Diving Deep into Postpartum Depression

Diving Deep into Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing that shows how strong, resilient, and capable a woman’s body is. Not only does having a child put a physical toll on someone’s body, but it can also have a mental and psychological strain. Postpartum depression is one of the most common difficulties encountered after having a child and it affects about 13% of women after delivery. The onset is usually four weeks to three months after delivery and the symptoms are like those of depression unrelated to childbearing. Women who experience postpartum depression often experience a diminished interest in activities, dysregulation of sleep and eating, and increased agitation among other symptoms correlated with depression (Winser et al., 2002). Since postpartum depression can be detrimental to a mother’s physical and mental health, its effects can trickle down to the child as well, potentially leading to cognitive and behavioral problems.

There are two types of postpartum depression: 1) nonpsychotic and 2) psychotic. The symptoms of postpartum nonpsychotic depression include sleep and appetite disturbances, the inability to concentrate, feelings of inadequacy as a parent, and dispirited moods (Miller, 2002), and it affects about 10% to 20% of women in the United States. Women can be at greater risk for it if they had a history of major depression, psychosocial stress, and inadequate support from others around them. There are many studies that show how social support for mothers can help prevent them from having postpartum depression. With a good support system, a mother can be aided with their childcare which can significantly reduce their stress.

Unlike postpartum nonpsychotic depression episodes, postpartum psychotic depression episodes involve more emotional lability which is rapid and exaggerated changes in mood in relation to strong emotions. Also, if a mother who is suffering from this kind of postpartum depression has thoughts of hurting her child, she is more likely to act on them (Miller, 2002). The severity of this form of depression is due to a mix of manic and depressive features coupled with mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. Proper treatment such as taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and therapy, needs to be done in order to reduce the likelihood of recurrence, even after the postpartum period. It will greatly benefit the mother and child alike.

The question of what causes postpartum depression is still ongoing, and there are many possible reasons why some women are afflicted by it and others are not. One hypothesis may be the sudden drop in hormones after birth. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels increase significantly, then drop quickly back to the levels before pregnancy 24 hours after delivery. This is only one of many possible reasons women experience this kind of depression, but there are many other external factors that can potentially perpetuate it such as environmental stressors and psychiatric history.

Unfortunately, stigmas are seen in all cultures, and they can have extremely debilitating effects on the individual. Mothers are not spared from the stigmas that society puts on mental illness. In a study done by Dennis and Chung-Lee in 2006, it was found that the fear of labeling and shame were the main factors that prevent mothers from seeking out postpartum help. The idea of “mother blaming” which is shaming the mother for unfortunate incidents that are out of her control, has been embedded in many cultures and in the minds of people, thus making it difficult for mothers to reach out for help and assistance (Pinto-Foltz & Logsdon, 2008).

Postpartum depression is a common illness that plagues millions of mothers globally. There needs to be an increase in education in order to staunch the stigma that comes along with mental illness. Moreover, mothers should also be given proper and adequate support before, during, and after delivery, no matter their socioeconomic status. Education and equal treatment are what are necessary to help mothers all over the world, and it will provide them with the support necessary to raise their child(ren) to become balanced and healthy people.

References

Miller LJ. (2002) Postpartum depression. JAMA. 287(6):762–765. doi:10.1001/jama.287.6.762 

Wisner, K. L., & Piontek, C. M. (2002). Postpartum depression. The New England Journal of Medicine, 6. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMcp011542 

Pinto-Foltz, M. D., & Logsdon, M. C. (2008). Stigma towards mental illness: A concept analysis using postpartum depression as an exemplar. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 29(1), 21–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840701748698 

Pinto-Foltz, M. D., & Logsdon, M. C. (2008). Stigma towards mental illness: A concept analysis using postpartum depression as an exemplar. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 29(1), 21–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840701748698 

Image from: https://alohabehavioral.com/2019/04/16/the-roller-coaster-ride-of-postpartum-depression/

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