Pregnancy is a wondrous period in a woman’s life. It is the time when women are excited to be called mothers. It is a great opportunity to learn about a child’s growth and development. But sometimes it can be the other way around. Pregnancy is not always such a happy experience for some. Pregnancy can also be a time for worry. It can also be a time of confusion.
A woman’s decision to begin a pregnancy carries with it the acceptance of the lifelong responsibility to be a parent. Ideally, effective parenting begins even before the moment of conception, when the woman confirms her desire to have a child and is physically and mentally prepared for the challenges of pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
However, most women go through a lot of changes during pregnancy that sometimes causes them stress, as well as numerous emotional and physical changes. As a result, many pregnant women develop depression during their pregnancies.
Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder, so it’s a commonly encountered pre-existing condition during pregnancy. Depression has both physiological as well as sociological causes. It is actually caused by a number of different factors, but is most likely to be linked to a change in the levels of chemicals in the brain. These chemicals govern our moods, and when they become disrupted, it can lead to depression.
During pregnancy, the rapid change in a woman’s body and hormones can trigger a change in the levels of these chemicals, resulting in depression. Interestingly though, women have it twice as often as men, and among women, there is an increased tendency toward it during the reproductive years.
It has been proven that the rapid rise in hormone levels during pregnancy is actually a very common trigger for depression. At least 20% of pregnant women experience some depressive symptoms during their pregnancies, while 10% of pregnant women develop full-blown clinical depression. Depression during pregnancy is actually much more common then many people realize. At one time, health care professionals thought that pregnant women couldn’t suffer from depression because of their pregnancy hormones. It was believed that these hormones protected against mood disorders like depression.
Any pregnant woman can develop depression at some point throughout her pregnancy. There are several causes of it during pregnancy, some of which are the following:
As depression can often drain a woman’s desire and energy, pregnant women with the disorder may not seek appropriate prenatal care. Depression during pregnancy may also increase the likelihood that a pregnant woman will abuse alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs during pregnancy. When it is most severe, clinically diagnosed depression can be a psychiatric emergency. Because a woman is in a very difficult period of adjustment and less likely to climb out of her despair, hopelessness, and suffering, she poses a danger to herself and her new baby.
Pregnancy is a particularly active field for depression to either start anew or worsen if already a problem. The extra physical, financial, marital, and sexual stresses come whether one is ready or not. On top of that, any new feelings of poor self-image can reinforce depression’s already negative self-image problems.
Preparing for a new baby is a lot of hard work, but the mother’s health should come first. A pregnant woman should resist the urge to get everything done, she should limit her activities and do things that will help her relax. Talking about things that concern a pregnant woman is also very important during these difficult times. A pregnant woman should ask for support, which most often than not, she will get. Remember that taking care of oneself is an essential part of taking care of the unborn child.
Giving birth is one of the most beautiful things a woman can experience and one of the most painful indeed (well, next to divorce if you consider that painful). But the moment the baby arrives, you will feel a certain kind of happiness not even marriage can capture. This should not be the reason to be carried away and ignore important details after delivery.
Remember, personal health care is essential to keep the mother and baby safe from any kind of illness or disease.
True, you should give every ounce of your attention to your newborn baby but, this doesnít mean that you have to compromise your health in the process. Here are some tips on how to take care of yourself even after you have been discharged from the hospital.
Giving birth can be quite exhausting. Give yourself time to rest. You can allow even a couple of weeks for you alone. If possible, do not let visitors in because this will add up to the exhaustion. If your baby is sleeping, grab that opportunity to take a quick nap. Let your husband do the chores for the meantime.
As much as possible, lifting is prohibited but the baby’s an exception. You are not allowed to lift something thatís heavier than your baby’s weight. This may add certain injuries especially if you just went out of the hospital or a surgical cut were performed either on your perineum or abdomen.
Help after giving birth is gladly given by the family, relatives and friends. Let the people close to you know that you need their presence to get through tough starting times especially if your husbandís at work. Simple chores like cooking, doing the laundry or babysitting can be done easily if you only ask for a little help. Surely, these people wonít hesitate.
Always wash your hands after doing something to decrease the risk of infection that can be passed on to your baby. Do this very often especially after visiting the toilet, feeding your baby or changing his nappies.
If you’re given by the doctor vitamins to recondition your health, never try to discontinue it unless the doctor says so. Pre-natal vitamins are very important especially the ones containing supplementary iron.
It is always advisable to eat healthy because it will equate to living healthy. Discontinue any bad habits that you have before. Refrain from eating or drinking food rich in caffeine and alcohol. Your diet can also affect your babyís health especially if youíre breastfeeding.
As what anybody is advised to do, drink at least 8 glasses of water every day. You can also include milk and juice in your meals.
Strenuous activities aren’t really advisable. Moderately, start with a simple walk around your BLOCK will do. Exercise can strengthen your body’s performance and keep you physically fit.
This should be done right after a week of delivery. Always make an appointment to visit your obstetrician to know your present condition and what are the things that you still need to do or not to do. Personal care of your health, especially after pregnancy, is very crucial for a mother and child relationship to flourish into one healthy image.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression (also known as Postnatal Depression) is a type of depression that can affect women after they have given birth; this type of depression is common and affects more than one in ten women within a year of giving birth. Mothers with Postpartum Depression may experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion that may make it difficult to live day-to-day life.
Pregnancy for many people is a wonderful and exciting experience, however for many parents it is a time of worry and exhaustion. Women who experience Postpartum Depression may find difficulties coming to terms with how they are feeling and can find it very difficult to discuss their feelings with others for many reasons. For example, because people associate having a child with happiness and fulfilment, those suffering with Postpartum Depression may feel a pressure to be happy and may feel ashamed of their depression.
Many symptoms of Postpartum Depression can have a negative effect on the mother, baby and the family and therefore, it is important that those who experience Postpartum Depression seek help as soon as possible. If untreated, the depression can continue to grow and worsen with time.
What are the symptoms?
There are many symptoms that women with Postpartum depression may experience; common symptoms include:
• Persistent and intense feelings of sadness
• Feeling empty, hopeless and overwhelmed
• Crying more than often for no apparent reason
• Increased anxiety
• Feeling moody, irritable or restless
• Oversleeping or exhaustion
• Having difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering details
• Suffering from physical aches and pains, including headaches, stomach problems and muscle pain
• Over eating (comfort eating) or under eating (loss of appetite)
• Having trouble bonding or forming emotion attachment to the baby
• Doubting ability to be a parent
• Thinking about self-harm
• Thinking about harming the baby
• Lack of enjoyment and loss of interests
• Withdrawing contact from other people
• Feeling guilt and self-blame
Signs for others to look for
Because of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression, mothers may feel reluctance in sharing how they feel, this can include sharing with the father or other family members or friends. Here are some signs for partners, family and friends to look out for in new parents:
• frequently crying for no obvious reason
• having difficulty bonding with their baby, looking after them only as a duty and not wanting to play with them
• withdrawing from contact with other people
• speaking negatively all the time and claiming that they’re hopeless
• neglecting themselves, such as not washing or changing their clothes
• losing all sense of time, such as being unaware whether 10 minutes or two hours have passed
• losing their sense of humour
• constantly worrying that something is wrong with their baby, regardless of reassurance
Causes of Postpartum Depression
It is unclear as to what exactly causes the depression, however it is believed to result from a combination of physical and emotional factors. It is important to remember that Postpartum Depression does not occur because of something the mother did or did not do.
Physical factors refer to the levels of hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, in the women’s body. After childbirth, these hormones quickly drop which leads to chemical changes in the brain that may trigger mood swings. Another contributing factor is that new parents will suffer from sleep deprivation which can lead to exhaustion, discomfort, irritability and confusion, which may intensify their sadness from not having the energy to cope.
Postpartum Depression can also be influenced by pre-existing mental health issues. For example, if a mother already has issues with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, then having a baby and having the hormonal changes can intensify negative feelings and make it harder to overcome them.
There are social and emotional factors than can also have an effect on Postpartum Depression such as not having a good support network or a relationship with the father; lack of support puts more pressure on the mother, increasing stress, anxiety and fatigue. Additionally, if the mother has experienced recent stressful life events, such as bereavement or illness, then it can add to any pressures they are experiencing regarding their child.
Even if the new mother does not have existing mental health issues or social and emotional issues in their life, having a baby is a life changing experience. Looking after a small child is a stressful job and will cause exhaustion regardless, it also changes how people live their lives and see the world around them. It may be that the new mother is focussing on everything she must give up or change, it may be that they are concerned with their financial situation or it may be simply that they do not feel ready or prepared for looking after a baby.
Any of these reasons may have contributed to the depression, however there are other reasons that may have led to it that may be specific to the individual.
Myths about Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Depression is often misunderstood, and people often make incorrect assumptions about it, which may make the sufferer feel worse.
One myth is that Postpartum Depression is not as severe as other types of depression, this is incorrect as it is just as severe as any other type of depression. Like other forms, if untreated, can have long lasting and damaging effects on the mother, child and the family that will progressively get worse and more difficult to deal with.
Another is that Postpartum Depression is entirely caused by hormonal changes, however, as discussed in the ‘causes’ section, this is untrue, and it is usually influenced by many factors.
Further, Postpartum Depression is sometimes confused for the ‘baby blues’, which is a temporary mood change after giving birth. However, Postpartum Depression is or can be an ongoing mental health issue that may persist into a long-term problem if left untreated.
Although this article has only discussed Postpartum Depression in women, it is not only women that are affected by it. Research has actually found that up to 1 in 25 new fathers become depressed after having a baby, and although this may not necessarily be caused from hormonal changes, social and emotional changes may prompt depression in new fathers as well.
How to help
It is important for those suffering with depression to talk to others about it, this can be done by accessing counselling services, which provides people with professional advice, education about the depression and can guide people through techniques on how to cope with the depression.
Peer support groups are another type of talking therapy that can be a valuable experience.
Peer support groups allow people to share their experiences of what has and has not worked for them and make suggestions of things that other people can try. This may be particularly beneficial for those who may struggle talking about their feeling with people they are close to and can reduce feeling of isolation.
However, having a good support network of people that they are close to, such as family and friends, is also beneficial. By discussing fears and emotions with other people close to the sufferer can prompt them to offer help and support, which will reduce feelings of isolation.
It is important that new parents suffering with Postpartum Depression:
• Make time for themselves to do things they enjoy and find relaxing
• Rest while they can and try to follow good sleeping habits
• Exercise, which has proven to increase moods in people with depression
• Eat regularly and healthily
• Limit alcohol consumption and do not take drugs, as they can worsen mood
• Talk to partners, family and friends
• Do not try to be a ‘supermother’ – accept help from others when it is offered
• Seek help from counselling services and talking therapies
• If unable to cope, enquire about medications such as antidepressants
If someone who has previously experienced Postpartum Depression becomes pregnant again, they are at an increased risk of going through that again – but it does not mean that they definitely will. When people who have had Postpartum Depression in the past find out they are pregnant again, it may be that their anxiety is increased straight away due to memories of a previous time, or it may be that they feel more confident about spotting symptoms and how to look after themselves.
It is important that people who are experiencing Postpartum Depression seek help, either from close relationships of from professionals, as soon as symptoms appear to minimise the risk of the disorder becoming chronic.
Almost every woman is blessed with the capacity to bear a child at least once in her lifetime. It is considered to be one of the greatest gifts that a woman can give her husband. Bearing a child would make the couple more closer together, and at this certain point in their lives they can actually call themselves a family. Upon learning that the woman is pregnant, most couples enthusiastically start planning for her pregnancy and eventual childbirth.
When talking about pregnancy, it is important to know about preconception issues regarding on giving birth. A check up with the physician or midwife would be advisable for the woman in order to face facts on childbirth. Physical preparation is needed for giving birth, since this could really change the normal function of the woman’s body. A caregiver would be helpful in preparing the woman’s body in conceiving, and also impart information concerning potential problems in pregnancy. Anxiety is felt at this point, since the woman would really have to follow certain precautions in order to conceive a healthy baby. By seeking advice regarding on preconception, safety, lifestyle changes, prenatal vitamins, and the importance of folic acid, the woman could really prepare for giving birth.
In preparing for pregnancy, a change in the woman’s lifestyle is needed. Smoking cigarettes is a definite no-no, and also the consumption of alcohol. These addictions can affect the health of both the woman and her unborn baby. A woman might need to lose or gain weight, according to her present weight relative to her height and build. Being too fat or too thin might bring complications for both the woman and the baby. A good start in preparing for childbirth would be to establish a fitness regime for the period of the pregnancy. Asking the physician about nutrition and working out would be recommended for possible questions regarding exercise and food intake.
Learning more about the woman’s body while on the early stages of giving birth is essential for proper knowledge of the situation. Various parts of a woman’s body have specific roles when it comes to pregnancy. Certain disorders from both prospective parents should be discussed with the physician for additional health background information. Anxiety and stress is also felt by the couple since this is a very critical stage for the woman. Preconception stress is normal in women about to give birth, considering factors such as scheduling, sexuality, and self esteem, among many others.
When preparing for pregnancy, the couple should be confident enough to know how to handle a child. Knowledge of early pregnancy symptoms are also important since these are signs that giving birth would happen in due time. When the couple feels that they are ready, then a visit to the Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OBGYN) would help in gleaning more information on pregnancy. At this point, the couple can make use of a pregnancy calendar in order to follow the due course of giving birth.
Anxiety is often felt by women when they know that they are pregnant. Feelings of worry and tension are usual signs that shows her being anxious about giving birth. But by spending time with your husband, regular visits to the OBGYN, finding time to relax and unwind, with good exercise, anxiety should not be a problem at all. All you have to worry about is what to name the baby?