Post Natal Depression- the unsaid evil in a new mother’s paradise

Pregnancy is a joyous moment for everyone in the family but most importantly, it brings forth a whole new world for the mother. The woman, who was in charge of her life some months back, suddenly finds the reigns of her life slipping out of her hands. Sleep cycle disturbances due to irregular feeding patterns of the baby, hormonal imbalance, changing physical appearance and social and family pressures- all of this play their role in pushing the new mother into state of mental and emotional turmoil.

This Mother’s Day, let’s pledge to raise awareness about this serious disorder so that our mothers can have a healthy and happy life – so that a child can happily grow and develop in their right place – a mother’s lap.

As Dr. Sanjay Garg, Consultant Psychiatrist at Fortis Hospitals Anandapur highlights, “Unfortunately, pregnancy comes with its own set of issues. Up to 70% of expectant mothers experience depressive symptoms and in about 10% – 16% it can be severe enough to be a disorder. High risk period is from 2nd trimester to 9 days of postpartum. Highest depressive activity is seen at 34 to 38 weeks of gestation.”

Post-Partum Blues is a common experience where almost 30-85% of women after delivering a child have some emotional disturbance. Symptoms include mild depression, irritability, tearfulness, fatigue and anxiety.  It usually begins within the first few days after delivery and reaches a peak 4/5th day and starts remitting at 10th post-partum day. It often resolves by 2 weeks. It is a benign condition and no intervention required. However, it increases the risk of future depression.

Post Natal Depression is a depressive episode which occurs within four weeks of delivery. It is relatively common affecting about 16 – 20% of women. Societal and environmental factors contribute significantly to this illness. Practice of isolation of mother after child birth, growing nuclearization of families, distorted and glamorized picturization of post pregnancy recovery as well as unrealistic expectations add to the risk.

Dr. Bikash Banerjee, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Fortis Hospitals Anandapur mentions, “Post pregnancy emotional turmoil is a very common condition with new mothers. Sudden drop in progesterone levels post pregnancy leads to greater chances of emotional and mental distress.”

Dr Garg explains, “Mothers often experience emotional lability, repeated spells of crying, sleep and appetite disturbance and low self-esteem. They find themselves unable to play the role of the mother and start doubting their capabilities. They feel hopeless and helpless and suffer from persistent sadness. They are worried that they may drop the child, drown the child while bathing or other people may harm the baby and therefore become over possessive. Some may even have thoughts that they may themselves harm the child which can be extremely distressing.”

Early recognition and timely intervention go a long way in overcoming the burden of this disease. If left unattended for long, these disorders can have a severe impact on the physical health of both the child and the mother. There may be long term consequences in bonding and attachment which can have a lifelong impact. Psychotherapy and medications, where indicated, can give both mother and bay a new lease of life.