Dealing with Depression after Childbirth

Published on: May 05, 2013

Learn to recognize and get help for postnatal depression, also referred to as postpartum depression, a depressive condition that can affect women after childbirth. By Dr. Donna Robinson   Women often experience low spirits after giving birth. However, the severity of the depression will vary between individuals. Mild feelings of so-called baby blues occur often due to hormonal changes and are likely to subside after a few days. More intense depression can signify postnatal depression (PND) and will usually require treatment. Rarely, in the most severe cases, will new moms suffer from postnatal psychosis, a very serious condition.
Anyone can suffer from depression; having PND does not mean that there’s anything wrong with you. The most important thing…is that you seek help.
Depression is a common condition and most people will experience some form of it in their lives. After giving birth, you and your body experience a lot of change and thus it is very normal to feel depressed and out of your depth. PND is very common; some think it may even affect one in four mothers. This means it’s highly likely that someone you know may have experienced it. It’s very important to have clear lines of communication and to talk openly about the issue, as many new mothers experience both ‘baby blues’ and PND. It’s a highly treatable condition and doesn’t in any way reflect on your capabilities as a mother.

How to recognize postnatal depression

Recognizing that you are suffering from PND is the first step to ensure that you get effective treatment for the condition. Here are some of the signs that you  should look out for:
  • Feeling low, tearful or irritable unexpectedly; may be most intense in the morning
  • Feeling disappointed or unhappy, perhaps motherhood isn’t quite what you were expecting
  • Extreme or intense fatigue. Tiredness is extremely common with new babies; however, on top of that, you may be feeling like you have no energy whatsoever.
  • Anxiety or feeling on edge. It is common to worry about your child; however, it becomes a symptom of PND when these feelings become overwhelming and even result in panic attacks.

What help can you get?

Mothers with PND can have their condition exasperated by the stress of living in a foreign country and adapting to the new culture. Being an expat is difficult enough when you are single, but when this is compounded with the stress of a newborn, it can be overpowering. It’s important to be informed about the services which are available to you and to seek help if you need it.

Talk to your doctor and consider medication if needed

Talk to your doctor. If you think medication would be your best alternative then discuss that option with your doctor. Some doctors prescribe SSRI’s such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluxetine (prozac), which can be very effective. It’s important to remember that some drugs may be off limits if you are breastfeeding, as they can get into the breast milk. Your doctor will be able to advise you on which drugs are safe to take.

Seek counseling

There are alternatives to medication. Counseling is an effective option in some cases. Being able to talk openly to someone without fear of judgment can be very helpful. Counselors can provide you with constructive techniques to manage your PND and thus move forward. In Bangkok, PSI Bangkok, New Community Services, and Medconsult have counselors who are used to dealing with expatriates. Not only does counseling allow you to vent your emotions but by talking to someone who is objective, it may be easier to determine the root cause of your depression.

What can you do to help?

Although medical treatment of some kind is usually required, the severity of PND can be lessened by a few lifestyle alterations.

Take care of yourself physically

Try to get as much rest as you can. This is easier said than done with a newborn, but try. See if someone can watch the baby for a few hours so that you can get some much needed rest. A healthy and well-balanced diet may help you feel better. Exercise releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that make us feel good. Gentle exercise will help lift your mood, as well as help you get back into shape after having a baby. Exercise coupled with a healthy diet can do wonders for your state of mind.

Go out

Meet new people. The array of women’s groups in Bangkok means that you can meet women and moms who are just like you. Being able to share your experiences will unconsciously liberate you, as you’ll soon realize that you’re not alone. Furthermore, being able to engage in a hobby which you enjoy will help brighten your mood. Whether it’s a photography course for beginners or advanced yoga, there will probably be a club for it!

Stay connected to family and friends

Stay connected to family and friends. Bangkok is a big and bustling city infamous for its crowds and traffic, where it’s easy to feel lost and alone. It’s important that you have a support network in place to help you deal with the stresses of being a new parent. Talk to your partner about the responsibilities and duties you can share. When you’re feeling out of your depth, they should be your first port of call. Sometimes you may feel too guilty to call back home and share your problems as you don’t want to worry your family and friends; however, it’s important to remember that they want the best for you. If you think that it would be beneficial to hear a familiar voice then pick up the phone! Rely on your support network. It’s important to build up a new support network, which can be composed of both friends and helpers alike. We are fortunate as there is an array of help available to us living in Bangkok. Nannies and maids can help relieve you of some of your duties and to make everything more manageable. Similarly, there are nurse services that can visit you at home if you need more specific help.   PND is like any other illness and can be treated easily. It’s important to speak up if you feel that you may be suffering from any form of post-natal depression. Anyone can suffer from depression; having PND does not mean that there’s anything wrong with you. The most important thing from both your child’s and your point of view is that you seek help and get better as quickly as possible.




Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash  

About the Author

Dr. Donna Robinson is a UK-qualified general practitioner with a Thai medical license. She is a consultant physician at Bumrungrad International Hospital and the owner of MedConsult in Bangkok. She has been a resident in Thailand for over 26 years.
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