scorecardPostpartum depression in mothers can have serious consequences on the child’s health and development
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Postpartum depression in mothers can have serious consequences on the child’s health and development

Postpartum depression in mothers can have serious consequences on the child’s health and development
LifeScience4 min read
  • Postpartum depression has become more common among Indian mothers with the incidence rate rising sharply after the first Covid-19 lockdown, say doctors.
  • According to a report by Mariwala Health Initiative, 10-30% of mothers from developing countries like India will suffer from prenatal depression.
  • Postpartum depression can not only affect the relationship between a mother and a child but also create physical health problems for the latter.
Drishya Jain, a resident of a city named Kishangarh located near Ajmer, Rajasthan and a mother of a 3-year-old, enjoyed her pregnancy in 2019 but soon after she had her baby, she not only witnessed a massive change in her behaviour but that of her family towards herself as well.

“Before pregnancy, everyone takes care of you because you have a life inside you. But after the delivery, all the attention is given to the baby and not the mother,” Jain told Business Insider India.

Mothers often go through a massive change not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. They are found to be the most vulnerable and prone to mental health problems during this crucial period.

“The period after delivery was more difficult than the pregnancy because you’re not only taking care of your baby but also adjusting with your body that has gone through a massive change and this was very exhausting everyday as we’re in a figuring-out stage where we don’t know how to deal with the baby stuff,” Jain added.

Often these mood swings and decreased sleep are regarded as postpartum blues, which most women face after their pregnancy – generally they go away in a few weeks. However, these symptoms can also escalate and become a serious issue leading to postpartum depression.

“The symptoms of postpartum depression last longer and are more severe and (postpartum depression) could present itself as a continuation of antenatal depression,” Dr Shamantha K, Counselling Psychologist, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore told Business Insider India.
Lockdowns and postpartum depression
Sadly, postpartum depression has become more common among Indian mothers, with the incidence rate rising sharply after the first Covid-19 lockdown, say doctors.

“Almost half the women with newborn babies were said to meet the criteria for postnatal depression during the first lockdown, which is nearly double the rate of incidence compared to the pre-pandemic era,” Dr Shamantha said.

According to a report ‘Mental Health Matters’ released last week by Mariwala Health Initiative – which provides grants and strategic support to organisations working in the mental health space – 10-30% of mothers from developing countries like India will suffer from prenatal depression.

Intense mood swings with depressed mood dominating, crying spells, social isolation, difficulty in establishing a bond with the newborn, disturbances in sleep and appetite, low zeal and energy, apathy towards day-to-day life schedules, low interest in the baby, intense thoughts of hurting the baby and thoughts of self harm — these are some of the common symptoms of postpartum depression.

Surprisingly, mental health problems after pregnancy can be genetic as well. “Causes can be genetic where there is a probable family history of the same. Physical and hormonal changes in the mother's body post childbirth also contribute to this. Emotional concerns of the mother and underlying stress can also aggravate it,” said Dr Rituparna Ghosh, consultant, psychology, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.

Mothers aged between 25-34 years are prone to postpartum depression, say doctors.
How does a mother’s bad mental health affect the baby?
Doctors say that children of mothers who undergo postpartum depression are likely to develop behavioural concerns, anxiety and separation fear issues besides having academic challenges.

“It may also lead to insecurity and developmental and behavioural issues in children with emotional disturbances,” Dr Ghosh added.

Postpartum depression can not only affect the relationship between a mother and a child, it can also create physical health problems for the latter. Doctors say that it can affect the infant’s growth and development.

“In developing countries like India, they are at a greater risk of being stunted and underweight. They may also not be breastfed and (the mothers may not) seek health care as much as they should leading to other problems. People of the lower strata are at a bigger risk of their children facing adverse psychological problems,” Dr Shamantha said.

Prenatal depression – depression during the pregnancy and childbirth that lasts for over a year after delivery – has been shown to increase the risk of poor infant nutrition, stunting and diarrheal disease, as per the Mariwala report.
How can one control postpartum depression?
It is very important for mothers to be vocal with their respective doctors and the medical team about their feelings, doctors suggest. Postpartum depression is a treatable condition and can be cured with the help of doctors and medications (in some cases).

“It can be prevented by talking about it to your medical team, being active, getting ample rest, maintaining a healthy diet, seeking breastfeeding support, asking for help, taking time to connect to one’s body, learning about the signs and symptoms and talking to other mothers to educate yourself,” Dr Shamantha explained.

It is also very important for mothers to stay proactive and to lead a healthy lifestyle during and after pregnancy. “Do not make big and major life changes during and immediately post pregnancy, prepare yourself on a positive note before childbirth, share and seek help,” Dr Ghosh further added.

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