Arrival of a baby is supposed to be one of the happiest and joyous experiences in a mother’s life. However, some women may experience postpartum disorders following childbirth that may deeply affect their mental health and well-being, in turn also affecting the care of the baby.
Having a baby is a significant life change and for many new mothers the lack of sleep and fatigue may take its toll on them. Many new mothers experience what is commonly known as ‘postpartum/ baby blues’. These are mood swings the new mother experiences as a result of hormonal fluctuations post childbirth. Postpartum blues are very common and may be experienced by majority of women. The onset of postpartum blues usually occurs a few days after delivery and should begin to subside as hormone levels stabilise in a weeks’ time.
Simple ways in which postpartum blues can be managed:
Ensuring a somewhat fixed schedule every day.
Help from the partner or other family members.
Making sure the new mother gets adequate rest and sleep. Diet must be adequately nutritious.
Making sure the new parents get some time to themselves to relax and unwind. Spending time together is also important to reconnect and share feelings.
Exercise is effective in uplifting mood. Easing back into some physical fitness routine would be immensely helpful.
However, a few new mothers may develop more serious concerns such as peripartum and postpartum depression, anxiety or even psychosis. Hence, it is imperative for new mothers, their partners and care takers to also pay attention to their mental health and feelings of well-being. Peripartum refers to those mood symptoms that occur during pregnancy and postpartum are those that may develop in 4 weeks following delivery.
If a person continues to experience mood swings or feelings of depression for more than two weeks post childbirth, the problem may be more serious and special attention must be paid.
Signs and symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety to look out for:
The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as clinical depression, involving persistent low mood, decrease in interest, excessive fatigue and lethargy, crying spells, feeling helpless and inadequate, loss of appetite and sleep, increased irritability, anxiety and panic attacks, intense worry about the child or lack of concern.
In rare cases, some women may also experience Postpartum Psychosis. A few signs and symptoms to look out for are:
Postpartum psychosis involves presence of psychotic symptoms post childbirth. Women experiencing these symptoms may develop strange beliefs or ideas without any basis, they may hear or see things that are not really there (hallucinations), may become suspicious and paranoid and fear harm from others, they may experience rapid mood swings involving euphoric mood with overactivity to high irritability and anger, may feel disorganised, may have decreased need or inability to sleep.
If you or a new mother you know are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to get help. Both these conditions require intervention by a mental health specialist and hence the patient and their families/friends should seek help immediately. These conditions can be managed well with proper treatment and care.