It is the greatest day of every mother’s life. That moment when you hold your newborn for the first time. But with some mothers, the joy is short-lived as baby blues set in shortly after birth. Clarisse (not real name) had a bad experience after giving birth to her first child last year.
“A few weeks after giving birth, I plunged into sadness that I couldn’t explain myself. I got irritated every time she cried, and asked my sister to take her out of the room instead of holding her and soothing her myself,” Clarisse says.
Most women will tell you that having a baby is one of the most exciting and joyful experiences one can ever have.
However, in some cases, like it is with Clarisse, postnatal depression, also referred to as baby blues, can cut short this excitement. Post natal depression can be intense and manifests with strong depressive mood swings, anxiety, social withdrawal, irritability and loss of enjoyment in usual activities. Postnatal disorders occur in women of childbearing age within four weeks of childbirth or up to a year later, and can interfere with bonding between a mother and her baby.
“It can cause considerable family vulnerability and distress. It impairs a woman’s ability to carry out her normal tasks and to care for her baby,” says Fiona Kobutungi, a midwife at Kigali IVF and Fertility Clinic.
Angelique Kamikazi, a mother of three, says she too suffered from postnatal depression after her first child.
She says the symptoms surfaced when her baby was about four weeks old, and it was then that she realised something was off in her life.
“I was so stressed and always worried about what was happening. My life only involved constant demands of the baby and I never had a chance to rest or recover my strength,” Kamikazi says.
A close friend came to her aid by advising her to see a doctor.
She says, “I went back to the doctor who had helped me deliver but he couldn’t put a finger on what the problem was.However, when I explained my symptoms he advised me to see a psychologist.”
Kamikazi says that even though she didn’t see a psychologist, there was tremendous improvement in a few weeks; she found a way to deal with the situation since she had a clue on what the problem was.
Some victims of postnatal depression sometimes barely notice it.
Kobutungi says that the situation can develop within the first six weeks of giving birth, but is often not apparent until around six months.
“Though the situation is not that common, it can have a serious toll on a mother’s life and as a result, affect that of the baby too. It can interfere with the growing relationship between the mother and the baby or even the family in general; the effects may last after the depression itself has disappeared,” Kobutungi says.
She adds that it’s important to identify postnatal depression in its early stages and to ask for help earlier so as to prevent severe damage.
Dr. John Muganda, a gynecologist at Polyclinique LaMedicale, says that there is no single explanation for what causes postnatal depression. However, a combination of factors like stress and worries may make it more likely for a woman to become depressed after giving birth.
Dr. Muganda says that sometimes a woman giving birth at an early age, having a caesarian section or even infections during the delivery process,are some of the causes of such conditions.
“A mother may perceive giving birth itself as a difficult experience or even traumatic. Or even the change in hormones, for example biochemical and hormonal changes following childbirth, may also trigger postnatal depression,” he says.
Dr. Muganda adds: “Another factor to consider is women who have depression even before giving birth; for these ones, giving birth can just aggravate that condition.”
However, he says that when they see patients who are at risk of such a condition, they try to help them by referring them to psychologists.
He also says that they have some medications that they don’t give to pregnant mothers because it sometimes can lead to depression.
According to Dr.TecklelG.Egiziabher, a gynecologist at Rwanda Military Hospital Kanombe, postnatal depression is a psychiatric disorder which occurs after the delivery of a child.
He says that the condition is mostly gradual and its onset is usually in the first four to six months after delivery.
It’s a known fact that during pregnancy, female hormones are elevated and after delivery these hormones ought to withdraw, it is this withdrawal that can cause this situation.
“Some of the risk factors that can cause this disorder are family history, psychiatric illness, and complicated pregnancy among others. All this can contribute to such a situation,” Dr. Egiziabher says.
Patients with such a disorder usually have mood swings, anxiety and also have difficulty in sleeping.
Some of them dislike their babies, others may even talk to themselves, a situation termed as dysphoria,” Dr.Egiziabher says.
He adds that there are even extreme cases where some mothers reach a suicidal point, while others go to extreme measures like killing their own infants.
Dr.Egiziabher says that as a means of helping the mothers deal with the situation, psychological support is provided for patients. Also, the patient can be advised to get a person who can help take care of the home and also take care of the baby.
Sometimes the patient can be given antipsychotic drugs, and also counseling for family planning which can help provide the mother with space as she fights to overcome the condition.
I say: How can women overcome postnatal depression after child birth?
From personal experience, having a relative at home that you have a mutual connection with can help you overcome stress after child birth. A relative that you have a lot in common with would be the best person to have near you after child birth and it is a bonus if that person loves babies. It’s a relief to have someone around who can help you with the child.
Having your partner around you, will relieve some of the stress. Having your spouse with you to help with the baby and also take care of you is the best solution. Men are better at handling situations, especially after giving birth, and it is this care and affection that will make a mother let off some stress.
There’s no doubt that women like to be cared for by people they are close to. Child birth is one of the most challenging moments for many women. It really tests our strength. But having supportive people around would definitely relieve the stress after birth. Even a kind neighbour can make a difference.
Rosette Aisha Uwimana
In my opinion, I think having a positive attitude towards giving birth is the best option for women. Some women exaggerate child birth and it is this poor attitude that worsens the situation. Women should look at this time as a blessing and not a burden and there’s no doubt that stress will be non-existent.
I think trauma is mainly due to having a lot to handle when energy levels are low. The best way to deal with stress after child birth is to have people near you who can help. Having affectionate and supportive people around can be relieving, thus helping the situation.
Avoiding loneliness is the best way to overcome this kind of stress. It is obvious that when you’re lonely after birth, the situation gets tough and you feel distressed. This can be done by inviting friends and relatives over. Other people’s presence makes the situation stress free.
Compiled by Dennis Agaba