The anguish of new mothers: Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Parul Budhraja Khanna

As human beings, our nature entails us to be a tad resistant to change; ironically, even when change is the only constant. And when that change involves sprouting of a new life amongst us, it can get overwhelming for anyone.

New mothers are no strangers to the surge of those overwhelming emotions. Sure, newborns are a little bit of heaven sent to earth but when all of a sudden, your body goes through tremendous changes and nights get sleep deprived; the momentous phase can take a grueling toll on you. This fatiguing conundrum can affect you in the forms of; postpartum depression, postpartum baby blues or postpartum psychosis.

Patterns of Postpartum depression (postnatal and perinatal disorder)

Can you imagine how one would feel, when one has yearned to see the face of their infant, waited long enough to know their baby and expected it to be a joyous experience but in turn get terrified of their own child. This feeling emerges because of several reasons; one of them being the nagging thought and fear of not being able to take proper care of the newborn. Many women are reluctant or apprehensive to speak up when they’re suffering from PPD because they dread the frowned foreheads that they’ll have to face. Talk about societal pressures! We need to understand that depression after delivery doesn’t imply that the mother loves her child any less but it’s a sign of excessive exhaustion (physical and mental) that drives them to this psychological disorder. PPD can be treated effectively with some help. However, for that those around a new mother, must pick up the symptomatic signs when she is hesitant to open up about it or doesn’t realize it for herself what she is going through.

Postpartum depression is what experts may also refer to as perinatal or postnatal disorder. Contrary to popular belief, PPD is not just about being depressed; there’s far more graveness to it than what we might estimate. PPD is a severe form of clinical depression related to pregnancy and childbirth. One with this ailment might lose appetite or start overeating. Furthermore, it gets hard to shun the debilitating emotions of guilt, fear and anxiety. New mother might lose the sense of her identity and develop uncontrollable thoughts of harming her own child. These symptoms usually appear within the first three months after the baby is born, and peak around the four-month mark. However, the worst part is when a lady lives with these symptoms for years because they go undiagnosed or untreated. About 20% of mothers and 10% new fathers experience these sentiments. Sadly, it can affect their marital life too.

Season plays a role in hiking the risks of PPD

Believe it or not, a report from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, suggests that mothers who deliver around winter or spring are less likely to develop PPD. Yet, there is no hard and fast rule that would advise women not to have a baby in summer. Additionally, having a baby at full term as well as usage of anesthesia during delivery lowers the risks of PPD too. When the gestational age of the baby is long, the infant is more mature which reduces the precariousness. Similarly, the experience of women who avoid anesthesia during the delivery or labor can be more traumatizing which may be associated with heightened danger of PPD. It has been observed that women who combat with obesity are at a greater threat to undergo depression post childbirth. Chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital, in Huntington, New York said, “women who are at high risk for postpartum depression include those who have a history of depression or anxiety, who suffered from the condition after a previous delivery, or who have a family history of mental problems.”

Your hormone levels are particularly influential to your personality and these levels rise when you’re pregnant. Although, post childbirth, they drop dramatically. This sudden change can also trigger depression in some women. A study in the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology states; Pregnant women who have lower levels of what is referred to as, the “cuddle hormone” or the “hormone of love,” i.e. oxytocin may be at greater risk of developing postpartum depression. Additionally, unwanted pregnancy or taking care of a child with special needs can have these tormenting effects too.

How is PPD different from Postpartum baby blues and Postpartum psychosis

There are certain other kinds of similar afflictions that can inflict a new mother other than PPD.

With the Baby Blues, you can be profoundly vulnerable and experience emotional fluctuations. Your mood swings quickly from happy to sad. One minute, you’re proud of the job that you’re doing as a new mom. The next, you’re crying because you think you’re not up to the task. You don’t feel like eating or taking care of yourself because you’re frazzled. You feel irritable, overwhelmed, anxious and lack of concentration along with the urge to cling onto someone. The good news is that these signs last only for about two weeks subsequent to giving birth.

With Postpartum Psychosis, a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery, the symptomatic signs are even more austere. You’re more prone to confusion and disorientation, obsessive thoughts about your baby, hallucinations and delusions, sleep disturbances, paranoia, attempts to harm yourself or your baby.

There are some groups of women, for instance women with a history of bipolar disorder, who are at much higher risk. Postpartum Psychosis normally begins in the first few days and lasts upto 12 weeks after childbirth. It can worsen very hastily and should be treated as a medical emergency. As it may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate attention.

It doesn’t take much to detect, treat or prevent PPD

If you are having symptoms of postpartum depression, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Your doctor may recommend that you meet regularly with a counselor or that you start taking antidepressants. While PPD does, at times, go away on its own, symptoms usually go away more quickly with the help of medication and therapy/counselling. Lifestyle changes can also help to reduce some symptoms of postpartum depression. The following strategies may help you manage the increased stress that accompanies new parenthood:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Finding time to exercise
  • Surrounding yourself with a supportive network of family and friends
  • Eating regular, nourishing meals
  • Asking others to watch your child so that you can have a much required break

Also, hospitals should offer support groups for new mothers. Staffed by women’s health experts, which can be a great place to share your feelings in a safe, supportive place with other women who understand what you are going through.

Writer’s note: Being a mother is a choice a woman makes everyday of her life, you’ll never know what is right or wrong because there’s no rulebook to parenting. You’ll learn along the way when you’ll grow and evolve with your little one. Ladies don’t be too harsh on yourselves, with motherhood you’ll realize the strengths you didn’t think you have and will tackle with nightmares you had never seen before. Motherhood is a celebration, therefore, have a ball queens!

The writer is an Entrepreneurial Biotechnologist and passionate about creating awareness amongst the masses and steering a tangible change in the healthcare delivery systems. Email:

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