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Postpartum Depression and other challenges in maternal mental health

Maternal mental health is a multifaceted domain that delves into the emotional, mental, and behavioral aspects of motherhood.

It is not limited to the mental state of the mother during pregnancy, but it also encompasses the mental state during family planning, and postnatal phase as well.  

Postnatal phase is the time period after the child’s delivery, till the mother’s health and wellbeing is restored to its optimal condition. 

Most women feel the postpartum blues, stress, anxiety and in a lot of cases postpartum depression. They feel helpless and lonely.

 This mostly stems due to a strongly set narrative of pregnancy being the most happy and positive. As a result, parents, especially women, can't fully accept their emotions and the experiences they go through internally. This may result in Postpartum Depression .

Postpartum depression (also called PPD) is a medical condition that many women go through after having a baby. It encompasses strong feelings of sadness, anxiety (worry) and tiredness. This may cause a woman to not want their child. 

“Am I a good mother?” is a question many mothers think during Postpartum Depression

Mothers may feel their identity slowly shifting to merely the caregiver and responding for the child. She can miss her individual identity in family spaces.

The sudden shift of all the attention, care and recognition to the baby can lead to the mother feeling not seen, losing her identity in the relationship and family dynamics. 

The visible and immense shift in the physiology and appearance of the body can bring in insecurities and reservations for the woman. 

Not being able to see beyond their belly, the bloatedness and fat after the delivery drastically changes the familiarity and comfort with their own body.

Hair loss during postpartum can be of grave concern and affect their confidence and body image.

Apart from Bearing with the mood swings, the dominance on one’s eating by others can also feel very limiting and restrictive.

Sometimes, mothers after giving birth, due to so many changes to their health and wellbeing, can be in a hyperarousal state. They may be constantly thinking and looking out for threats, or risks in the environment and from others which might affect the baby. In this state, they often also think and hypothesize on ways the baby may be at risk or in danger due to their probable behaviors. Now, when they register the hypotheses, it might scare them thinking they are thinking of ways to harm the child.

In extreme cases, due to the changes in hormones, neurochemicals, etc., some mothers may suffer through postpartum psychosis. 

Postpartum psychosis is characterized by extreme confusion, loss of touch with reality, paranoia, delusions, disorganized thought process, and hallucinations. It occurs due to various bio-psycho-social factors.  Although rare, it usually happens immediately within days to the first six weeks after birth. It is considered a psychiatric emergency that warrants immediate medical and psychiatric attention.

 In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of mental health support for parents in India. Postpartum depression and anxiety are increasingly acknowledged as significant concerns, with efforts being made to raise awareness and provide accessible resources for maternal mental health care. 

Additionally, the advent of social media and digital platforms has transformed the landscape of maternal psychology in India. Online communities and forums provide a space for mothers to connect, share experiences, and seek advice, offering both support and challenges in navigating the complexities of modern parenthood. 

Pregnancy surely brings an onset of emotions, hormones and bodily changes which add on to postpartum depression . During this phase seeking Professional help is always advised.  

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