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Five things you need to know about postpartum depression

Postpartum depression, also known by the medical term post-natal depression, affects approximately 10% to 40% of new mothers. It’s a mental illness and many women are afraid to talk about, yet it affects millions every year.

Interestingly, despite it being a relatively common condition, there is still a stigma associated with postpartum depression: the feeling that you’re so overwhelmed or depressed by motherhood, that you lose interest in caring for your baby or feel completely unequipped to do so. In this article, we’re going to dispel this stigma and give you the facts you need to know.

Five facts about postpartum depression

  1. Postpartum depression may take up to 12 months to occur

Women may begin to experience symptoms of postpartum depression within the first three months after their baby’s birth, but symptoms can occur within the first year.

  1. There are different symptoms, and you may experience

According to sufferers, a particularly common emotion of postpartum depression is feeling detached from your baby. You may also experience mental haziness, confusion, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, as well as disorientation.

It also possible for you may be anxious and/or irritable, and you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Helplessness and/or hopelessness
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Mental numbness
  • Sadness
  • Despondency
  • A sense of loss of control.
  • Irrational fears about yourself and/or your baby
  1. There is no single cause of postpartum depression

One or more of the following factors may trigger the onset of the illness:

  • Being a perfectionist
  • A traumatic birth
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Lack of support or perceived lack of support
  • Financial, work or other stresses
  • A previous history of depression and/or anxiety disorders
  • Poor sleep after childbirth
  • A poor relationship with the father of the baby
  • Prior experience of postpartum depression
  1. You can’t just ‘snap out of it’.

Some people may trivialise postpartum depression, dismissing it as the ‘baby blues’ and may tell you to ‘snap out of it’. This isn’t a helpful or effective way of dealing with depression; and yes: postpartum depression IS a type of depression (despite what others may say), and it requires medical care. It is not a condition you can treat yourself or overcome simply by changing your mindset or outlook on life.

  1. Treating postpartum depression

According to the Post Natal Depression Support Association, ‘the most effective ways to treat the illness are through medication such as anti-depressants. Psychotherapy to address underlying psychological factors and triggers is also recommended, as well as individual or group support.’ Sharing your thoughts and feelings with other women who’ve had or are having the same experience can be comforting, encouraging and will help realise that you’re not alone.

Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)

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