Childbirth can be exhausting. This is because the process of giving birth to a child comes with a lot of physical, hormonal, emotional, psychological changes as well as challenges apart from the day-to-day ones. Even after childbirth, a lot of women go through a phase of emotional overwhelm besides other physical challenges. It’s akin to embarking on a new relationship that takes the new mothers on an emotional rollercoaster. This can evoke both positive and negative thoughts. When women become mothers, they also grapple with thoughts about their new responsibility towards the child, whether they can fulfil them properly, maintaining her own well-being, etc. In such a situation, a lot of women experience postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common form of depression that affects women after childbirth. While the severity of PPD can vary, many women feel reluctant to open up about their experiences, fearing a lack of understanding from their families. Many women may not even recognise that they are suffering from PPD, dismissing it as a small issue. Statistics reveal that one in seven women suffers from postpartum depression. Although this condition typically surfaces around six weeks after childbirth, it can manifest even a few months before delivery in certain cases. Women who become mothers at a young age or give birth prematurely may exhibit heightened symptoms of PPD. Additionally, factors such as urbanisation and the prevalence of nuclear families have been linked to an increased incidence of postpartum depression.
What are the symptoms?
There are some common symptoms of postpartum depression that women experience. They are:
- To be on the verge of crying for unexplainable reasons and sudden outburst of tears
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of interest in work
- Feeling sad
- Getting angry over small things
- Lack of sleep
- Feeling tired
- Feeling guilty
Feeling a sense of worthlessness
Forty-two-year-old Ipsa Pathak from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, says, “I used to feel depressed even before my delivery. I had concerns about how I will look after my child. Overthinking left a serious impact on my health, and I went to see a doctor and took medicines. But I feel that women need support from their near ones more than medication in such a situation. A woman faces a lot of new things after giving birth for the first time. She thinks about the child more than herself. While it is common during pregnancy, my anxiety grew a few months before and after the delivery of the child. When my daughter grew up a little and my mother helped me in handling her, the situation became better.” Ipsa currently runs a folk-art business.
Sanghamitra, a 25-year-old woman from Hajipur in Bihar says, “I had slight concerns during pregnancy. But they turned into big worries when I approached the delivery date. After delivery, we had some people at home who took care of the baby and I felt at ease. But when they left, I was left alone with my newborn daughter. I used to end up crying without any reasons. I used to feel anxious about taking care of my child and felt helpless and lonely. Also, whenever somebody came to meet me, they used to ask me about my child and that gave me a feeling that I became worthless after my child’s birth. I started gaining weight but not many people could understand my situation. But then I started explaining to myself that the situation has changed now and adjusted myself to the new realities. Things got better only after that.”
Recognising postpartum depression
Psychiatrist Dr Binda Singh suggests that new mothers should reflect on certain questions to assess their wellbeing. These questions include: ‘Do you frequently experience sadness and a desire to cry?’ or ‘Do you have thoughts of self-harm?’. A positive response to these inquiries indicates the presence of postpartum depression in women. Many women struggle with feelings of sadness, irritability, anger, and pressure as they grapple with adjusting to the sudden changes that come with the arrival of a child and the associated increased responsibilities. Concerns about personal health and career also contribute to this emotional burden. While timely support and treatment from family can help normalise the situation, not all women receive such assistance.
Two major factors contributing to postpartum depression among women are becoming a mother at a young age and the sudden increase in responsibilities. It is crucial for women to carefully consider marriage and parenthood when they feel confident in their ability to manage these responsibilities. Mental preparation is important, as childbirth brings changes not only to their own lives but also to the world around them, ultimately leading to positive outcomes. It is advisable for women to try to minimise negative thinking, prioritise their mental well-being, and seek support from their families. In severe cases, medication therapy, alongside counselling can also be an option.
Nowadays, there is a significant focus on making mothers feel cherished on Mother’s Day. However, what holds greater importance than this one-day celebration is the continuous effort to ensure that women experience joy in their motherhood journey every day. Instead of pressuring them to be perfect mothers, it is essential to assist them in their noble responsibility of caring for their children. Providing emotional support to mothers and practicing patience with them is crucial because a happy mother is vital for the well-being of her children. It is also important to raise awareness about the challenges and disorders that women may face after becoming mothers. Educating women and their families about problems like postpartum depression during pregnancy is crucial in promoting understanding and support.
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