The stages of pregnancy and motherhood are one of the most sensitive, yet stressful times in any woman’s life. Roughly, depressive and anxiety disorders, as well as other emotional setbacks, are highly prevalent in almost one-fifth of the world’s women population.
For certain individuals, such obstacles don’t have major severe effects and they are quick to stride the road to recovery. However, for some mothers, these emotional disorders can snowball into major psychological issues which can further harm one’s quality of life.
Depression, which occurs during the period of pregnancy, is known as Antenatal Depression. It can start off during any stage of pregnancy. Symptoms may get reflected insidiously, or can appear all of a sudden.
Depressive disorder, which strikes after pregnancy, is known as Postnatal Depression, or ‘baby blues’. Its symptoms are highly distressful and unpredictable. It is often accompanied by confusion and guilt regarding the young infant, and even fear of staying alone with the child.
No individual cause has been cited as the major reason for parents developing this psychological problem during this crucial period.
The usual causes include: unpredictability during parenthood, problems during pregnancy, a birth accompanied by trauma, melancholy when parenthood turns out to be different than expectation, social and relationship turning points, less sleep, less parental and social aid, and traumatic situations like job insecurity, sickness, change of location, grief, abusive or broken relationships etc.
- Post sickness: Pregnancy induced vomiting, nausea and malaise often alter the bodily mechanisms and lead to depression. The after effects of the operation, and pregnancy drugs or anesthesia may also lead to depression.
- Early history of psychological disorders: Trivial emotional setbacks often diminish with time. However, mothers who were previously victims of psychological disorders were more susceptible to baby blues than those who never experienced such disorders.
- Lack of qualitative support: Adequate medical, as well as emotional aid, helps a mother understand the complications and compromises required after childbirth, and also enable her to receive sufficient rest and quality time with her child.
- Past history: A parent who has suffered childhood episodes of stress, trauma, abuse, neglect and fear, often face depressive and socially reclusive disorders, coupled with sudden outbursts of the trauma of past events during crucial life events like childbirth.
- Traumatic life situations: Any recent stressful event, which has occurred over an year prior to pregnancy, is most likely a risk factor for depression, such as: death of loved ones, loss of jobs, staying away from close ones, and issues in relationships.
- Trauma during pregnancy: Depression can be triggered by traumatic events like stillbirth, miscarriages, abortions, unsuccessful pregnancies or even child death.
- Stressful child management: A baby, which takes time to adjust to sleep and feeding routines and is very restless, further increases the stress levels at home. This also leads to parental tiredness and undesirable change in the routine household activities.
- Stress while giving birth to the child: Problems like a labor period of long duration, excessive pain during labor, and the birth of an ill or premature baby, giving birth to an abnormal child, all these may lead to a clinical episode of postnatal depression.
What to Do!
Mental disorders cannot be completely prevented. However, they can be reduced or controlled in the following ways:
- Avoidance of a perfectionist attitude: Individuals often set unrealistic expectations for themselves and turn depressive when things don’t go as planned. There should a practical way of viewing things and the realization that this stage is a difficult one for all parents.
- Quality time for self: Mothers should focus on getting adequate rest during prenatal as well as postnatal periods. Even during her busy schedule, some amount of quality time should always be given for one’s well being.
- Support from friends and family: There is no need for the mother to take all responsibilities and burdens. Sharing household as well as tasks like shopping and child care with friends and family, is a healthy way to nurture relationships and oneself.
- Healthy lifestyle: Minor changes in one’s lifestyle can have immense positive outcomes on one’s physical as well as mental conditions, such as, adequate sleep and rest, healthy food habits and physical activity or recreational activities as per one’s suitability.
- Greater medical attention: Visiting a mental health expert at periodic intervals, can help one to fully understand and regulate the symptoms of depression.
- Cooperating groups and organizations: It is a good idea to visit groups or institutes where one can meet other women with similar problems and share problem and their possible treatment plans.
- Therapeutic counseling: Visiting institutes or organizations, which offer counseling facilities, is a good idea to manage depressive symptoms. Distinctive therapeutic procedures like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can help one to overcome the effects of antenatal and postnatal depression.
- Medicines: The family doctor or general practitioner may recommend certain medications or anti-depressants based on the nature of one’s psychological symptoms.
- Familial and social support: Encouragement of family members and friends to aid the parents, is a major success step in reducing the effects of antenatal and postnatal depression. Often near and dear ones notice significant signs and symptoms before the parents do.
- Change in routine: It helps to chalk out one’s routine carefully so that some time is kept for the mother or parents to go out and have a respite from the usual chores: like a walk, meeting friends or going for shopping.
- Awareness and mindfulness regarding stress: Management of one’s routine is crucial during this significant stage and one should be aware of the slightest arousal of negative emotions. This can be coped immediately by turning over responsibilities to others and taking periodic breaks for relaxation.
No matter how challenging and stressful this stage is, the key is to realize that the new born baby is most in need of parental love, support and affection.
Post pregnancy and childbirth is no doubt a very stressful phase for all parents and family members, and often the best form of support and recovery is to spend quality time with the infant as much as possible and derive positivity in all aspects of life.