Many of us will agree that even today going to the psychologist is very suspicious, both for the person who comes and for those close to them. While going to the doctor, the physiotherapist, the speech therapist or any other health professional is perfectly accepted and no one has shame in acknowledging that they go to any of them, recognizing that one goes to the psychologist inspires a certain fear. Many of us will also agree that this should not be the case.
Mental disorders (taking into account that not always when you go to a psychologist you will necessarily suffer from a mental disorder) are a great taboo. Among all of them, depression is one of the disorders that generates the most suspicion or that is most difficult to recognize. And of all the types of depression , postpartum depression is the most taboo often .
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION IS REAL
It is not nonsense, as many will insist on affirming (“that is something today that psychologists invent …”). Postpartum depression is a reality that affects many women.It can manifest itself up to a year later, although it is true that the most common is that if it occurs, it does so during the first three after the baby is born.
Some professionals classify postpartum depression by distinguishing three different types of disorders:
– Postnatal Depression:
On the one hand, they would mention postnatal depression, also called mild postpartum or puerperal depression . It is estimated that this affects around 80% of women and is presented through symptoms such as slight sadness, anxiety, irritability or easy-onset crying. It is closely associated with purely hormonal causes and remits spontaneously around the fourth week after birth.
– Major Postpartum Depression:
These professionals refer to postpartum depression itself as Postpartum Major Depression , which can occur between the fourth or thirtieth week after delivery, the symptoms being more serious than in the previous case and requiring treatment for its resolution.
– Postpartum Psychosis:
Finally and as the most serious case, they define Postpartum Psychosis , which would affect one in four thousand women. In this case, in addition to the symptoms of postpartum depression, there would be hallucinations, bipolar behavior, suicidal ideations or attempts to harm the baby.
THE CAUSES COULD BE A MIX OF HORMONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS
RISK FACTORS FOR DEVELOPING POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
It is considered that there are a number of risk factors for suffering from postpartum depression:
– That the woman is young, less than twenty years old .
– That the pregnancy was unwanted or had doubts about the convenience of carrying it to term.
– That the woman is a new mother .
– That in his environment he does not have social or family support or does not have a partner.
– That there are economic or labor problems.
– That the woman or a direct relative has had a history of depression, anxiety disorders or bipolar disorder.
– That during pregnancy or shortly after delivery you receive bad news or some kind of unpleasant or traumatic event.
– That the woman is a substance user .
– That the baby may have suffered some kind of damage during pregnancy or has a genetic syndrome or a disability .
However, as often happens in these types of disorders, we only talk about risk factors. A woman who presents one or more of these characteristics will not necessarily suffer from postpartum depression, just as one who does not fit this profile is not exempt from the risk of presenting it.
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION IS NOT TOO DIFFERENT FROM OTHER TYPES OF DEPRESSION
However, as we said at the beginning, postpartum depression tends to be even more hidden, due to the obvious feelings of guilt it generates in women. The main characteristic is the presence of deep sadness. This sadness that invades the woman causes her to lose interest in everything that surrounds her and that she does not feel pleasure or interest in anything , which in psychology is known as anhedonia. It is true that these feelings often occur in the weeks following delivery, but they usually resolve without major problems shortly after and without the need for treatment. It is what is known as puerperal depression. However, postpartum depression goes further.
The woman, invaded by this intense sadness, reduces her activities more and more, becomes withdrawn, loses her appetite and has sleep problems. So far nothing very different from another depression.
But, the woman with postpartum depression loses the ability to properly care for her baby. Sadness is compounded by anxiety, doubts, fears and in its most serious form you may even feel the need to harm yourself or even your baby.
THE MOTHER WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION LOSES THE ABILITY TO TAKE GOOD CARE OF HER BABY
CAN WE AVOID POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
As there is no exact cause, there is also no infallible remedy to prevent it. However, there are a series of recommendations that help prevent postpartum depression from manifesting itself , mitigate if it has already occurred or that, in any case, can be beneficial guidelines for any mother who has just experienced the birth of her child. .
– Although the birth of a child carries a deep responsibility and the baby becomes the center of attention, parents must continue to take care of themselves. A woman who has just given birth should not neglect her physique or image . You should try to feel happy with yourself and learn to accept the changes in your body.
– The woman should not completely forget her social and family life . Even if the baby becomes your greatest focus of attention and interest, you should not neglect your social relationships, but you should be able to continue seeing your family and loved ones, meeting your friends or making plans as a couple. Although these outings are reduced, having family support will help the woman not to completely detach herself from her life prior to the birth of her child.
– You should not neglect your health either . Although the schedules are now changing and variable and the nights are complicated, you should try to sleep as many hours as possible, maintain a good diet and have the necessary medical check-ups.
– You should not lock yourself at home with your baby. Going outside is beneficial for both of you, and simply taking a walk will help the mother clear her thoughts and get some exercise.
But above all, neither the mother nor those close to her should underestimate the symptoms of postpartum depression that we have already discussed. It is essential to recognize them early to be able to ask for help and start treatment before the symptoms get worse and the disorder worsens. The couple’s relationship changes normally with the arrival of a baby and these changes are obviously more difficult if the mother suffers from postpartum depression. It is also essential that the couple get involved in finding a solution and that the mother is not judged or questioned.
For this reason, going to the psychologist, gynecologist or midwife from the beginning to ask for help and advice is essential. They will guide you when it comes to referring you to the appropriate professional and establishing a diagnosis and subsequent treatment. The reference treatment in these cases is psychological therapy, generally cognitive-behavioral therapy , which can also be accompanied by psychotropic drugs. It is essential to assess each case individually in order to start treatment. After the disorder is over, it should be followed up, especially if the woman becomes pregnant again.
It is important to know how to recognize and accept the existence of the disorder and to give it its deserved importance in order to prevent major ills so that the woman can enjoy her baby and her experience as a mother.