BUNDLES OF STRESS: DEALING WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

Dr. Nusrat Habib Rana

3 min read

postpartum-depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common psychological condition that many new mothers face, yet few acknowledge. Brought on by hormonal imbalances and feelings of stress, isolation and depression after childbirth, the symptoms of PPD are similar to ‘baby blues’, except much more intense and prolonged.

While the blues start, peak and fade within 2 weeks of delivery, symptoms of PPD appear 4-6 weeks after giving birth-although it can start as early as the 3rd trimester-and may develop into clinical depression later on if left untreated.

Do You Have PPD?

Women with a genetic history of depression and anxiety, or records of postpartum depression in a previous pregnancy are 30-50% more likely to develop PPD. However, presence of some or all of the following traits might also confirm a positive PPD diagnosis:

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and pessimism
  • Emotional detachment with your partner and baby
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Constant fatigue, restlessness and irritability
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Difficulty in concentrating, remembering and decision making
  • Physical symptoms like headaches or indigestion that do not respond to medication
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts

How To Beat It?

1- Bond With Your Baby

Interact with your baby as much as possible: through practices as small as smiling at or singing to your baby or giving him/her a massage. Regular contact with your baby will increase endorphin and oxytocin, or ‘happy hormone’ levels in your body, that boost confidence and induce positivity, enabling you to care for and recognize nonverbal cues from your baby more readily, hence reducing emotional detachment that is a signature symptom of PPD.

2- Cry

Tears are your body’s way of restoring hormonal balance by releasing excess hormones produced during the 3rd trimester. Since hormonal imbalance and buildup of potentially harmful hormones is a common depression trigger, cry whenever you feel like it, instead of holding it back, to cleanse your body.

3- Learn To Lean On Others

Taking care of a newborn is physically and emotionally draining; and you should not be expected to do it alone. Make a baby-care schedule and divide daily chores with your partner. You can also hire domestic help or ask your relatives, like your mother or mother-in-law, for regular assistance.

4- Move Around

Exercising for 20-30 minutes a day, even in small chunks of 10 minutes at a time, will not only boost your mood, but also keep you active and distracted from negative thoughts. If exercise routines are difficult, simply take daily 20-30 minute walks, either alone or with your baby-which can also promote bonding.

5- Rest

Sleep-deprivation fuels depression. Since a baby’s irregular sleep schedule make longer rest times near-impossible, sleep when the baby sleeps. Short power naps 2-3 times a day can provide instant energy and keep depression at bay.

6- Pamper Yourself

Do not neglect yourself. Entrust the baby to someone else-your partner or a trusted relative-once every few days and enjoy a long shower or indulge in small-scale retail therapy. Watch TV, read a book, or dress up, if you feel like it; and remember that self-care doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent.

7- Breastfeed

Studies suggest that regular breastfeeding can reduce the risk of PPD, so continue if you’re comfortable with it. However, if breastfeeding makes you feel agitated or angry (Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER), feel free to choose an alternative.

8- Keep Your Diet In Check

Increasing your fish oil consumption might be a good idea if you’re diagnosed with PPD. Postpartum depression can be affected by certain nutrient-imbalances as well, for example omega-3 fatty acid imbalance. Current research shows that women with lower consumption of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, have a higher probability of having postpartum depression.

A great source of DHA is seafood. For vegetarians, flaxseed oil is an excellent alternative. If you’re into supplements, you can find them at certain specialist supplement shops. You can also find supplements at your local grocery store.

What To Avoid?

1- Scary Things

Women diagnosed with PPD are highly suggestible i.e. they instantly relate everything they hear and see with themselves, which is why you should avoid horror films and novels, realistic medical shows, the news and websites or forums on death and disease to keep stress-inducing thoughts at bay.

2- Isolation

Due to societal norms, women are expected to devote their full attention towards their baby, which often leads to feelings of isolation and detachment from people and surroundings. Talking to friends and family and making new like-minded acquaintances s an effective combat strategy against isolation.

3- Unsupportive People

Anyone who blames you or looks down on you for your mental illness is best avoided-at least temporarily. Surround yourself with supportive relatives and friends who can help, rather than hinder your recovery.

Report to a doctor immediately if you recognize signs of PPD in yourself or your partner, as only a professional can appropriately gauge whether the above measures are sufficient, or whether medical treatment, like psychotherapy and anti-depressants, is required. You can also book an appointment with a top Psychiatrist in Islamabad, Multan and Karachi through oladoc.com. Or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your post-natal needs.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Nusrat Habib Rana Dr. Nusrat Habib Rana is a Psychiatrist practicing in Lahore. She is Ph.D from Spain, MD from China and MCPS from Pakistan. If you wish to seek her advice on mental health issues, please visit oladoc and get an appointment with her.