Postpartum depression: symptoms, duration, remedies and prevention

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Catherine Le Nevez
@catherinelenevez
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Postpartum depression

After the birth of a child, a woman may not feel as happy as she thought she was or how she was led to believe she would be. Conversely, she may feel wrong, inadequate in her new role, sad for no reason, irritable and may be suffering from postpartum depression.; an increasingly widespread disease, but underestimated by many. 





What is it?

If of depression after childbirth there is still little talk, let alone when you begin to have possible disorders in pregnancy. Our society requires us to see the physical and emotional changes of waiting only in a positive way. How many times, for example, do you hide the discomforts of a difficult pregnancy - perhaps due to nausea or other problems - saying that everything is fine? Even in pre-natal courses it is hardly ever mentioned. So here is what I wrote, because - as I have always argued - you have to talk, and above all not be ashamed to understand how to deal with depression after childbirth.



You watch social media and see photos of mothers posing with their growing baby bump. Below, the caption of the image says: “I can't wait for you to be here, you are my greatest love”. You are moved, put a "like" and then look down: you too are expecting a child. You find yourself smiling, imagining what it will be like. You have no idea, you like to abandon yourself to your thoughts: will it be blond or brown? Will he have hair? Who will the shape of the nose look like? Meanwhile, time passes, your belly becomes rounder and rounder. You find out about childcare books and manuals: you try to find as much information as possible on sleep, on colic, on the relationship with the newborn because even if you can't know what it will be like, you want to have a minimum of preparation.

You continue with your old life, work, see friends, go to dinner, hang out with your partner and discuss which threesome and crib are best for his first sleeps at home. You like to have all the attention to yourself: everyone looks at you, smiles at you, even gives you their seat on the tram, which they never did before. Your family treats you like a goddess: you don't have to make an effort, you don't have to get tired, you have to rest. And you are happy, you would like this happiness to never end. That they always treated you like this, that the belly never went away. You are happy when you hear the baby kick, you worry if maybe you don't feel it for some time, you go to do the ultrasound scans anxiously.


Postpartum depression when does it arrive?

Sometimes when you talk to your mother you think about your relationship with her. You may never have had a particularly engaging one, but you hadn't noticed it until now. What kind of mom will I be? It makes you think. One thing is certain: you will try not to resemble her, because resembling her too much is not good anyway. You are you. But never before do you realize that do you still feel daughter: you would like to be pampered again, reassured, you would like good words, you would like to be protected as when you were afraid. AND now you are so afraid. You don't have to show it though.


Everyone expects you to know what to do: your husband, future grandparents, your friends. They don't have the slightest doubt about your path as a parent. If everyone has children it won't be that difficult. Suddenly you realize that you will not be alone anymore. On the one hand you feel satisfied, but on the other you don't know if you will like it. You don't know if you will really be prepared to take care of another life in all respects; to wake up at night, to fall asleep, to give up - at least in the early days - to a small piece of yourself to give it to your baby. When these thoughts come to you, however, you chase them away like flies: being a mother is natural, it is the most beautiful thing in life, love for your baby will be absolute, if you can't do something there is the maternal instinct.

What if I don't have maternal instinct? No, they all have it, it's impossible ”. "What if I can't breastfeed?" “Imagine, it won't be that complicated

Yet sometimes, despite that happiness, you hear a kind of background noise that you try to ignore, that is always there and that makes you think about the question of questions: "Will I be able to be a mother?". You immediately answer a "but sure" and in order not to turn up the volume to that noise, you fill your day with things to do: purchases for the unborn child, rompers, prenatal yoga class, aquatic course. And why not also the 3 and 4D ultrasound: this way you can see the baby, but you don't really see it. He's there in your belly, so perfect, yet it's still an idea. And as long as it is an idea you can rest assured.

At some point in your pregnancy journey, you will go to a pre-birth class. The midwife will be good, nice, it's the first time you've seen one in your life. With other mothers you would like to try to go beyond a "I'm at 34th week, I have swollen legs and always the desire to pee". Everyone seems to know what to do, how to behave, they are all in seventh heaven. You are too, for heaven's sake, though would you like to talk about your doubts, not only related to childbirth, but also to the relationship with your child. Instead they tell you about diaper changes, baby care and breastfeeding (which is usually taken for granted). They also bring you a doll to practice with. So it is true that when you are about to become a mother you also return as a child.

Everything is beautiful, beautiful, painted pink. Yet there will also be some downsides. There will be times when you can't take it anymore, when you want to go out alone, when you want to take a shower without anyone crying. Or it could happen that you are not well. maybe in order not to have a traumatic after, someone would need to take care of the before. And how do you do if you yourself, when you try to listen to yourself, have an unspeakable terror that it could happen to you that you are one of those mothers who do not want their own child?

Symptoms of postpartum depression

First of all, do not worry: if you are expecting a baby and you do not recognize yourself in the stereotype of the expecting woman who lives "a state of grace", you are not wrong.

  • You will happen to have ambivalent feelings, especially related to the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds for you or what it will be like to care for a child.
  • Maybe even a character predisposition can expose you to a increased state of agitation. If you have a case of depression in your family or you have suffered from it in the past, it may be that this also affects your relationship with the unborn child.
  • Or if you have a precarious economic situation, if your child's father is not present or you are very young and this can become a cause for concern so much so as not to sleep at night or on the contrary to always sleep because you do not want to think, you have no reason to feel different or ungrateful towards those who cannot have children while you are pregnant.

Among the most evident physical and psychological symptoms:

  • almost always feeling agitated, sad
  • feel like crying often
  • have no energy
  • difficulty in breathing, tachycardia
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • eating excessively
  • constant worry about the child about anything
  • disinterest in the newborn
  • feelings of guilt
  • fear of hurting the baby
  • resists
  • loss of interest in everyone and everything

If all this were to happen to you, you would be no less a mother, you wouldn't be a monster, you just need some help figuring out what's going on. You don't have to ignore it. Motherhood is one of the most upsetting events in a woman's life, it brings with it a turmoil of emotions, why deny it? Why don't you allow yourself to tell yourself that even though you may dislike your child at times, you will still love him. Love relationships - the deepest and most true ones - are precisely made up of ambivalence. It is not clear why only the one between mother and child should be of absolute love, without shadows and uncertainties. It would take so little. It would be enough to ask you even anonymously with a questionnaire how you are experiencing your pregnancy. If you have anxiety, insomnia, if you have negative thoughts about yourself or the baby.

Postpartum depression after one year

Postpartum depression can appear soon after the baby is born or show up even after a year. According to some studies, the symptoms can last up to two years of the child's life. It is always necessary to evaluate the situation with your doctor to diagnose the problem and initiate appropriate therapy.

It is a disease, the manifestation of which is independent of the child's birth order: it is not certain that a mother who has not suffered from it following the birth of her first child cannot suffer from it after the birth of other children. 

How to deal with postpartum depression 

  • You could maybe have an interview with the psychologist before giving birth to tell him a little about yourself and what worries you. Often it's not the future that worries, but the past, even if you don't realize it. If you have had a family that is too present that has prevented you from living as you wanted, if you do not have much confidence in yourself or if your partner is in fact not very present and does not support you as much. Maybe you cry a lot and it's not for hormones. Everyone signals e symptoms to consider, without feeling guilty. Just take note that that background noise should be listened to and not ignored.
  • Al birth accompaniment course - that's precisely they should accompany in all respects, even in adversity - they should also talk about what you don't want to hear. But no one seems to take into consideration that something could happen. Meetings with psychologists are optional, or in a lesson where no one will have the courage to open up to strangers. You yourself would not have the courage to do it, but on reflection you know that there is nothing wrong with it. But how much do midwives and gynecologists know about afterwards? This is why pre-natal courses should start well before the end of pregnancy, but around the 4th month, when you begin to feel the baby's movements. In this way, you could share more intensely all the emotions you are going through along the way. It would help mothers to be informed about what will happen to them and thus they could feel more welcomed, protected and listened to. Yet there never seems to be time.
  • Fortunately, there are virtuous examples: some hospitals work to identify those who are in difficulty before giving birth by training health workers and then intervening on women. And then again associations such as the Oasi delle Mamme di Pesaro that take care of future mothers by offering "alternative" pre-birth courses that also address theemotional and psychological aspect of pregnancy. They are virtuous examples, so much so that they have to be named as excellences. And yet it could be like this everywhere, the exception could become the rule. 
  • Motherhood should be educated right away, from the moment those two dashes appear on the test. Because even living the first three months with the terror that something could go wrong is not a walk in the park. They should welcome you and give you time. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to do this in the hospital, especially in large birth centers. Then one could turn to the consultants, but even these are sometimes unable to manage the work, not out of ill will, just because there is no staff or the funds for interesting projects are not found.
  • One should have the courage to say what is considered the unspeakable: you can be afraid, at times almost terror, you may be aware that when the baby is born there may not be a joy right away and the path may start uphill. But you don't have to hide, you don't have to do it mom and above all do not be ashamed. Start sharing if there is something wrong: at the pre-birth course, with your gynecologist, with the midwife. It does not matter if you do not get answers at the beginning, you will see that by dint of talking about it, the veil of silence will be removed.
  • And above all, tell your husband, your mother, your friends: you are not alone, even if sometimes it seems so. Because becoming a mother is a wonderful journey, full of unknowns and things to learn. Only you know what the key to living your baby well is: don't hesitate. And do not hesitate even those who follow the woman during pregnancy: the road is still long, but together the path can be less difficult.

How to deal with postpartum depression

Here are some of the Doctor's tips on how to deal with postpartum depression:

  • Let's take some time for ourselves, even just 15 minutes a day. We can read, dedicate ourselves to creating something, take a bath, meditate, in short, dedicate ourselves to something that gives us pleasure and relaxes us.
  • We try to rest. We take advantage of the moments when the little one sleeps.
  • We do physical activity. It is enough to take a few laps around the block: the increase in metabolism and the fact of 'having taken some air' will bring about immediate psychophysical well-being.
  • Let's relax. We breathe deeply and resort to relaxing images, to find a state of calm and serenity.
  • Let's nourish ourselves well with proper postpartum diet, preferring fruit, cereals and vegetables. We limit the use of caffeine, alcohol and sugars.
  • We keep a diary. Writing about our feelings and emotions can be a way to "unload" us. As soon as we feel better we can re-read the diary and note the progress made.
  • Let us be content with completing even one thing in a day. There will be days when we won't be able to get anything done: it happens to many new parents.
  • Let us remember that it is normal to feel overwhelmed by so many new commitments. It takes time to adjust to the changes a child brings.
  • Above all, we try to maintain the bond with our son. It is not easy when you are depressed, but it is essential for a newborn to be able to maintain a bond with their mother for adequate physical and emotional growth.

How to maintain the bond with the newborn

Here's what we can do practically to maintain this bond:

  1. We breastfeed often (every 2-3 hours), secluding ourselves in a quiet place where we know we won't be disturbed. Let's relax, let's try to enjoy contact with the baby, looking him in the eye. The same is true if our baby is not breastfed, but with a bottle, but leaving the necessary time to pass between one feed and another.
  2. Let's make it so that the child can rest in a quiet place and let's take the opportunity to rest with him too. Rest is essential for both of us.
  3.  We often pick up the baby and talk to him softly. Let's change his diaper often, make sure he doesn't feel too hot or too cold.
  4. We involve the partner, relatives and friends in the care of the child.
  5. If we already have a baby, remember that he may suffer from the amount of attention given to the new arrival. Let's take some time to be with each of the children and show both of us our affection. We encourage the older child to care for or play with the newborn.
  6. Let's not hole up in the house: Going out with our baby will do us both good.
  7. If we feel lonely, tired, frustrated or angry, please leave the baby with someone we trust and take some time for ourselves.. Let's not feel guilty about it. Only if we are calm will we be able to transmit well-being and serenity to our children: so we do our best to do ourselves good.

Stories of postpartum depression

There are those who have managed to fight against the postpartum depression, but there are also women who have been victims of it. I suffered from it and 3 months after the birth of my daughter Paola; I asked for help and I pursued a path of rebirth that led me to want another child. I was lucky. Postpartum depression was actually a blessing, a design to make me stronger, have more confidence in myself.  

How to prevent postpartum depression

Postpartum depression it can be prevented and must be treated immediately at the first onset, to prevent it from leading to a disease, which is more difficult to fight. There are risk factors and indicators to be identified in order to intervene in time. If they are found symptoms even during pregnancy, it is necessary to immediately assist the pregnant woman with psychotherapy, assistance and adequate care.

Baby blues and postpartum depression

The English expression baby blues literally means sad child, but is used to indicate the mood of the mother. It is a physiological disorder related to hormone production that arise in the phase of normalization of the body and lactation. The hormonal change affects the mood of the new mother who feels a sense of inadequacy, irritability and inexplicable sadness. TO unlike postpartum depression, which is a major public health concern, the baby blues is a transient, short-lived disorder. It reaches its peak about 4 days after giving birth, but then disappears within a few days, or in any case no later than two weeks after giving birth.

Untreated postpartum depression 

La postpartum depression it is often underestimated, not accepted or recognized by the women who suffer from it. There is a veil of silence, fear and shame in expressing one's feelings and limitations. But the prevailing emotion is a sense of guilt that weighs like a stone on the woman, because she feels inadequate, wrong, bad and judged by an army of perfect mothers. Her attitude is therefore often that of closing in on a hedgehog, pretending nothing has happened and hoping that fear, sadness, anxiety and worries will disappear.

It is often forgotten that the postpartum depression if not treated and treated promptly it can have serious repercussions not only on the mother's psyche, but also on the couple's life and on the growth and development of the child.

Chronic postpartum depression

Generally, in most cases, postpartum depression, if recognized and treated in time, can slowly go away. But according to research from the Belgian University of Leuven, a variable percentage of women are unable to overcome this "monster" which will cyclically return and present itself in periods of greatest stress and beyond.

It can then become a chronic disorder and be the consolidation of a problem that already existed in the past. This is why it is essential to intervene immediately and provide adequate assistance to women who ask for help and want to get rid of this form of depression that pollutes the bond between new mother and child.

Duration of the disease

How long does postpartum depression last? There is no single answer to this question, as it can vary and depends on various factors and the severity of the clinical picture. In most cases the milder depressive episodes they have one duration not that it can go from a few weeks to a few months. While more severe or chronic depressive states they can last from one year to several years.

Postpartum depression and work

If a mom works and suffers from postpartum depression, what are yours Rights? If the disease is diagnosed during the period of compulsory leave from work, nothing changes, as any diseases in this period are not counted separately and do not extend the terms of the 5 months. If, on the other hand, the mother falls ill during the optional maternity period, she can request the suspension of the use of parental leave and request sickness allowance. This choice must be communicated to the employer through a medical certificate. The worker is required to respect the hours of availability of the tax visits.

Postpartum depression in men

Also the man he is not excluded from a series of psychic upheavals when he becomes a father. Symptoms can vary as for women: vomiting, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, headaches, but also anxiety and depression. Several studies have shown that men also have an emotional involvement during gestation which takes its cue from couvade syndrome. And as in the case of new mothers, also for new fathers it is important to intervene immediately to get the support and assistance needed so that you can get over your illness and enjoy fatherhood.  


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