Letter of the Day | Support our mothers, Postpartum Depression is real
THE EDITOR, Sir:
As Jamaicans, we are socialised to bear our own burdens, be tough, and resilient. Childbearing is seen as a natural occurrence that ends once you give birth. In this season of celebrating mothers, we must reflect on a serious issue they face: Postpartum Depression (PPD).
No one educates a mother-to-be about what may happen and has happened to many women after childbirth. Forty weeks, three trimesters, and your doctor never mentioned it. Yet when we hear on the news that a mother has abandoned her newborn, we judge her without understanding the realities. PPD is a real medical condition that needs to be taught to soon-to-be moms, new moms, and their partners.
PPD, according to the DSM-5, mental disorder manual, is a severe form of depression that occurs within a month after delivery. There are multiple hormonal changes that follow childbirth, that lead initially to women feeling happy, sad, and overwhelmed, to the point that they cry for no apparent reason, which is known as “baby blues”. If this persists over a month and becomes more intense, it is classified as PPD. While this is recognised in other countries, we don’t seem to place emphasis on educating our women about this serious issue to which they are exposed after childbirth.
Other causes of PPD include increased social pressure such as the absence of a strong support network and economic issues. If the mother or her family members have had a history of mental illness, it increases the risk of her experiencing this condition.
Women ought to be made aware that the symptoms – such as mood swings, difficulty sleeping, and low libido – are not much different from those that transpire after delivery, but they are not limited to these. Additional symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy as a mother, thoughts of suicide or hurting the child, and lack of interest in pleasure.
Mothers, you are not evil if such thoughts are lingering nor are they your fault. It just means that you need to seek help. You need not try to be brave and wait it out because it can last up to 12 months.
Seek help if you notice the symptoms. Treatment options for PPD include medication and counselling. It is necessary as well to increase your support system (friends and family), which will give you the opportunity to sleep.
It is important after childbirth to take time for yourself by doing things you enjoy, not just taking care of the baby, which becomes overwhelming and stressful instead of pleasurable. It can be difficult allowing others to see you as vulnerable, but it’s best to get help before you do something you would regret.
I believe that the Ministry of Health should make it mandatory at prenatal and post-natal visits to medical facilities for mothers to be educated on the possibility of this condition becoming their reality. Additionally, upon each visit to the clinic or doctor after delivery, probing questions should be asked so that symptoms can be detected, especially with the number of young ladies getting pregnant in our island. Postpartum depression is a real serious medical condition. Let us reach out and offer help to a new mother so she can survive it.
ANDREA PALMER RICHARDS
Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College