• Gisèle Schembri

A Harsh Start To Motherhood - An Awareness Article

In March 2016 online magazine CominoMag published an article of mine that I wrote very much from the heart. Rights to the article remained my own and since the magazine has now closed and my awareness article is no longer available online for viewing, I am publishing it again here today as it would be a pity not to let it remain online for people to read or refer to. I myself used to often link the article to people who I felt would benefit from it else who could share it on for further awareness of the subject. So here is probably my longest article-not-written-for-the-blog in terms of word count, for anyone who would like to know more about Post Natal Depression, what it feels like, and how to help a loved one through it else how to get better in the case of being the sufferer.

A Harsh Start To Motherhood

After the long wait, the baby is finally in the mother’s arms. She should feel overjoyed but instead all she wants to do is cry herself to sleep. Not only was labour difficult but she can’t seem to understand why they say it’s worth it in the end.

Many women go through ‘baby blues’ in the first weeks after giving birth. They will be weepy and their emotions all over the place. This is a result of hormone changes that occur not only during the pregnancy but also afterwards. Adding the fact that the new mother might be feeling less than great physically as well as having a multitude of new responsibilities to deal with, it is understandable to feel overwhelmed. A ten minute nap, a good diet and talking about how she’s feeling will help alleviate the negative moods.

A worrying ten per cent of the time, however, the symptoms do not go away after the first weeks. This is usually a sign that the mother might be suffering from a serious condition called Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum Depression is worse than an emotional roller-coaster ride. More than just the irritability and insomnia that are ‘baby blues’ symptoms, the mother will experience an inability to enjoy life, not least because she might feel that she cannot connect with the reality around her. In fact one symptom is that the woman will find it difficult to concentrate and therefore finds herself unable to focus on or cope with her new world. Fatigue and a lack of appetite only serve to worsen the mood and health.

It has been blamed on unplanned pregnancy, a traumatic birth, lack of support from the partner or on being too young (surprisingly a psychotherapist I spoke to about the subject mentioned the twenties as being ‘too young’!) The fact remains, that whether or not there is a reason for it, the new mother is going through a dreadful time.

It is said that a woman suffering from Postpartum Depression will want to harm her baby as well as herself but this is not necessarily the case. In fact it seems more normal for the mother to become so obsessed with her baby’s well-being that her whole world starts to centre around keeping him safe.

When the depression takes on an even more horrible form called Postpartum Psychosis the thoughts of suicide become realistic and might be acted upon. Furthermore, in these severe cases, there is a more pronounced inability to bond with the baby and the patient might even suffer from delusions. In the case of Postpartum Psychosis it is imperative that the situation is handled at the earliest by a qualified specialist who would know how to deal with the problem.

With regards to Postpartum Depression, unless the symptoms go away through sheer will-power in the first months, which is a difficult thing to achieve given the depressed person is not usually confident or assertive, then professional help is very often the way to go.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, antidepressants as well as psychotherapy can in most cases solve the problem. Psychotherapy is much like counselling but based on getting the patient to solve the crisis through understanding what is the underlying problem. Sometimes hidden fears and troubles in the person’s background and history might be relevant to the sessions as they might have a part to play in causing the depression.

Unfortunately, the affected mother will be likely to suffer Postpartum Depression following subsequent pregnancies and in fact is also more likely to suffer from depression in general.

Most women know that it is normal to suffer temporarily from baby blues and find themselves unable to distinguish between it and the more unrelenting feelings that might actually be clinical depression. This is why it is important to speak out and try to help if you feel there is something amiss, however trivial you think it might be.

Family might not always realise just how bad the mother is feeling, attributing any feelings to stress at being inept in the new position as a carer of a tiny fragile new being. Meanwhile the mother might feel too weak to think for herself, speak up, or even contemplate that professional help might be a necessity. She might also erroneously feel that to accept and reveal the problem would be to indirectly blame the baby and no mother wants to do that.

The point remains that it is important to recognise and acknowledge the depression. The sooner this happens, the easier it will be for the mother to have positive recollections of what should be the most joyful years of her life.

Image by samuel Lee from Pixabay


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