Post-partum depression - An emptiness mom can't fully comprehendMonday, June 07, 2021
LITTLE did Kori-Ann Cole-Smith know that after having her son, she would suffer immense emotional stress due to post-partum depression, a condition suffered by some mothers following childbirth due to significant changes in hormone levels.
Cole-Smith, a mother to a three-year-old boy, recalled that while she was happy to meet her new bundle of joy, she felt an emptiness that she couldn't fully comprehend.
“I was happy at first but the least little thing that would happen would set me off into a downward spiral. I would be sad, emotional, my mood swings would happen very often,” Cole-Smith said.
It was after she went to her doctor for unrelated medical issues that she was advised to seek counselling because she was showing extreme signs of depression.
In addition to having severe mood swings, Cole-Smith told All Woman that she had thoughts about harming herself after she had her son because “sometimes I think he would be better off without me”.
The mother stated, “ [It happens] if he's fussy, because he tends to go to his father mostly, his father is his best friend, so he comes to me whenever he's sick, but apart from that he goes to daddy for everything. Whenever I'm in a bad mood, I think to myself, you know what, he doesn't even want me right now, he doesn't even want me to help comfort him, I can tell that he would be better off without me.”
However, praising her husband of three years, the 27-year-old mother said he understood what she went through and tried his best to help her.
“My husband is my support, he was there for me when I was at my worst. Because of my husband, I'm now in the process of trying to open up [more] to my mom and my sister,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), post-partum depression is the most common complication of childbearing, affecting approximately 10 to 15 per cent of women.
Explaining that a drop in the hormone levels of oestrogen and progesterone (the hormones that aid in maintaining the pregnancy) is the main cause of post-partum depression, consulting psychiatrist Dr E Anthony Allen also stated, “It can be triggered by the [difficult] circumstances surrounding having the child, or it can be triggered by lack of support or difficulties in dealing with the child, but it can also come on by itself due to hormonal changes within the body.”
Dr Allen also noted that one might feel some amount of sadness and fatigue due to childbirth known as the baby blues, but post-partum depression is different because it affects a person's ability to cope with everyday living and baby blues generally last up to a week after delivery.
In addition, Dr Allen said every pregnant woman should go through a screening session for depression and mental health history.
“After the pregnancy delivery, they should be monitored closely to assess the person's mood. Also the family should be aware of the possibility of this kind of thing happening,” Dr Allen added.
Chiming in, professor in the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry at The University of the West Indies, Dr Roger Gibson, believes that there should be more initiatives to bring awareness to post-partum depression as it affects a large per cent of the female population.
“The subject of post-partum depression could be incorporated more into awareness and sensitisation campaigns related to mental health in general and also into maternal health education programmes and materials geared towards pregnant women. Women who feel comfortable speaking about their experiences with post-partum depression could also share these experiences in appropriate forums,” Dr Gibson stated.
Dr Gibson also noted that young mothers, who have poor social support, are most at risk for having post-partum depression.
“Mothers [who are] most at risk would include those who are very young, have poor social support, and have never been pregnant before. Women who have had a previous episode of post-partum depression are also at higher than average risk of having another episode in a subsequent pregnancy,” he said.
Continuing, Dr Gibson explained that this condition can be treated with psychotherapy, in which the woman has an opportunity to speak with a therapist about what she is experiencing and together they may work out effective ways of coping.
“Medications that help with the normalisation of the woman's mood may also be helpful, enhancing the woman's social support is often another helpful approach,” he added.
Both psychiatrists noted that the condition can adversely affect the child's development, as the child would not be receiving adequate emotional and physical contact from their mother, which may cause behavioural problems in the child.
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