Postpartum Depression is a mental health disorder that affects nearly 20% of Indian mothers within the first 12 weeks of childbirth. “The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to depression in general; such as irritability, mood swings, crying, a feeling of being overwhelmed, lack of sleep, and fatigue. What’s really interesting about postpartum depression is that there’s a lot of focus on the newborn, and doubts about the mother’s own fitness for mothering. This may manifest as difficulty bonding with the baby, or guilt about not handling motherhood well,” says Dr Annie Mathew, Psychiatrist
According to Dr Mathew, “When you look at the postpartum period, there’s something called baby blues, which occurs very commonly. This is seen in about 25-30% of all women after delivery, and those have more subtle symptoms such as exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, sleep deprivation and irritability. However, these usually subside, within a couple of weeks if there is family support. What sets it apart from postpartum depression is the duration and intensity. In “blues”, the mother does not have thoughts of worthlessness, death, or harm to self or baby. These symptoms are, however, characteristic of postpartum depression.”
“Almost 50% of cases go undiagnosed, and can hence lead to serious complications. If left unchecked, there can be significant risk of harm to the mother or the baby. Additionally, mothers who are depressed will spend less time bonding with the baby. It is often seen that children, of mothers who have suffered from untreated postpartum depression may show emotional and development delays. Further, this illness can also predispose the mother to chronic and recurrent depression in the future,” says Dr Annie Mathew.