Postnatal depression is not uncommon in new mothers. Around 19.2% of all women are affected in the first three months postpartum (after giving birth). Despite the widespread distribution, it is often difficult for those affected to admit they have the disease and seek help. We explain how to recognize postnatal depression and what steps you should take to recover.
What is Postnatal Depression and Emotions?
The sick mothers show changed behavior – such as reduced verbal and visual communication with the child. The depressive symptoms are also often characterized by the mental confrontation with the child and the demands of motherhood.
The mothers suffer from fear of failure and inferiority complexes and see themselves as “bad mothers” who do not even manage to meet the needs of their child and otherwise no longer function as they did before birth.
The child’s evasive behavior and existing breastfeeding problems are interpreted as confirmation of one’s own failure and reinforce the vicious circle and increasing exhaustion. The following symptoms can also be signs of postnatal depression: exhaustion, listlessness, sadness,
Incidentally, this can also lead to behavioral disorders in the children: sleeping and breastfeeding problems, avoidance behavior with averted eyes, reduced affect regulation as well as feeding and thriving disorders can occur. In the worst case, long-term attachment problems and reduced cognitive, emotional, verbal, and social skills can even be observed. It is therefore all the more important to recognize an illness early and seek help.
However, since birth is generally associated with joy, affected mothers often feel reluctant to express their negative feelings. If you suspect that you are suffering from postnatal depression yourself or that you know someone close to you who is ill: Do not be afraid to openly discuss your fears and perceptions, talk openly about your feelings, and seek medical advice about this you can be helped quickly.
Therapy of Postnatal Depression
Antidepressant therapy is based on talking, involving family members, drug therapy, and psychotherapy. Networking in the parent-child area also helps, for example through baby massage or so-called PEKiP groups, which convey play, movement, and sensory stimulation in a group setting.
It is often advisable to relieve the mother of the household chores, for example by providing household help/childcare (which can be financed by the health insurance company). Postnatal depression is therefore treatable, and the chances of recovery are very good. It does need treatment, however, so it’s important that you seek appropriate help.
How does the therapy help?
Although pregnancy and early motherhood are characterized by regular contact with the medical care system, only 18% of pregnant women and mothers with mental illnesses receive a psychiatric diagnosis because the problems are rarely addressed or not actively asked about. There are self-disclosure forms that your doctor can use to easily find out whether you are suffering from depressive symptoms. Your answers to the following two questions can also provide a first indication:
- In the past month, have you felt depressed, sad, depressed, or hopeless more often?
- In the last month, have you had significantly less desire and pleasure in things that you usually enjoy doing?
If you answered “yes” to both questions, you should consult a doctor for more precise diagnostics. Up to the child’s third year of life, it is usually possible to provide affected women with rapid support from pregnancy counseling centers without any problems.
Postnatal depression must be differentiated from baby blues, which occurs in 50% to 80% of young mothers within ten days after birth. This is a mild upset that occurs 24-48 hours after delivery due to hormonal changes. It usually lasts no longer than 2 weeks. The affected women cry, are irritable, worried and exhausted, emotionally unstable with emotional overreactions, and sleep problems are also common.
In most cases, the picture disappears completely, only in rare cases does a transition to postnatal depression occur. No specific drug treatment is required for the baby blues; supportive and informative talks and, above all, sufficient rest periods are beneficial.