Seblewongiel Aynalem (PhD candidate, M.A)
Having a new baby is exciting for all who are around. But there may be problems arise after delivery which can affect the health and wellbeing of the mother as well as the newborn. Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect nearly 15 percent of women after childbirth. Postpartum depression may begin any time after childbirth, but commonly begins between a week and a month after delivery.
Mothers with postpartum depression may experience feeling sad, hopeless; crying for no apparent reason; oversleeping or being unable to sleep; having trouble concentrating; experiencing anger; losing interest in activities; suffering from physical aches and pains; eating too little or too much; avoiding friends and family; having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby; persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby; and thinking about harming herself or her baby.
Postpartum depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. After childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly drop that may trigger mood swings. In addition, many mothers are unable to get sufficient rest to fully recover from giving birth. Constant sleep deprivation can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression. Because of the severity of the symptoms, postpartum depression usually requires treatment which may include:
- Counseling:This treatment involves talking with a mental health professional (a counselor, therapist, psychologist or social worker).
- Medication:Antidepressant medications act on the brain chemicals that are involved in mood regulation. Many antidepressants take a few weeks to be most effective. While these medications are generally considered safe to use during breastfeeding, a woman should talk to her health care provider about the risks and benefits to both herself and her baby.
- Family Support: Family members and friends may be the first to recognize symptoms of postpartum depression in a new mother. They can encourage her to talk with a health care provider, offer emotional support, and assist with daily tasks such as caring for the baby or the home.
Without treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or years. In addition to affecting the mother’s health, it can interfere with her ability to connect with and care for her baby and may cause the baby to have problems with sleeping, eating, and behavior as he or she grows.