When a woman gives birth and holds the baby she goes through various emotions ranging from happiness, excitement, fear, anxiety, and even pleasure. 1 in 7 women just after three days post-birth experience tremendous changes physically, mentally, and emotionally leading to depression. Postpartum depression has become an unspoken topic in society. When the woman approaches their family for help most of the time they are being ignored that this is normal and common post-delivery. So it’s important to know what’s postpartum depression, when to seek help and how your spouse and family members could be supportive.

Let’s start with what’s postpartum depression?
         First, we need to understand that postpartum depression is not a physical illness, it is a type of mood disorder that is characterized by extreme crying, feeling irritated and sad most of the time, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and feeling low and tired. If left untreated in severe cases the person will also have thoughts of self-harm.

What is the cause behind this?
         There is no exact cause behind this. There are various factors contributing to it:
(1) A Sudden drop in the hormones post-birth
(2) Family history of mood disorders or depression
(3) Unplanned pregnancy or having a baby with special needs or any complications that have occurred during pregnancy or delivery such as preterm birth
(4) Lack of support from the partner or family
(5) Trauma during childbirth

When to seek help?
         80 percent of all women post-birth experience all the above symptoms. These are termed ‘’Baby blues’’ and usually it is temporary and goes within 3-5 days. Now when it lasts longer than two weeks or is very intense, then postpartum depression should be considered. Family members and the partner should have a talk and listen to the new mother and also should encourage them to seek professional help. Ignoring them will further have a negative impact on their mental health.

Do you know that fathers also experience postpartum depression?
         Yes, it’s true. According to research about 25 percent of the new dads also experience postpartum depression. Though they don’t express much like women and conceal their emotions most of the time, if left untreated and unnoticed affects not only them but also the child’s development. 
The major causes of postpartum depression in men include:
(1) Financial worries
(2) Family history of depression or mood disorder
(3) Alcohol usage or substance abuse
(4) Men who are older

In what way does the untreated postpartum depression of the parents affect the child?
         You might have a question in mind now that your baby is too young to remember things. Does it still impact your child later in life? Yes, it does. A newborn needs to have a deep attachment with the mother. Actions such as holding, rocking, and talking to the baby promotes attachment which helps with good emotional development in later life. When the mother is depressed they would not be able to provide this attachment since they usually feel insecure with themselves. When a baby grows in such a situation it later experiences trouble in interacting with the mother, attains development slower than the other children, has a higher risk for hyperactivity, becomes more aggressive, and has a high risk of having anxiety and other mood disorders.

         According to a study, When a child grows around a parent with untreated postpartum depression is
● 4 times more likely to experience behavioral problems between the ages of 2-5
● 7 times more likely to experience depression and other mood disorders above the age of 18

         Few women don’t present with typical symptoms of postpartum depression but complain of aches and pains that last longer despite various treatments. It could also be postpartum depression where the body tries to distract itself from the depression by activating the nerves which transmit the pain. This process is called ‘’Somatization’’. Hence when a woman experiences long-lasting aches, emotional aspects should also be considered.

Social stigma:
         Often women don’t report their illness or seek help since they are made to feel ashamed and labeled as ‘’Bad Mothers’’. Some cultures, especially in Malaysia and China and in a few parts of India believe that these behaviors are due to a spirit. Now, these are the reasons why postpartum depression gets unnoticed.

Things that help to avoid and treat postpartum depression are:
(1) Group therapy
(2) Seeking professional help
(3) Medications
(4) Relaxation techniques
(5) Exercise

         During pregnancy, the woman receives all the love and attention from family members and partners. Now, this attention is completely shifted to the newborn post- birth and the mothers are ignored most of the time. A support system is very much essential for new mothers. And though mothers spend most of their time looking after newborns, they must also take some time for themselves too. Also recording their emotions and feelings every day in a journal helps them to look back and know their progress. It is okay to have these and it’s very normal since childbirth makes a huge impact on one’s lifestyle but the important thing is to seek help as early as possible.