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Postpartum depression in women

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By Sonia Okere

One of the greatest joys of motherhood is the bond that forms between a mother and her child. From the moment a baby is born, a mother’s love and affection can be felt in the way she holds and cares for her child.

This bond grows stronger with each passing day and can bring a sense of fulfilment and purpose to a mother’s life. Although motherhood can be one of the most rewarding experiences a woman can have, it also comes with different challenges, and one of them is called postpartum depression.

Last week, I read the story of a woman named Mrs. Esther Frank, who committed suicide and left her two children behind.

On the day of the incident, she sent her first child, (a two-year-old) to stay at her neighbour’s house. Then she took her four-month-old baby inside her apartment, and while the baby was asleep, she drank a bottle of insecticide (sniper). A few hours later, the baby woke up and started crying.

Her wails attracted the neighbours to the apartment, and they were all surprised to see the woman lying unconscious on the floor. They also saw the bottle of sniper beside her and a note that she left.

While going through some of the comments, I discovered that some people said she committed suicide because she was influenced by spiritual powers. However, I think her case was different. If you’re familiar with postpartum depression, you’d probably agree that she was a victim of it.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of mood disorder that affects about 1 in 7 women after childbirth. After nine months of carrying a little life inside of you, it’s completely normal to feel a little off after giving birth. PPD can develop at any time within the first year after childbirth, but it commonly occurs within the first few weeks or months after delivery.

I am a survivor of PPD, and I would like to share my story with you. I had my first child in 2017, and just like every other first-time mother, I was super excited. The delivery was very smooth, and I returned from the hospital 24 hours later.

Being a first-time mom, I had planned that my older sister, who was living in the same city, would come and assist me. Her visa was approved during that period, and she had to leave the country. Meanwhile, my husband was unavailable due to his offshore work. Since I had no other relatives, I decided to attend to my baby all by myself.

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At first, I thought I was strong enough to do all the cleaning, cooking, and bathing, but I was wrong. In the first month, some members of my church came around to assist me, but I don’t really know why they stopped coming as soon as my baby was one month old. Maybe they felt I was ready to carry on.

After I resumed full-time duties, I started experiencing feelings of sadness and hopelessness. I found myself struggling to bond with my new baby. I hated the fact that I had to stay awake all night to breastfeed her. Each time she cried, I would get so angry. I was easily irritated and was always feeling bad.

There was a day I looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognise myself. I had gained so much weight, and I couldn’t stand the sight of my sagging breasts and protruding tummy. I started crying after comparing my old looks with the present. Is this how I’m going to be? Will I ever regain my former shape? While I was wallowing in self-pity, my daughter woke up and started crying. I was so mad, and I didn’t know when I spanked my three-month-old baby. It was at that point that I realised that I was losing my senses and needed to see a doctor.

Statistics of Women Affected by Postpartum Depression

Did you know that PPD affects about 10–20% of new mothers? Although the prevalence can vary depending on the population studied and the screening tools used.

For example:
• A study in Canada found that PPD affects approximately 15% of new mothers.

• In the United Kingdom, it also affects up to 15% of women who give birth.

• In the United States, about 1 in 9 women experience PPD.

• Finally, between 10–15 per cent of new mothers experience it in Australia.
Although these are just estimates, the true prevalence of PPD may be higher, especially in developing countries like Nigeria. Are biological mothers the only ones who can be affected? The answer is no. Foster mothers and even fathers can also suffer from PPD.

Last year, we heard the story of Mr Confidence Amatobi, a native of the Amurie community in Isu L.G.A., Imo State. It was said that the young man allegedly used a plastic hanger to flog the arms of his two-month-old baby.

What was the child’s offence? They said that the child’s mother went to the toilet to urinate, and his father couldn’t tolerate his incessant crying. So, he hit him to shut him up. Unfortunately, the bone of the little child got dislocated.

Did you know that he prevented the child’s mother from seeking help from neighbours? He also seized her phone and locked her up for two days. After she escaped and took the baby to the hospital, the doctors confirmed that his condition had already deteriorated, and they had to cut off the hand.

Can you imagine the pain that an innocent child had to go through just because his father was depressed and frustrated? What about the mother? The naive twenty-year-old lady was so helpless. She watched her child groan, and when he couldn’t bear the pain anymore, he passed on. That little baby went to heaven because his earthly father refused to love him. The culprit was captured, and I hope he receives a befitting punishment.

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What causes postpartum depression?
There are many causes of postpartum depression in women. Some women may experience it when they feel like they are not meeting the societal standards of a good mother. However, the most general causes of PPD are hormonal imbalance, stress, loneliness, and lack of enough finances, sleep, and support from people.

If you suspect that you are suffering from PPD, then look out for the following symptoms:

• In mild cases, the woman experiences feelings of worthlessness, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and irritability. However, she is still able to care for herself and her baby.

• In cases of moderate PPD, the victim may experience severe symptoms of depression, which would lead to insomnia, changes in appetite, difficulty bonding with her baby, and an inability to care for herself.

• In severe cases of PPD, the woman may feel like harming herself or her baby. Also, she may be unable to care for herself or her baby.

How long can the symptoms last?

The duration of postpartum depression (PPD) can vary depending on the individual. For some women, PPD may last only a few weeks, while for others, it may last for several months or longer.

Treatment for postpartum depression
If you are experiencing postpartum depression, it’s important to seek help right away. Based on the severity of your symptoms and how long you’ve been dealing with them, there are several ways to treat this condition.
Some examples are:

Seek the help of a therapist: Talking to a good counsellor or therapist can help a woman overcome those negative feelings that lead to depression.

Take the prescribed medication: Antidepressant drugs can also correct chemical imbalances that may be causing depression.

Join a support group: If you’re a mother with postpartum depression, don’t worry—you’re not alone. You can either join an online or offline support group to connect with peers who are going through the same condition. Hearing other mothers’ stories can provide comfort, validation, and motivation to seek help.

Change your lifestyle: Making changes to your diet and exercise habits, as well as getting enough sleep, can improve your overall well-being. Don’t let the responsibilities of being a mother overwhelm you. Create time to hang out and do all those things you enjoy.

Conclusion
If you are struggling with postpartum depression, the best thing you can do is reach out for help. It may seem overwhelming or intimidating, but educating yourself about your options and finding the right support system can make all the difference. Every woman’s experience with PPD is different. Therefore, always consult a doctor to know which treatment option is best for you.

Finally, have you experienced PPD in the past? If so, kindly share your story in the comment section. We would be glad to hear from you.

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