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Doc Ayomide: Post Partum Depression – A New Mother’s Unwanted Visitor

Doc Ayomide

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Sunday was Mother’s day, and this week (May 11-17) is Mental Health Awareness Week 2015. So in honour of both, I’ll be talking today about a major mental health issue that affects mothers: “baby blues” and post-pregnancy depression.
______

“Hey honey, did you sleep?”

Iyabo stared back at her husband.

“Oh, darling.” He came over and held her hand,  his face wrinkled with concern. “What’s wrong? What’s happening to you?”

A tear slid down her face, but she remained quiet.  She hated that she was making him feel bad, but she was sure he would feel far worse if she let him in on what she was really thinking.

She wasn’t sure when It had started, but she knew something was wrong by the time her little girl — their firstborn — turned two months. The sleep had been the first thing to go. At first she thought it was the baby, but then it didn’t get better even on days when things were relatively stressless.

Then there was the unhappiness. And it wasn’t the kind of sadness she sometimes felt, nothing like when she had lost her mother. This was different. For one she couldn’t even say why she was unhappy. She sometimes thought it was the baby, but that didn’t make sense: they had been waiting for a child for 3 years. She wanted the baby with all her heart.

But now the baby was here and she couldn’t seem to make herself care. She still cared for the baby, but she was mostly forcing herself.

Until she couldn’t anymore, and that was when her husband knew the issue was more than just sleep. But he didn’t know the half of it. He only knew she couldn’t seem to get up from bed even though she wasn’t sleeping, and that she had stopped doing anything at all around the house, including caring for the baby.

He didn’t know that, once or twice — and this terrified her — she had even had thoughts of harming the poor little girl. He didn’t know that everything seemed to have lost value for her — he, the baby, even her own self.

“I’m a terrible mother,” she thought. “I don’t deserve to have a child.”

How could she tell anyone that?

_____

“Iyabo” is entirely fictional, of course, but her story is that of millions of mothers worldwide.

Post-pregnancy depression (also known as postpartum or postnatal depression) is a common mental health problem in new mothers, even if they’ve had children.

And if you wondering just how common, we’re talking 1 in 10 women after the birth of a child (and yes — about the same number of men).

There’s something else called baby blues, which is far more common: between 30-75% of new mothers, and by some estimates, up to 85%. That’s a lot of women.

Baby blues are much milder, though. The woman might experience sleep problems, tearfulness, mood swings, and some feelings of inadequacy. But these typically start within a few days after the childbirth, and don’t last beyond a couple weeks, maybe a month after, max. And the woman’s ability to care for her newborn usually is fine.

Depression, though, can start much later (up to 6 months later) and last for months. And unlike blues,  And, perhaps even more serious, it messes majorly with her ability to care for the child when he or she needs her most.

And this is what makes it most important to identify and treat post-pregnancy depression early. Because it’s a double wahala situation: both mother and child are at risk.

One more thing. A few new mothers (1 in 1000) have a more severe condition called post-pregnancy psychosis: hearing voices of unseen people, seeing things others don’t see, being unreasonably convinced that others are out to harm them or their baby, or other unusual and inexplicable beliefs.

You might be wondering: “Um, Doc, isn’t this really just a spiritual attack?” And yes, I get why you might think that. Consider though, that medical treatment is very effective — I’ve personally yet to see where the person didn’t respond. And that in many cases, people go the spiritual route first before coming to the doctor, not the other way round.

What can you do to help?

First of all, you need to know it can happen. (Which is the point of writing this.) One thing I tell people is, don’t wait for the person to tell you: this is not something easy to talk about, so you just might wait in vain.

If you’re close enough, you can just ask yourself. And if you’ve experienced it before, it would be helpful for the person to know they aren’t alone.

It helps too, of course, to have an idea who’s more likely to have post-pregnancy depression, so here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • having a difficult delivery
  • recent problems like losing a job or a loved one, or money struggles
  • physical or emotional abuse
  • lack of friends and family support
  • being already depressed from pregnancy
  • having had depression (which may or may not have been related to a previous pregnancy)

Of course, as with most mental health conditions, no single one of these is a cause by itself. They only suggest who is more likely to have it: someone who has none of these issues might get depressed, while another person with all of them might not.

Please don’t hesitate to recommend a visit to a psychiatrist. You’ll be surprised how many people don’t realise that these conditions are medically treatable. It also helps a lot if you’re willing to accompany the mother or couple (with their permission, of course).

Follow up is extremely important. Depression in pregnancy is still really just depression, which means the mother is has a greater likelihood of having depression later. And she doesn’t have to be pregnant. That said, in further pregnancies (which she shouldn’t be afraid of), she should see a psychiatrist even if she has no symptoms, just to be on the safe side.

Most important of all, be there for the person all the way. Don’t judge, don’t presume, don’t blame. Whatever you do, don’t make things worse.

Mothers are wonderful. Let’s be sure to make life easier for them.

Till I write again, keep rising.

If you’re interested in learning more about post-pregnancy depression, here’s a good place to continue from:http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Postnataldepression/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Would you like further information? Or do you have any stories of your own to share? Get in touch: [email protected] (Your confidentiality is assured.)

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Goldenkb

Dr Ayomide Adebayo is a medical doctor, mind health consultant and founder of Maximise Your LIFE, a community for people who want to live to the full. Grab your copy of his FREE resources here — plus instant access to his potentially life-changing email course!He writes at DocAyomide.com and tweets @DocAyomide. To ask a question, book a session — or just say hello — simply e-mail him ([email protected]).

27 Comments

  1. I'ld rather remain anonymous

    May 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Sorry what i am about to post is not related to this article but i will still post it.
    So while i was in church yesterday i was feeling sleepy and my 17 months old was in a playful mood and didn’t want me to hold him. He eventually let this young fine bobo carry him. While i was drifting in and out of wonderland i suddenly remembered how a child was kidnapped from a church some weeks back.
    BNfam you needed to see the way sleep vanished from eyes… I fixed my eyes on my LO and the young fine bobo so much that i refused to blink . I could not help but laugh at myself.

  2. kokie

    May 11, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    This can be quite tough on everyone particularly the woman. I had a friend who stopped having children for this reason. It also gave her suicidal thoughts.

  3. Goody

    May 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    laf no gree me oo, i have been in this type of situation.

  4. trish

    May 11, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks Doc.. quite informative. Sometimes I wonder, can this situation apply to someone whose baby is over 20months old?

    • Doc Ayomide

      Doc Ayomide

      May 11, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      Thank you too, Trish. About your question, the truth is a depressive episode can hit a person at any time, really. It just so happens that the stress of 9 months of labour with otherwise abnormal hormone levels, all ending in hours of intense pain and the sudden drop of those hormones… let’s just say that’s enough to trigger some serious emotional upsets.

      In people who might have been already prone to depression, pregnancy and delivery might be the tipping point. Especially because it’s the same depression after all, whether it occurs after childbirth or during pregnancy or any other time. (The extra problem with after pregnancy is the added complication of impaired child care.)

      So technically, depression after 6 months (max 12) is not considered postnatal anymore (that is, it’s very unlikely to have been triggered by the pregnancy). But it remains as serious as depression at any other time.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful question.

  5. Bleed Blue

    May 11, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you Dr. Ayomide! Thank you for highlighting this VERY serious issue!!!

    In your list of “those likely to have PND”, I know you wrote lack of friends or family support, but one thing I want to specifically add is A VERY DEMANDING MOTHER-IN-LAW! Mine made me contemplate jumping from my 4th floor window. She did nothing and demanded many things while crossing her legs and flipping the SKY remote.

    Add that to the already horrible feelings I was having (similar to Iyabo really) and meeeeeeyn, it was not an easy somtin.

    When you try to talk to your Naija peeps about how soulless you’re feeling, they tell you “It is well”. Talk to your Caucasian friends, they start to give you side-eye … as if you’re henceforth to be viewed as a potential child-killer.

    Thank God for articles like this that remind you you’re never alone in the struggle.

    • Bfb

      May 12, 2015 at 12:02 am

      Hope you got the treatment/help or relief from MIL you needed! I hundred percent agree that PND needs to be talked about more openly. The greater the awareness, the more likely people are to know what to say in response to a new mum who might be experiencing this.

  6. hetty

    May 11, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    up until now i never knew what name to to give to kind of situation. i had a friend who once told me that she was not happy with life again that sometimes she just wants to stay in bed and she would ignore her baby when she was crying, at first i thought she must be joking or maybe under a spiritual attack. Thank you Doc Ayomide for this insight.

  7. @edDREAMZ

    May 11, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said…
    .
    Thank God am not a woman though….
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

    • shaiyeshay

      May 11, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      Chai, @edreamz. So you still carry that your sacarsm on Linda blog reach here. Are you mtn? Everywhere we go, cos I dnt understand you anymore. Anuofia.

      Hey Mr doctor. Quite informative. Thank you.

    • Niola

      May 11, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Thank God i am not a man……Mr in Jupiter, if you have nothing valid to say on earth, please do not leave any comments. Bleed Blue i know exactly how you feel….This issue is real and truth be told Nigerians are not really supportive about this, they think post natal depression makes you weird. There should be active education about this in Nigeria…

  8. cindy

    May 11, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Hmmmm…….mothers are trying o. My mom told me she wanted to have one more child but had to stop after she had me. Given the fact that she had me through CS, she was bed-ridden. Coupled with that was the fact that my family was struggling at that moment. There were days she went hungry even in the hospital ward. Thank God for some few family friends. She told me that the time she cried, my dad told her to stop embarrassing him. Now I understand how she felt. My dad is not a bad person, I just feel like he was insensitive to her feelings then. I should go give her a hug now for being a strong mother, unfortunately we are not in the same State.

  9. Sweetest

    May 11, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Post natal Depression is real….I suffered this when my baby was four months old.
    I felt like i was crazy.Always hearing sounds in my heads. Didnt want to be alone,Thought i will die..Was just always thinking of death. I went to the hospital and all i was given was pain meds to make me sleep. I have to seek counselling from a Pastor.

  10. Chige

    May 11, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks Doc for writing on this. I think this topic is overlooked a lot in this environment. It’s a case of “you should be thrilled you have a baby”,”so many people are praying to be in your situation” etc if a new mother dare talks about feeling sad post delivery and so many people with this issues just keep everything bottled up. Even the post partum blues is a big deal,by the time one is battling sleep deprivation and having to be at the beck and call of this new helpless baby.,so please try and be supportive,listen and help out if you are around a new mum.

  11. DocDeola

    May 11, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    I remember my father saying, you are not right, you have no humour, something is off. Thank God I got through it, it was so subtle, only on reflection do I recognise what it was, even I as a medic. Pregnancy, giving birth, child rearing, some people make it look so effortless but, it was not easy!

  12. dem

    May 11, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    @bleed blues , SWEETHEART gone are those days when you stay there and allow another womAn to bully you. Sweetheart, you need to think k about sanity because none of your children will be able to associate with you when you loose it. PLS draw boundaries that in not part of mental health work. Believe me not even the mother-in-law. I drew boundaries with mine and till date to not take shit from them.

  13. LETTY

    May 11, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    POST PARTUM DEPRESSION IS REAL AND VERY DEBILITATING….HAVING A NEW BABY ISN’T ALWAYS CUSHY AND GOOEEY AND SWEET..I SUFFERED FROM IT WITH 3 OUT OF 4 PREGNANCIES. I FELT SORRY FOR MYSELF, WEEPY, VERY SAD AND OUT OF CONTROL..WITH MY 1ST IT WAS THE WORST BECAUSE THE ENGORGEMENT WAS EXTREMELY PAINFUL I PRAYED FOR MY BREAST MILK TO STOP FLOWING I WAS LIKE A MILK INDUSTRY…

    I AM GLAD THIS TOPIC IS COMING TO THE FORE..MANY WOMEN HAVE IT BUT SUFFER IN SILENCE BCOS YOU DARE NOT BE UNHAPPY AFTER HAVING A NEW BABY….BUT LUCKILY IT DOES DISSIPATE WITH TIME..I CONQUERED MINE WITH VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS AND EATING A HEALTHY DIET…IT STEMS FROM HORMONAL IMBALANCE, AND ALSO IF YOU DON’T GET ENOUGH REST AND YOU DON’T HAVE HELP..SORRY I HAD TO USE ALL CAPS FOR THE PURPOSE OF EMPHASIS….THIS REALLY HIT CLOSE TO HOME..

    • Bolu

      May 12, 2015 at 12:40 am

      The caps is very distracting even when u have an important message to pass. You don’t have to use it to emphasize.

  14. Truth

    May 11, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Is that all you can say eh? Bloody somebody

  15. Bfb

    May 11, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    ‘Baby blues’ is NOT a major mental health issue! Please can you correct this at the top of the article (in the summary section). Post natal depression is and they are two very distinct matters.

    You go on to rightly say in the body of the article – baby blues is a mild, temporary feeling. Most women go through this around day 4/5 when their milk comes in.

  16. nan

    May 12, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    @Bleed Blue Darling, it seems like you and I have the same mother in law. I left the hospital in good spirit but as soon as I got home my health took a bad turn due to a mother in law who helps with nothing and demands all sorts from freshly home made meals as early as 7am to inviting guests and asking me to cook for them. Barely 2 weeks after birth i was already going to market, cooking and washing. i bled for months, lost 20kg post natal and almost lost my life but thank God I’m still here. I cannot begin to recount what I went through and the hubby just closed eyes to things….reasons known to him.

    Please I need your thoughts on how to go about this this time around as I’m carrying my second pregnancy. I do not want this woman to bring problem to my life or marriage neither do I have the strength to go through it again,

    • Bleed Blue

      May 19, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      @nan dear…so sorry I’m just seeing this. It would appear that we do in fact have the same mother in law, in character if not in person.

      And like you, I was in pure agitation mode when I was pregnant with my 2nd child. It was 5 years after but the scars from how she treated me the first time were still very fresh.

      Please! Please! Please!We have to do all we can to ensure it won’t happen again!!! Invite another relative who’s from your side of the family. Someone who cares about you, your mum, aunt, close family friend even. I did that and my aunt was always very quick to answer my mum-in-law when she started with her demands. She would say things like “haba she’s in pain, let me do it instead” or “ah mummy she needs her rest oh”…..political but effective statements like that.

      Another option is to speak to your hubby very seriously about it. Pour your heart out, don’t hold anything back. That can be tricky because men never want to agree their mums have done anything wrong. My hubby’s reaction was so confusing to me at the time. He sympathized but still did nothing for the most part.

      Gosh girl, you know what? Please comment with your email address if you can, the story is too long for me to type here. I know exactly how you’re feeling now and we need to sort this out.

      The depression these women cause is real. Let no one make you feel like a mugu for accepting it, or make statements like “how could you take her nonsense, if it was me ehn….”.
      Biko we all have different families with different history. We can only try.

      Sweetie! Your email address! Now! Please!

  17. cindy

    May 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    @nan…I think you need to have a heart to heart talk with your husband. Tell him how you really feel…..including if you are having suicidal thoughts. I’ve always said it and will say it again, the man is to blame if his wife is having issues with her inlaws when he is still alive. If he can’t talk to his mum and set boundaries, then he should help you out himself. That should send a message to his mum. Otherwise, he shouldn’t be getting you pregnant in the first place. You can also suggest that your mum comes instead.

  18. funbaby

    May 13, 2015 at 2:30 am

    Dr ayomide from solid camp. keep up the good work

  19. Nan

    May 14, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    @Cindy,thanks

  20. ludi

    October 23, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    pls did anyone use drugs for the postnatal depression..

  21. ludi

    October 23, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    thank u doc.but i want to know if its safe to use any drug for it while pregnant wit d second baby cause it didnt stop bfor i got pregnant again.

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