The birth of a baby can be life-changing as women go through a stream of intense physical, emotional and mental experiences during and after childbirth. Such a time of increased fear and anxiety leaves new mothers vulnerable to postpartum depression (PPD). A severe mental health illness, postpartum depression is a form of depression that affects women after childbirth. About 20-25% of first-time mothers in India experience PPD.
Postpartum depression involves feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness, indifference, or anxiety and affects the new mother’s sleep, appetite, and energy. Due to the depression, new mothers fail to form a bond or attachment with their baby and end up blaming themselves for it. PPD can begin anytime during the first year after childbirth and can develop suddenly or gradually. By keeping an eye on the warning signs of postpartum depression, women can get diagnosed and get early help.
6 Early Warning Signs of Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Prolonged Baby Blues
Most new mothers experience baby blues following the birth of their baby, which include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, persistent tearfulness, reduced concentration, appetite problems and trouble sleeping. If these symptoms last longer than two weeks and interfere with the mother’s ability to perform daily tasks and bond with the baby, she may have postpartum depression. PPD is much more intense and threatening than baby blues and can last until a year after the baby’s birth.
Pessimistic or Guilty Thoughts
Overwhelming feelings of sadness can consume a new mother’s thoughts in the first few days of childbirth. But if she experiences frequent crying spells, negative thoughts or constant guilt over not being a good mother, she may be experiencing postpartum depression. Constantly doubting one’s abilities or feeling worthless, hopeless and guilty are some of the earliest signs of PPD. Instead of being consumed with guilt, negativity or anxiety, new mothers should speak with an expert about their feelings.
Also, Read: Postnatal Depression: Causes and Symptoms
It can be difficult for new mothers to jump back into their old routines once their baby is born. But not being able to find joy in old habits, hobbies or pleasure can be a warning sign of postpartum depression. For instance, if a new mother no longer likes eating her favourite foods, watching her favourite movies or bonding with her partner, she may be experiencing postpartum depression. Losing interest in things once enjoyed or withdrawing from old hobbies and even family members can indicate the signs of PPD.
Difficulty Making Decisions
Some women may experience difficulty making decisions or concentrating on activities and tasks after childbirth. For instance, being undecisive about taking a shower, changing the baby’s diaper or even getting out of bed are some common signs in women experiencing postpartum depression. Women suffering from PPD may feel extreme tiredness or lack of concentration and thinking abilities, preventing them from making sound decisions or arriving at a conclusion.
Changes in Sleep Patterns
While it is normal for new mothers’ sleeping patterns to change with a new baby to look after but if they are unable to sleep or rest even when the baby is sleeping, it might be an indication of postpartum depression. Women suffering from PPD may find it extremely difficult to sleep during the night, feeling excessively sleepy during the day, difficulty falling asleep or trouble staying asleep. New mothers experiencing these symptoms should consult a doctor at the earliest.
Loss of Appetite or Overeating
Among many other changes that take place in a woman after giving birth, there may be changes in her eating habits as well. But these changes are likely to dissipate within a week or two. If a new mother continues to feel a loss of appetite or develops overeating or binge eating habits, she may be experiencing postpartum depression. Instead of ignoring these signs or waiting for them to disappear, it is best to speak with an expert.
Most new mothers who feel depressed after their baby’s birth feel embarrassed or reluctant to admit it. But unless they get diagnosed, they cannot receive help and be treated. Women should not wait for improvement but get treatment at the earliest so they can enjoy their new life with their new baby.