Modernity a catalyst for postpartum depression
Increasing cases of postpartum depression can be attributed to many reasons, and modernity is key among them. We are living in times when many women have neglected their own personal needs, and emotional support has lessened. This has made new parents less resistant to postpartum depression.
In times past, after the stay-at-home moms finished their house work, they would sit together and discuss the challenges with their children, husbands and homes. It was in this way that they supported each other to find the right solutions. This union helped them to stay healthy and move forward. Support systems are critical in avoiding postpartum depression.
Child bearing, child care and self care has changed
I have been in many groups where women interact and discuss issues of motherhood. Ladies especially discuss how the modern woman has changed with regards to child bearing, child care and self care.
I have also noticed that a high expectation is placed on the African woman. There is a lot of comparison made of how mothers used to behave some fifty years ago and how they do currently.
While I admit that there is the place of the mother in our society, I also imagine a lot has changed. The modern woman has to double up and perform both roles of being a working woman whilst bringing up children as a mother.
Today, single moms and wives alike have both their work and homes to manage. They have less time to think through workable solutions, and fewer support levels. Stress levels are therefore high. The situation is not different for any pregnant woman. This had lead to increased susceptibility to postpartum depression.
Some of the postpartum depression causes
Researchers have isolated the following as some of the causes of postpartum depression:
• Hormonal changes associated with child bearing.
• Lack of family support or emotional isolation.
• Relationship challenges.
• Worries about money, housing, work etc.
• Depression in pregnancy or people with a history of depression.
• Living with a depressed person.
• Injuries and complications during and after delivery.
• Long periods of labour and/or traumatic delivery.
• Raising standards on how a child should be brought up.
• Allowing people to determine how one should parent.
• Low self esteem where one feels they are not raising the baby well enough
• Pressure to try harder to be the “best” or “perfect” parent.
Identifying symptoms of postpartum depression
In some cases, the onset of parenting responsibilities triggers memories of some challenges one may have gone through in early childhood. For example loss of parents when one was a young child. It may also be effects of another traumatic physical, emotional of sensual childhood experience, such as child abuse. It may also be exposure to direct or indirect domestic violence.
Helping a loved one cope with postpartum depression
Some symptoms to take note of in order to identify postpartum depression include feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. Others are lack of appetite, inability to sleep, inability to concentrate and total lack of energy. Feelings of irritability, inability to cope with anything or anybody may arise. Fear may manifest: fear of harming oneself or the baby, fear of losing the baby, fear of self death or desired suicide.
One may feel that the baby is the source of all this misery. There may also be feelings of inadequacy and the need to consistently check on the baby when asleep or with other people – for fear that they cause harm. Lack of interest in the baby may arise, as well as feeling neglected and not loved or lovable.
Some of these feelings may wear off in about three days to two weeks. If they persist and get worse, it may be a clear sign that one is suffering postnatal depression.
Helping a loved one cope with postpartum depression
It is important and necessary to know that this is an illness that is treatable and that one can get help. One should never self-doubt or shy away from discussing these feelings with a trusted person. Seek for external help too. Admission of illness is not a shameful act; it can only lead to help, support and treatment.
Family and friends hasten recovery
Help can be offered in many forms. Family and friends form the hugest kind of support a postpartum depression patient can receive. Most are able to get out of this depression in three months. Some may take less or more time depending with their personal capabilities.
Counseling is core in the healing process
The other kind of help is through a psychologist counselor or a medical practitioner. While some people recover with the help of only one of these, others need both depending on the severity of their condition.
Importance of preparation for delivery
Postnatal depression can be reduced by dealing with unresolved challenges that are experienced before pregnancy and during pregnancy, way before birth time.
Preparation for baby birth can also help in a marriage set up. The couple should discuss baby care and role switching options early enough. After child birth, responsibilities increase, roles change and communication needs increase. Preparing each other to adjusted roles, and strategizing on responsibilities is important. Agreeing on how to deal with new challenges and devising more workable methods of effective communication. These preparations can help the family to reduce the depression level or totally get rid of this condition.
Family, friends and counsellors hasten recovery
For the single parent, preparing oneself to take all the responsibilities and creating a support system from friends and family, is helpful. In part one of this feature I discussed how Mary and Terry sunk into depression, but family and counsellors came to the rescue. Well, good news it that they got well at last.
Mary’s family support helped her recapture herself again. They allowed her to be. In addition they assured her of their full support. Within four months she was able to pull herself together. She learnt to love and take care of herself as parent while taking care of her child too.
Terry on the other hand sought help through counseling. She felt she had way too much baggage to make progress on her own. Terry is now living a healthy life. Her recovery took seven months. When she understood that her husband was going through depression too, she gave him a lot of support. They both went through counseling and recovered. And although initially Terry’s husband was going to counseling to help his wife become the wife he previously knew, he too in the process got help. Both are now successful individuals as well as parents.
Accepting that one needs help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. There is hope. There is help.
Joanne Kirera is a practicing psychologist counselor working with teenagers, adult individuals as well as families. She can be reached via: email@example.com
Also read: A comprehensive explanation of postpartum depression symptoms, prevention