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Postpartum depression is a dangerous medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep and appetite. It carries risks for the mother and child.
During pregnancy and the period shortly after delivery, mothers go through a lot of physical, emotional, financial and social changes. This puts some women at risk of developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Over half of all new mothers experience 'baby blues', which involves crying for no reason, irritability, restlessness and anxiety. But baby blues are different than postpartum depression as they last only a week or two.
If these feelings go on for a longer period of time, it can be postpartum depression.
"There are safe medications which can help mothers without affecting the baby. The stigma around psychiatric medicine during pregnancy bars most women from seeking treatment. However, I can assure you that we now have safe medications that do not affect the pregnancy or lactating baby," Dr Chhabra said.
Along with the medicine, Dr Shweta Sharma said, it is also important for new mothers to get psychotherapy. The psychotherapy helps new mothers gain self-insight .
There are some symptoms that can clearly indicate that a mother is suffering from depression.
According to Dr Chhabra, signs of postpartum depression that family and friends must look out for include crying more than usual, anxiety, decreased sleep, decreased appetite and feeling of suffocation.
New mothers who are suffering from postpartum depression also tend to have a lot of negative thoughts like - I am not a good mother, I am not good for my baby, I cannot handle it, life is not worth living, etc.
New mothers who experience decreased sleep and hunger for several days along with negative thoughts and death wishes must consult a psychiatrist immediately, Dr Chhabra said.
"People must remember, doctors are good, medicines are good. They must not be afraid of the treatment," he said.
"The mental illness begins with thoughts and the patients need to learn to manage their thoughts to get better," she said.
"Good routine, better diet, no intake of intoxicants, good sleep schedule, yoga and meditation, and managing professional and personal stress can all help reduce the risk of postpartum depression," Dr Chhabra said.
According to Dr Shweta , expecting parents must visit psychologists at least once every trimester to assess their mental health and identify any red flags. "Just like when they go to monthly physical examination, expecting parents must visit a psychologist at least once every trimester and once after the baby is born to understand their emotions and identify any red flags," she said.
Postpartum depression is a dangerous medical illness affecting mothers after their pregnancy. This article explains what it is, what to do, ways to prevent it, and it's symptoms.
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