According to the World health Organization (WHO), Depression is a common illness worldwide, with more than 264 million people affected. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
The postnatal period is a critical phase in the lives of mothers and newborn babies. Most maternal and infant deaths occur during this time. Yet, this is the most neglected period for the provision of quality care.
Postnatal depression is the depression that develops within a month or even a year after child birth. According to study; 1 in every 7 women suffers of postnatal depression. According to the DSM-5, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, PPD is a form of major depression that begins within 4 weeks after delivery. The diagnosis of postpartum depression is based not only on the length of time between delivery and onset, but also on the severity of the depression.
Postnatal: for some, it is the most complicated time for nursing mothers. You might wonder why I said most complicated. You should see the condition most women nurse their children.
In most developing regions of the world like Nigeria, where the health care system is almost same as not having a health care, pregnant women will have to endure the little to no medic-care till delivery and then the self medication in the name of postnatal. Postnatal depression can affect women in different ways. It can start at any point in the first year after giving birth and may develop suddenly or gradually.
The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety and this does not exempt depression. The chemical changes involve a rapid drop in hormones after delivery. The actual link between this drop and depression is still not clear. But what is known is that the levels of estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones, increase tenfold during pregnancy. Then, they drop sharply after delivery. By 3 days after a woman gives birth, the levels of these hormones drop back to what they were before she got pregnant.
One of the major courses of depression is lack of support through the first few stages of postnatal. Let me explain this fact before we proceed. It is easy to feel down when you have to do everything by yourself, now imagine a new nursing mother in that condition.
Sometimes, the pressures of life hits you hard and you feel you have failed as mother, the feeling that you could have done more, but yet reality tells you, you can only function within your reach. You might even have the feeling that there is no future for you or the child and that the condition can only get worse. For some, you feel embarrassed and even ashamed because what you have will not be enough. Though is cool and normal to worry but getting worried about your baby can also result in postnatal depression.
Some major signs of postnatal depression include:
- Appetite changes or total loss of appetite
- Excessive fatigue
- Frequent mood swings
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Appetite changes and total loss of appetite: With depression and the need to take care of responsibilities as a nursing mother, food is likely to be the last thing in your mind. This loss of appetite have a corresponding negative effect on the child as same as the mother and to some extent result to ill health for the both.
Excessive fatigue: most of the stress is mental stress; as a result, a depressed nursing mother is at the risk of being frequently tired. This is not because of too much work in the house or taking care of her baby but for the fact that her mental strength is failing her due to the feeling of depression.
Frequent mood swings: it’s not news that women have issues with mood swings but in this case it’s a different story. The excess hormone that was released during pregnancy and after delivery affects her mood swing and she gets excited or even sad for no reason (this might sound offensive though), but the truth is, frequent mood swing especially getting sad, is a sign of postnatal depression.
Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness: with the sad feeling coming from loneliness and the release of sensitive hormones throughout pregnancy, the nursing mother have the tendencies of feeling worthless, hopeless and helpless; ranging from the changes to her body to the changes in her psychology coupled with the mother responsibility.
Thought of death or suicide: with the feeling of worthlessness and helplessness, suicide sometimes is the next option in the mind of the depressed. A report by the WHO shows that suicide is the second highest course of death over the last two decades.
How to overcome postnatal depression
It is important to note that for every feeling, will eventually pass and it’s just a matter of time. When you feel down or you sense depression especially for postnatal, it is important you get a routine, set goals and objectives. This will help keep the mind busy and create some level of distraction from the possible cause of the feeling.
The other thing is exercise and eating healthy food: considering the fact that loses of appetite is a symptom, you can exercise regularly to boost enough adrenaline that will aid the body to hyper active and even contribute to the eating habit of the patient. Healthy eating on the other hand is targeted at providing good meal for the child through breast milk and preventing the nursing mother from falling sick during this period.
The last which as a matter of fact is very important: get enough sleep. This is important because, depression is affecting the mental state of the human being before reflecting the physical effect maybe as mood swing. Thus it is important that nursing mothers get enough sleep at every opportunity they get, since the child is likely will not let her sleep at night. Sleep help relax the nerves and reduce the speed of our busy minds. So getting enough sleep helps reduce the effect of postnatal depression.