encouragement. The birth of a new life can trigger the heaps of powerful emotions. The woman can recover in a few days but sometimes, she cannot resolve this on her own. Post-partum depression or blues is not a weakness, it just a complication brought about by giving birth. With the right support, music and medical intervention, this challenge can also be overcome.