To tackle post-partum depression, timely diagnosis need of the hour

Post-partum depression (PPD) begins as insecurity, usually within 30 days of baby's birth and rapidly expands to other symptoms, which typically include sadness or anxiousness through the day, which often worsens in evening. Crying spells, low self-esteem, lethargy and sleeplessness are also common symptoms

To tackle post-partum depression, timely diagnosis is the need of the hour
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  • A 23-year-old Pune woman committed suicide as she felt she was unable to care for her four-month-old daughter.
  • Her body was found in a well near her house on Monday (March 6).
  • She had left a suicide note stating her ordeal.
  • Relatives are unaware if she was suffering from depression.
  • Doctors say post-partum depression is common and most neglected mental illness in most part of the world.
  • It is said post-partum depression (PPD) affects one in every five new mothers.

‘PPP syndrome rare, goes unnoticed’

Doctors say while becoming a mother is the happiest phase of a woman’s life, motherhood can trigger mental illness that can even force a woman to take her own child’s life, if not treated on time.

Dr Harish Shetty, Psychiatrist, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, said, “Post-delivery, women undergo hormonal changes and can suffer from Post-Partum Psychosis Syndrome (PPP), in which the women may not want the child and there can be a detachment towards the baby. She may even harm herself. This syndrome is rare and mostly goes unnoticed.”

When does it start?

It is said postpartum depression (PPD) affects one in every five new mothers. It begins as insecurity, usually within 30 days of baby’s birth and rapidly expands to other symptoms which typically include sadness or anxiousness through the day, which often worsens in evening. Crying spells, low self-esteem, lethargy and sleeplessness are also common symptoms.

“Very few women get treatment as there is poor awareness on PPD. There is a tendency to pass off symptoms of sadness, irritability, and the feeling of being unable to take care of the child as part of normal behaviour by the family,” said Dr Sagar Mundada, Psychiatrist, KEM Hospital, Mumbai.

Psychiatrists say PPD occurs in women after they have carried a child, usually in the first few months, and may last up to several months or even a year.

“Symptoms include sadness, fatigue, changes in sleep and eating patterns, reduced libido, frequent crying episodes, anxiety and irritability. The milder version is called Postpartum Blues, where the mother tends to feel overwhelmed or low and difficulty in sleeping resolves on its own within a month,” said Dr Parul Tank, Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital, Mumbai.

Which women are likely to suffer from it?

Women with a history or family history of depression are more likely to get affected by PPD.

The other risk factors of PPD include:

  • Women who have had a difficult pregnancy
  • Women who have had a very difficult delivery
  • Women in a troubled marriage
  • Those who receive poor support from spouse or family
  • Women with a sick or colicky baby.

Additionally, women who have psychological pressures such as getting back in shape, resuming work can also be a triggering factor to PPD.

How to beat post-partum depression?

“Counselling, a good diet, adequate sleep and family support usually treat depression in new mums, only 5% need medication and antidepressants,” said Dr Tank.

She said one should keep a watch on tell-tale signs of PPD like a new mother getting angry and feeling depressed and refusing to hold her baby.

“It is important that the woman receives family support. Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicines are needed in very few cases. Counselling is a must,” added Mundada.