Let’s Talk About Post- Partum Depression and Where to Find Help in Kenya
The Mayo Clinic describes post-partum depression like this:
The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.
Most new moms experience postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks.
But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth.
Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and help you bond with your baby.
It’s worth remembering that “postpartum” basically means going back to being not-pregnant. So those who have had a miscarriage or abortion can also experience many of the mental and physical effects of being in the postpartum period, including PPD.
What’s more, male partners can be diagnosed with it too. Even though they may not experience the physical changes brought on by giving birth, they do experience many of the lifestyle ones. A 2010 analysis by Trusted Source suggests about 10 percent of fathers are diagnosed with PPD, especially between 3 and 6 months after birth.
The timeline for PPD is different for everyone. If you have certain risk factors, you might find your PPD lasting longer even with treatment. The severity of your symptoms and how long you had symptoms before beginning treatment can affect how long your PPD lasts.
Risk factors include:
- a history of depression or other mental illness
- breastfeeding difficulties
- a complicated pregnancy or delivery
- a lack of support from your partner or family members and friends
- other major life changes occurring during the postpartum period, like a move or loss of employment
- a history of PPD after a previous pregnancy
There’s no formula to determine who will experience PPD and who won’t, or for how long it’ll last. But with the right treatment, especially when it’s received early, you can find relief even if you have one of these risk factors.
What you need to know
Symptoms of postpartum depression vary person to person and even day to day. If you have postpartum depression, chances are you’re familiar with several of these indicators:
- You feel sad or cry a lot, even when you don’t know why.
- You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep.
- You sleep too much.
- You can’t stop eating, or you aren’t interested in food at all.
- You have various unexplained aches, pains, or illnesses.
- You don’t know why you’re irritable, anxious, or angry.
- Your moods change suddenly and without warning.
- You feel out of control.
- You have difficulty remembering things.
- You can’t concentrate or make simple decisions.
- You have no interest in things you used to enjoy.
- You feel disconnected from your baby and wonder why you’re not filled with joy like you thought you’d be.
- Everything feels overwhelming and hopeless.
- You feel worthless and guilty about your feelings.
- You feel like you can’t open up to anyone because they’ll think you’re a bad mother or take your baby, so you withdraw.
- You want to escape from everyone and everything.
- You have intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or your baby.
Your friends and family may notice that you’re withdrawing from them and from social activities or that you just don’t seem like yourself.
Symptoms are most likely to start within a few weeks of delivery. Sometimes, postpartum depression doesn’t surface until months later. Symptoms may let up for a day or two and then return. Without treatment, symptoms may continue to worsen.
Treatment for postpartum depression
If you have symptoms of postpartum depression, you should see your doctor as soon as possible so that you can get started on treatment.
There are two main treatments for postpartum depression: medication and therapy. Either one can be used alone, but they may be more effective when used together. It’s also important to make some healthy choices in your daily routine.
It may take a few tries to find out what treatment works for you. Keep open communication with your doctor.
Antidepressants have a direct effect on the brain. They alter the chemicals that regulate mood. They won’t work right away, though. It can take several weeks of taking the medication before you notice a difference in your mood.
Some people have side effects while taking antidepressants. These may include fatigue, decreased sex drive, and dizziness. If side effects seem to be making your symptoms worse, tell your doctor right away.
Some antidepressants are safe to take if you’re breastfeeding, but others may not be. Be sure to tell your doctor if you breastfeed.
If your estrogen levels are low, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy.
A psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional can provide counseling. Therapy can help you make sense of destructive thoughts and offer strategies for working through them.
This part of treatment may be a little more difficult than it sounds. Practicing self-care means cutting yourself some slack.
You shouldn’t attempt to shoulder more responsibility than you can handle. Others may not instinctively know what you need, so it’s important to tell them. Take some “me time,” but don’t isolate yourself. Consider joining a support group for new mothers.
Alcohol is a depressant, so you should steer clear of it. Instead, give your body every opportunity to heal. Eat a well-balanced diet and get some exercise each day, even if it’s only a walk around the neighborhood.
Treatment helps most women feel better within six months, though it can take longer.
Where to Find Help in Kenya