Dr. Abdul Majid, Dr Aijaz A Suhaff & Dr.Farhana Rafiq
Motherhood is a rewarding and important aspect of being a woman. There is no experience equal to that of bringing a child into this world; a huge task that nature has thought only a woman capable of performing. It brings happiness, it brings tears, but most of all it brings a huge responsibility of raising an individual from a small ‘bundle of joy’ to a healthy, intelligent and balanced adult.
Becoming a mother is an overwhelming experience but not for everyone. Sometimes mothers develop psychological issues mainly due to hormonal imbalances and mood disturbances which make these women to react in an unexpected manner. While most women walk out of the hospital with bundle of joy, some walk away with baby blues that can affect them temporarily or sometimes for longer periods.
Postpartum blues, also known as baby blues and maternity blues, is a very common but self-limited condition that begins shortly after childbirth. Mothers may experience negative mood symptoms mixed with intense periods of joy. Up to 85% of new mothers are affected by postpartum blues (though most of these symptoms are temporary), with symptoms starting within a few days after childbirth and lasting up to two weeks and can present with a variety of symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, and tearfulness. Even with a planned pregnancy, it is normal to have feelings of doubt or regret, and it takes time to adjust to having a newborn.
Risk factors for developing Postpartum blues
• Fatigue after labor and delivery
• Caring for a newborn that requires 24/7 attention
• Sleep deprivation
• Lack of support from family and friends
• Marital or relationship strain
• Changes in home and work routines
• Financial stress
• Unrealistic expectations of self
• Societal or cultural pressure to "bounce back" quickly after pregnancy and childbirth
• Overwhelmed and questioning ability to care for baby
• Anger, loss, or guilt, especially for parents of premature or sick infants
• Changes in the hormonal (a decrease in progesterone, estrogen, and thyroid levels after delivery)
• Family problems — conflicts with partner, stressful life events during pregnancy, single-parent family or cohabitation
• Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, as well as endagered pregnancy, may also negatively affect the emotional condition of the mother
• Lack of understanding of the newborn’s behavior, the actual, real picture of motherhood as opposed to the imagined one.
Symptoms of postpartum blues can vary significantly from one individual to anotherand from one pregnancy to the next. Many symptoms of postpartum blues overlap both with normal symptoms experienced by new parents and with postpartum depression. Individuals with postpartum blues have symptoms that are milder and less disruptive to their daily functioning compared to those with postpartum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum blues include, but are not limited to:
• Tearfulness or crying "for no reason"
• Mood swings
• Questioning one's ability to care for the baby
• Difficulty making choices
• Loss of appetite
• Difficulty sleeping
• Difficulty concentrating
• Negative mood symptoms interspersed with positive symptoms
While the “baby blues” are the least severe form of postpartum depression, it is important not to ignore the changes that are happening in your body. Many women feel confused about struggling with sadness after the joyous event of adding a new baby to the family and often don’t talk about it. But talking about these emotions, changes, and challenges is one of the best ways to cope with the “baby blues”.
How to manage Postpartum Blues?
1) Give yourself some time to adjust: Give yourself time and be compassionate towards yourself and your partner in this journey. Try not to make any other major life changes that may increase the burden of stress.
2) Set realistic and doable goals and do not build pressure on yourself.
3) Remember to take rest: In the midst of the physical exhaustion, the sleepless nights, the cycles of worry, it’s essential for new mothers to try and get some rest.
4) Giveyourself some ‘me time’: Having a baby doesn’t mean that we let go of other aspects of ourselves. Take some time out for the things that you used to enjoy doing. It could be some physical activity, a hobby you enjoyed or catching up with a friend.
5) Reach out for help: Whenever possible, reach out to family and friends for support in day-to-day activities. Share your thoughts and feelings with them.
6) It’s also about dads: While we usually speak about perinatal mental health in the context of mothers, we must also be cognisant of the fact that men may also experience distress related to their partner’s pregnancy and arrival of the new-born.
7) Take treatment if required:While baby blues subside on their own, depression with a peripartum onset is a mental health condition that requires treatment. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional and get the help that is required.
You should contact your doctor if:
• You are experiencing several of the symptoms mentioned above for more than two weeks
• You have thoughts of suicide or thoughts of harming your child
• Your depressed feelings are getting worse and persist beyond two weeks time
• You are having trouble with daily tasks or taking care of your baby
New mothers need to understand and remember that taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids.
How Partners, Family and Friends Can Help
Strong support from partners, family and friends is very important.
• Listen to Her: Let her know you want to hear her concerns. For example, "I notice you are having trouble sleeping, even when the baby sleeps. What's on your mind?"
• Give Her Support: Let her know she's not alone and you are here to help. Try offering to help with household tasks or watching the baby while she gets some rest or visits friends.
• Know the Signs: Learn to recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety and if you see signs, urge her to see a health care provider
• Encourage her to seek help if needed: She may feel uncomfortable and not want to seek help. Encourage her to talk with a health care provider.