Before we dive into the topic at hand, let’s quickly give a vivid picture of what postpartum depression in women is.
Mama Aisha is pregnant with her second baby. I’ve seen how happy and fulfilled she looks these days; I think this is because Aisha is almost ten with no siblings, and so this new bundle of joy in mama Aisha’s stomach is an answered prayer. Everyone in the compound is happy for this family, and we all can’t wait to see the newborn…
The baby is here; we all rushed to the hospital to welcome our baby. A boy! Everyone is happy except mama Aisha. Something seems to have changed in her. We all thought it was probably the stress from carrying the baby in her for more than nine months and the stress from labour.
The baby and mother are home. Mama Aisha is still refusing to carry her baby. She always looks so out of touch and irritable. She wouldn’t even breastfeed her child. The sight of the baby irritates her. Neighbours are doing all they can to help. Baba Aisha is also doing everything to help his wife, but nothing seems to be working.
A few weeks later, we all woke up to the screams of Baba Aisha and Aisha. Mama Aisha is on the floor; She attempted suicide.
The above scenario exemplifies how extreme postpartum depression in women can get if not well managed.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum means “the period after childbirth” Postpartum depression is a type of depression that happens after childbirth.
The birth of a newborn comes with its unique joy, a sense of fulfilment, and completeness in women. However, many new moms and infants die in the first six weeks after delivery. This period is also characterised by sudden shifts and stressful life events such as depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety are common complications of postpartum women.
Most new moms experience postpartum depression, otherwise known as “baby blues,” after the birth of their newborns. Like every other known mental health illness, postpartum depression in women is as critical if not well managed by professionals.
Having a baby is one of the most stressful things a woman would most likely go through in her entire life, so most women suffer from postpartum depression. And this usually occurs during the first six weeks of birthing a baby, which may last for years if not quickly diagnosed and managed by professionals.
Read also: How to manage depression as women in Nigeria
Postpartum Depression in Women in Nigeria.
Postpartum depression occurs more in women from third world countries like Nigeria, and it is suffered by one in every five women. According to WHO, 20% of women suffer from postpartum depression in Africa.
In Nigeria, postpartum depression is not an everyday topic even in antenatal/ postnatal classes, and it is not well explored. Mothers are expected to bond with their children as soon as they are born. Those who cannot are made to feel like an alien as words like “you are not a good mother if you can’t bond with your baby” are said to the hearing of these women. There is poor recognition of the illness by health workers, leading to poor diagnosis. Some women even go as far as bottling their symptoms in order not to be regarded as weak and also for fear of being stigmatised.
However, cultural practices such as “omugwo” have lessened the effect of postpartum depression in women in Nigeria as the burden of raising a child is lifted off of the shoulders of a new mother by a family member. This gives the new mom time to adjust to the new life changes.
Postpartum depression in women is never the woman’s fault. Emotional and physical help should be rendered to new moms as this help will make them aware that they are not alone in their struggles.
10 Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression in Women
Here are some early signs noticed in women suffering from postpartum depression.
- Feeling sad and overwhelmed over everything.
- Crying all the time over the littlest things.
- Feeling overly anxious
- Always irritable and feeling empty.
- Having trouble remembering details and also difficulties in concentrating.
- Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable to her.
- Withdrawing from friends and family.
- Refusing to touch or breastfeed the baby.
- Having difficulty bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the baby.
- She is always thinking about harming herself and her baby.
The diagnosis of postpartum depression in women is mainly done through talking.
Your doctor will ask you about your feelings, thoughts, and general well-being to differentiate between a short-term cause of your depression and a more severe depression.
Part of the evaluation may include ticking a questionnaire form that would be given to you. Also, a blood test might be required to rule out an underactive thyroid. Other tests may also be required; however, this is determined by the discretion of your doctor.
Causes of Postpartum Depression in Women
There are no known causes of postpartum depression in women, but experts believe physical and emotional issues may play a part.
- Physical changes: This occurs in most new mothers after the birth of their children. The drop in hormones in the body may contribute to postpartum depression, which leaves one feeling tired and depressed.
- Emotional problems: New moms are usually sleep-deprived during the first few weeks, leading to anxiety, constantly worrying if they are a good mom to their child or not.
Any new mom can experience postpartum depression as studies have shown that one can even develop after the birth of any child, just like the story above. However, one’s risk increases if:
- Your baby is a special needs child.
- You have multiple births.
- No support system
- The pregnancy was unplanned for
- You have difficulty breastfeeding your newborn.
- There’s a family member who’s suffering from depression or mental health illness
- You have bipolar disorder
- You have financial issues
- Had a very stressful pregnancy
Treatment for Postpartum Depression in Women
Treatment and recovery time for postpartum depression in women differ depending on the severity of the depression and individual needs. The result of the diagnosis will determine what treatment is needed. Your doctor may treat you or refer you to a specialist.
Postpartum depression in women is often treated through psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. In severe cases, one is treated with both talk therapy and medications.
You can find better ways to manage your feelings, set realistic goals, and solve problems through talk therapy.
Read also: How to Care for Your Mental Health as a Nigerian Lady
The Role of Healthcare Providers in Alleviating Postpartum Depression in Women
- Healthcare providers should educate women and their spouses during antenatal and postnatal classes about potential challenges that may arise as a result of hormones and also how best to deal with these challenges.
- Health care providers, especially those in Nigerian hospitals, should always use kind words when addressing new moms.
- Adequate training should not be neglected. Most of these workers lack the basic training in identifying the needs of new moms.
- The primary healthcare system should encourage better integration of mental health services to cater to many new moms suffering from postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can be addressed, and many women like Mama Aisha can recover from it. As people, we can make the healing process quicker by being more aware of the illness and lending support to women suffering from it. We should always be attentive to the needs of those suffering from it.