Okay, so you’ve just had a baby. Celebrations, cake and balloons should be in order. Only, you aren’t quite feeling the cheer. In fact, the nine months of joy, anticipation and excitement you felt during your pregnancy are now inverted into a sense of perennial gloom that seems to loom over you like a giant Eeyorishoy web.
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Postpartum depression is a clinical condition that can affect new parents after childbirth. It can affect new mothers and fathers, and its symptoms generally include extreme sadness, exhaustion, tearfulness, changes in eating patterns, reduced libido and self-doubt.
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Baby blues are normal, right? They are. But baby blues generally lift after about two weeks of childbirth. If you’re still encumbered by a curious depression by the time your baby is two weeks old, and you find it challenging to perform daily tasks for yourself and your family, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.
Although about 10% of women develop symptoms of postpartum depression, there’s a misperception that it becomes evident only after childbirth. Nope, not really. Expectant mothers can face symptoms of depression while they’re still pregnant, although they become more pronounced after childbirth.
The first thing you need to know while addressing postpartum depression is that it’s not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. So, first thing’s first; stop beating yourself up for feeling lousy. This form of depression isn’t prompted by something you’ve done. It’s usually a product of genetic, hormonal and emotional influences that you have played no role in.
Sometimes, new parents also fall privy to the condition because of exhaustion, lifestyle changes after childbirth, and lack of sleep. If you have a history of depression or anxiety, your chances of developing postpartum depression are higher. Speak to a doctor if you’re wary of developing postpartum depression. It’s always better to be prepared.
Absolutely! Postpartum depression can be alleviated with the right treatment. It really depends on the degree to which the condition has affected you. If your symptoms are mild, your doctor may suggest that you wait to see whether the condition ebbs on its own. If your life is severely affected by postpartum depression on the other hand, you may be prescribed antidepressant medication and counselling. Antidepressants can change the chemical composition in your brain, which in turn, can temper your emotional balance.
In some cases, antidepressants may not adequately treat postpartum depression and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be recommended. ECT is a procedure in which minute electric currents are transmitted through the brain, causing chemical changes that lift the emotional equilibrium. As a result, the symptoms of depression may be alleviated.
Postpartum depression can send you into a swirl of emotions. When you seek medical intervention for it on time, it’s likely that you’ll lift yourself off this melancholic cloud within about four weeks. During this time, if you’re breastfeeding your baby, you may worry that the medication is being passed on to your child. Rest assured, that the levels you’re passing on to your child are extremely low, almost negligible really. And more importantly, your doctor will prescribe medication keeping your child in mind.
Postpartum depression is a conquerable condition. When you rise above it, you’ll discover the joy in little things. Like the way your baby laughs. Or the first time he stands up. You’ll learn something new every day. And perhaps, to honour this beautiful new phase of life, you can call for another round of cake and celebrations.
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