All Woman

Your pregnancy: Post-partum depression

Wednesday, June 11, 2014    

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Having a child is supposed to be one of the most rewarding times in a woman's life. Suddenly she's smothered with tons of well wishers and all signs point to syrupy times ahead. And then reality kicks in. The baby's born, the well wishers continue on their way and real life hits her in the face. She's responsible for another human being for the rest of her life.

Though the topic seems taboo, many women succumb to an artificial cheerfulness, while underneath they're teeming with overwhelming feelings of depression.

This is quite normal, doctors say.

The 'baby blues' — mild depression — is one of the conditions that is shoved under the umbrella called post-partum depression.

Baby blues is usually mild depression characterised by crying, irritability and anxiety. It usually comes shortly after delivery and resolves in a week or two.

But post-partum depression takes a much longer time to resolve. It is characterised by crying spells, insomnia, loss of appetite, feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. And in severe cases, it leads to a psychosis which could result in the mother harming herself or her child.

These mothers tend to lose touch with reality. They suffer from visual hallucinations, they have to be hospitalised and need intensive therapy.

Many women admit that counselling about depression does not come as part of the pre-natal or post-natal counselling that women get from their doctors, and so many cases go unnoticed.

It's also taboo for a new mother to hint that she may not be as happy about her baby as the world expects her to be.

Post-partum depression is common, but is oftentimes not diagnosed. Statistics show that one in 10 women worldwide is prone to post-partum depression.

Women need support from the family unit or the spouse, which is crucial. A lack of such support only increases a woman's risk of being depressed.

Most importantly, women need to open up to their doctors who can begin treatment through support groups, medical therapy in the form of antidepressants or psychotherapy.

Unfortunately, doctors do not know the cause of post-partum depression but risk factors include having a family history of depression, other mood related conditions such as bipolar disorders, or depression in previous pregnancies. Also at risk are substance abusers.

And post-partum depression does not transcend race barriers and age groups, although it is said to be higher in women who are older.

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