Dr Soundarya, granddaughter of former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, was in her early 30s when her life suddenly came to an end on Friday. Soundarya was a doctor by profession, a member of an influential family, happily married to another doctor and mother of a six-month-old child. Yet she lost the battle of her life against postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a serious mental health issue that affects many new mothers in India and is rarely talked about. Most women suffer from depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy, believing it to be part of the process. It’s not. Postpartum depression is a dangerous but treatable condition that can put those affected at risk for suicidal behavior.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
Postpartum depression is a dangerous medical condition involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep and appetite. It carries risks for both mother and child.
During pregnancy and the period shortly after childbirth, mothers go through many physical, emotional, financial and social changes. This puts some women at risk of developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
More than half of all new mothers experience the “baby blues,” which involves crying for no reason, irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. But baby blues is different from postpartum depression because it only lasts a week or two.
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If these feelings last longer, it may be postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can be emotionally and physically debilitating for the mother and can last for months or longer. This puts her and the baby in danger.
“Baby blues, which occurs during the first two weeks after childbirth, is very common and usually affects about 50% of new mothers. Postpartum depression, although less common, is still prevalent in India. About 5% of all women who suffer from baby blues suffer from postpartum depression,” said Dr Vishal Chhabra, senior consultant psychiatrist at Fortis Healthcare.
Dr Chhabra said postpartum depression is more dangerous because there is a risk of patients being suicidal.
“Postpartum depression also seriously affects child care. A newborn baby is totally dependent on his mother. If the mother is depressed, it will affect her ability to provide adequate care for her child,” said Dr Shweta Sharma , clinical psychologist at Manipal Hospital, Gurugram, mentioned.
Dr. Shamra said that if left untreated for more than a year, postpartum depression can develop into other mental illnesses like paranoia and panic anxiety disorder. It can even lead to psychosis, a feeling of mistrust towards others, she says.
“There are the baby blues, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, and then there is postpartum psychosis, which can be much more dangerous. A patient with postpartum psychosis can be at risk to harm her baby,” Dr Chhabra, who is also the president of the Delhi Psychiatric Society, said.
Depression and anxiety also affect many women during pregnancy. This usually increases risk factors, causing distress for the baby, he said.
CAN POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION BE TREATED
Yes, depression during or after pregnancy is treatable.
“There are safe drugs that can help mothers without affecting the baby. The stigma surrounding psychiatric medicine during pregnancy prevents most women from seeking treatment. However, I can assure you that we now have safe drugs that do not ‘not affect the pregnancy or the breast-fed baby,'” Dr. Chhabra said.
In addition to medication, Dr. Shweta Sharma said, it is also important for new mothers to undergo psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps new mothers get to know themselves better and understand their feelings and emotions so they can start loving themselves and being there for themselves and their baby again.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS/SIGNALS THE FAMILY NEEDS TO WATCH FOR
Having a newborn is usually such a big change in a parent’s life that signs of postpartum depression are often overlooked as “normal.” However, certain symptoms can clearly indicate that a mother is suffering from depression.
According to Dr. Chhabra, signs of postpartum depression that family and friends should watch out for include more frequent crying than usual, anxiety, decreased sleep, decreased appetite, and feeling drowsy. choking. New mothers who suffer from postpartum depression also tend to have a lot of negative thoughts like – I’m not a good mother, I’m not good for my baby, I can’t stand it, life isn’t worth the pain of being lived, etc.
“In India, families pay a lot of attention to a pregnant woman, but as soon as the baby is born, the attention shifts to the baby. Families often tend to ignore or miss the signs of emotional distress in new mothers,” Dr. Sharma said.
“It’s important that family members take care of new mothers as well. So that they can heal emotionally and physically,” she said.
WHEN IS IT TIME TO GO TO THE DOCTOR
New mothers who experience decreased sleep and hunger for several days along with negative thoughts and death wishes should see a psychiatrist immediately, Dr. Chhabra said.
“People need to remember that doctors are good, drugs are good. They shouldn’t be afraid of treatment,” he said.
Dr Sharma said people avoid treatment for mental illnesses because of a lack of knowledge. “People consider that asking for medical help would declare them insane. They also think that they will also have to take medication forever. The intake of medication is only prolonged when the medication is taken without psychotherapy,” he said. she declared.
“Mental illness begins with thoughts, and patients must learn to manage their thoughts to get better,” she said.
CAN POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION BE PREVENTED?
There are two types of risk factors that can cause postpartum depression – modifiable and non-modifiable. The latter includes factors such as genetics and history of depression. However, mothers can reduce their risk of depression by focusing on modifiable factors such as a good routine and good diet.
“A good routine, better diet, no substance use, a good sleep schedule, yoga and meditation, and managing work and personal stress can all help reduce the risk of postpartum depression,” said said Dr. Chhabra.
According to Dr. Shweta Sharma, expectant parents should see psychologists at least once every trimester to assess their mental health and identify any red flags. “Just like when they have a monthly physical exam, expectant parents should see a psychologist at least once every trimester and once after the baby is born to understand their emotions and identify red flags,” he said. she stated.