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This Postpartum Depression guide explains the post pregnancy hormones that bring about the Baby Blues and Post natal Depression, and what you can do to reduce its severity or onset.
The sudden change in hormone levels following childbirth is thought to be a principal cause of the Baby Blues. During your pregnancy, certain hormone levels (oestrogen and progesterone) are high to maintain the pregnancy and fetus. However, during the first 72 hours after giving birth, the levels of these hormones crash.
When the levels of oestrogen and progesterone drop, the body finds it very difficult to adjust. This can have a marked effect on your emotions and mental processes. Along with other factors such as personal, emotional or relationship problems, it may lead to postnatal blues.
After childbirth, because of the blood loss and lack of potassium in your body, it can also cause severe exhaustion, another possible postnatal problem. Low potassium levels can be easily corrected by eating plenty of potassium-rich foods such as bananas (Bananas are also great for getting rid of pregnancy cramps which pregnant women are prone to) and tomatoes.
The nature, severity and duration of postnatal emotional problems can vary greatly from one woman to another, and from one pregnancy to another.
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The Baby Blues
As many as 80% of mothers suffer from the Baby Blues to some extent, so don't be surprised if you feel sad after giving birth. It is the norm and any woman who escapes it belongs to the fortunate minority.
The high levels of oestrogen and progesterone plunging to the comparatively low levels of normality can render the majority of mothers weepy, prone to sudden mood swings, irritable, indecisive and anxious. The Baby Blues can set in about 3 to 5 days after the birth and last for about a week to 10 days. The onset often coincides with the beginning of your milk production.
Becoming a Mother
The reality of motherhood may be initially bewildering and difficult to cope with once the initial euphoria of having your new baby wears off. You may feel confused and anxious about your ability to care for your own baby, and frustrated because it seems to be taking a long time to learn to be a good mother.
Stop, take a deep breath and calm yourself. No one becomes an expert overnight, the knowledge and ease is acquired only with time and wait for it...practise. Refer to Baby Care Tips and Taking Care of Yourself for some useful tips.
Talk things through openly with your partner. It is important to communicate your worries and concerns and share the stresses and strains of motherhood. It can prevent problems from escalating into a serious emotional disturbance.
It is also important not to overdo things. If you feel tired in the early days, take a short rest (Lie down with your feet raised slightly above your head) if whatever you are doing is not essential. Don't ignore the tiredness. If you can, get your partner or someone else to help share the duties of baby care.
I was kind of crazy when I had my first child. I insisted on doing everything myself, I didn't even allow my mother-in-law to help because I thought I was the only one who could give the 'best' care. My baby became so attached to me, I found it difficult to even take a pee or shower later on! We are fortunate here in Singapore, we are able to get domestic help easily. I can't imagine how hard it must be to do everything without any help.
Signs of Postnatal Depression
About 10% of all mothers develop Postnatal Depression symptoms. This is different and separate from the Baby Blues. Postpartum Depression is longer-lasting, more serious and needs rapid medical attention. It is a psychiatric disorder that can get out of hand if left untreated. I know of someone who threatened to kill her baby after her Postnatal depression was left untreated.
There are many symptoms associated with Postpartum Depression, which are experienced by different women in varying combinations. In addition to depressive symptoms, such as hopelessness and despondency, sufferers can experience lethargy, anxiety, tension, panic, sleep difficulties, loss of interest in sex, obsessional thoughts, feelings of guilt and lack of self-esteem and concentration.
How long does postpartum depression last?
Get medical help early if you notice that all is not right. With treatment, your depression should resolve in a few weeks. The longer Postnatal depression is untreated, the longer it will take to resolve.
Postpartum Depression Treatment
Besides seeking medical help, support from family and friends is vital. The doctor will normally prescribe antidepressant drugs, taking into account if you are breastfeeding. Over a period of time, these will bring about a gradual improvement. Keep taking your medication even after you start feeling better. Consult your doctor if you suffer any side effects or if your feelings of depression worsen premenstrually.
You can also help yourself when you find yourself feeling low. Be convinced that you will get better, no matter how long it takes.
Your Partner's role in Postnatal Depression
There are many ways that your hubby can help constructively and take the pressure off you.
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