Hormonal and mental conditions after the birth may take various forms. It is common for new mothers to be oversensitive and irritable; sometimes they may even be unable to fully enjoy the new baby after they come home from the hospital. All this is fairly common and it doesn't mean the mother has been hit with postpartum depression. However, even if you do get postpartum depression, it is a treatable condition which will not influence your relationship to the baby or family ties in general into the future.
These more serious mental disorders that may occur in women during their postpartum period are called postpartum depression.
A light version of the postpartum depression called the baby blues may occur in first-time mothers three to five days after the birth. Women affected by it tend to be sad and weepy for no apparent reason, feeling inferior, doubting themselves as mothers, low on self-respect. Postpartum depressions may start manifesting with headaches or backaches, fatigue, etc. At present, medical public understands these conditions as common and caused mainly by the fact that the affected women must get to terms with the role of a mother which has been unknown to them before.
Long-Term Neurotic Conditions after the Birth
Postpartum depressions are never pleasant and they can sometimes even trigger a neurotic condition lasting for 2 weeks or months. The transition back to the home environment may prove difficult, as it may be accompanied with emotional lability, irritability, stress and depressive thoughts.
Adapting to the new role of mother, taking care of the newborn baby, worrying over how to balance the household management and family life - all these factors reflect in the occurrence of postpartum depression as well as lack of sleep or frequent depressive thoughts.
Postpartum depression occurs more frequently in women who have no partner or a stable family background, or in women whose family has financial issues or whose newborn baby has some kind of congenital defect.
Naturally, these conditions are much easier to deal with if the woman affected has an understanding partner and support of her family. If you have suspicions that you might have postpartum depression, try to get some rest and drink plenty of fluids. Keep your diet balanced; make sure you have enough movement and fresh air and peace. Drinking herb teas will help you relax in general and mitigate the tension. You also need to realise that life also exists outside the maternal obligations; don't forget to catch up with your own hobbies from time to time, go shopping or have a drink with a friend.
Postpartum Depression - Causes and Symptoms
Postpartum depression develops in 1-2% of new mothers. Causes of it include extensive and significant hormonal changes, physical exhaustion after the birth or care of the newborn and very strong emotion women experience after the birth. Postpartum depression usually manifests between the second and the fourth week after the baby was born and subsides within days to months which very much depends on how fast the women seeks out medical attention and treatment.
Postpartum Depression Usually Manifests with the Following Symptoms:
- auditory or visual hallucinations
- memory loss
- strong emotional distress
- trouble concentrating
- uncontrollable anxiety
- disturbed time perception
- extreme mood swings
In half of the first-time mothers suffering from postpartum depression, there has never been any mental disorder in the past. The highest risk of postpartum depression comes during the first month after the birth in women above 35 years of age and in older first-time mothers.
The psychotic disorder that erupts after the birth may have tragic consequences both for the mother and the child. There are even cases of mothers hurting their children or themselves. Mothers affected by postpartum depression commit suicide in 5% of cases; infanticide occurs in 4% of cases.
Mental problems after birth are caused by significant drop in the hormone level. Women are aware of similar problems such as premenstrual syndrome or various mood swings during pregnancy.
Postpartum depression is the gravest condition that may occur after the birth. If left untreated, it may lead to development of severe depression with psychotic symptoms.
Risks of Postpartum Depression Onset
Be careful to get enough sleep in order to improve your mental well-being. Do not try to keep your household in a perfect condition; it is nearly impossible with a baby. Do not be afraid to ask your close ones for help, don't try to be a "heroine" who manages everything by herself. If you feel you can't handle taking care of both the baby and the household, confide in your partner or someone from your family immediately so that someone has your condition under control and checks upon you and the baby from time to time.
Postpartum Depression - Treatment
In case you suspect onset of postpartum depression, you need to seek out medical help immediately. There is a risk of the affected woman not even realising her significantly altered condition; that is why it is mainly up to her close ones not to underestimate the postpartum condition and moods. Lighter cases of postpartum depression can be treated with psychotherapy, but usually the therapy needs to be supplemented with antidepressants.
Changing the scene may also be beneficial for the woman as well as limiting or stopping the contact with the baby.
If the depression symptoms are more severe, it is suitable or even necessary to hospitalize the mother at the psychiatric ward or in a mental hospital. The usual hospitalization time in these cases is two months with a follow-up treatment after. The mother has to stop breastfeeding her baby because of psychiatric drugs and hospitalization. This situation is usually difficult not only for the mother but for the entire family; the family has to deal with the situation as fast as possible.
It is important to detect the postpartum depression in time; it helps prevent potential tragedies. The sooner the treatment begins, the more positive the course of the illness gets.
How to Prevent Postpartum Depression
There are several tips to mitigate the situation for the first-time-mothers or new mothers in general:
- The father or another close person should stay at home with the new mother after she returns from the hospital after giving birth. At these moments, physical helps is often not as important as emotional support.
- It is good and important to pay attention to communication with the husband, grandparents and other relatives. The mother should not hide her feelings and she should tell people around her about them.
- Correct regime is also very important for the mother. It is not uncommon that after bringing her new baby home, the mother stops taking care of herself and stops thinking about herself. She strives to give her child everything. However, correct and balanced regime is important; the mother should exercise, store her physical strength, think positively and not isolate herself from everything happening around her.
- If the mother lacks friends with small children in her environment, she could visit a maternity centre. There are even exercise courses for women in postpartum period.
- The best prevention is comfort and support of the mother-to-be already during her pregnancy, mainly from people closest to her.
- Look forward to all the positive things your baby will bring to your life; uncertainty and worries are natural and not to be overplayed. Same as all the positives, there are a few negatives that are an inherent part of the postpartum period.
- If you get less joyful moods than the expected happiness and enthusiasm immediately after giving birth, it is not a big deal. After you have had some rest, kind professional help and time for yourself, nothing will be standing in your way to start enjoying maternity with all the beautiful things that go with it.
Postpartum Period - What to Prepare for
The postpartum period consists of several weeks after giving birth. Its course and ending is individual to every woman. It is a time when anatomy and physiological changes in the body gradually return to the condition they were before the pregnancy. It is important that the new mother does not compare herself or her baby to anyone and anything; it is a time only for you and it is important to maintain as calm a mood as possible for as long as possible. During the postpartum period, the mother's uterus shrinks to its original size and the cervix closes up. The vagina also returns to its previous condition; the pelvic floor muscles get back their flexibility, the abdominal wall gets stronger, etc. It is also possible to enhance this by exercising.
Bladder functions returns to normal gradually. The enlarged uterus is not pushing on it any more and women cease to feel constant urge to urinate. Evacuation problems and heart burn also subside in time. The cardiovascular system normalizes, heart rate drops as well as blood volume. Hormonal levels balance out, the level of estrogen and progesterone dropping.
Early postpartum period describes the first ten days after the birth; it is a time for the birth injuries to heal and lactation to stabilize.
After the postpartum period is over, menstruation usually returns, i.e. the first menstruation after the pregnancy and birth arrive. Intensive breastfeeding maintains ovaries at bay and they do not release eggs - in such case, menstruation doesn't return. So called lactation amenorrhoea may last for some time and menstruation doesn't return even after a year after giving birth. However, despite many rumours and myths, this does not mean that you cannot become pregnant again. Breastfeeding is by no means a reliable contraceptive.
The ending of the postpartum period is a suitable time to see your gynaecologist. They will check up on healing of your birth injuries, the condition of the perineum, vaginal walls, cervix and position of internal genitals. The check-up also features a colposcopy - examination of the magnified cervix. The doctor will also take a sample for a cytological examination within cancer prevention.