Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mental condition—more severe than ‘baby blues’—that new mother experiences after childbirth. It is also referred to as peripartum depression because it can start during pregnancy and continue after childbirth.
Its peculiar symptoms include; depressed mood swings, crying too much, difficulty bonding with your baby, insomnia or sleeping too much, withdrawing from family and friends, loss of appetite or eating too much, intense irritability and anger, fear that you are not a good mother, hopelessness, reduced concentration and inability to make cleardecisions, severe anxiety and panic attacks, contemplating suicide and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
These symptoms are exactly what Chebet Birir, a media expert and mental health advocate, experienced as a new mother in 2017. Chebet bravely narrated her ordeal during a mental awareness session organized by the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK).
“During my first experience, people around me didn’t know immediately what I was going through” Ms. Chebet recalls. With the help of her family, and attending to medication, it took her about two years to fully recover.
Chebet also recalls how some of her colleagues at work avoided her something which sunk her deep into depression and she could not actively concentrate at work or catch up with her colleagues’ pace.
2018 research by the National Library of Medicine found that out of 171 women correspondents who were followed up 6-10 weeks postpartum, 18.7% were found to have severe postpartum depression.
It is important to note that men—especially new fathers—experience postpartum depression commonly called ‘paternal depression’. During this time, such fathers exhibit sadness, become overwhelmed, anxious, tired, and altered eating and sleeping habits. As a result, this experience can cause the same negative effect on partner relationships and child development as postpartum depression in mothers can.
The study by the National Library of Medicine also established that partner conflict increased postpartum depression seven-fold.
We have a duty from the family level to society at large to create awareness about PPD, help the victims out of it, and support the survivors to recover fully.
It is essential for partners to keenly listen and communicate regularly with one another during pregnancy and after birth. This way, any signs of PPD will be easily noticed and addressed at the onset.
We should be caring and pay attention to young mothers and fathers and provide them with the support they need instead of finding it easy to stigmatize them.
People with depression may not recognize or admit that they’re depressed. They may not be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression. If you suspect that a friend or loved one has postpartum depression help them, seek medical attention immediately. Don’t wait and
hope for improvement.
Finally, the high prevalence of significant postnatal depressive symptoms among Kenyan women calls for an urgent need for addressing this public health burden. Depression screening and psychosocial support interventions that address partner conflict resolution should be offered as part of maternal health care.
By Kelvin Nyakwaye Jomo (Video/ Graphics editor at AR Films production)
Brand Ambassador—Association of media women in Kenya (AMWIK)