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Dealing with postnatal depression in times of COVID

1 in 7 new moms and 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression each year Source: Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the mental health of many pregnant women putting them to an increased risk of postnatal depression.

Majority of women will experience symptoms of baby blues after childbirth due to the new responsibilities of being a mother but with COVID-19 in the picture, there can be an increased risk to depression.

While the baby blues are perfectly normal, depressive symptoms that last for more than four weeks of childbirth up to the first year of birth may indicate postnatal depression among new mums.

GP Angelica Logarta-Scott says postnatal depression is under diagnosed during pregnancy and postnatally that’s why its very important that women are aware of the condition.

“As of the moment 12 to 13 percent of women develop this but because its under diagnosed the numbers could be more than that.”

Who’s at risk?

Dr Scott explains that base on studies, women with history of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems are at risk. 

“Pregnancy can trigger recurrence of depression and anxiety especially if they have a history.”

Family history of postnatal depression or other mental health problems can also increase the risk of postnatal depression.

It was also found through research that ethnic minority or migrants have a higher risk of postnatal depression during pregnancy and post-pregnancy due to the lack of social support and connection.

Unplanned pregnancy and unemployment can also contribute to postnatal depression, she adds.

Causes

While there's no single cause, Dr Logarta says physical and emotional issues may contribute to the onset of postnatal depression.

  • Pregnancy, domestic violence
  • Poor social support- lack of network, social isolation
  • Poor relationship with partner or lack of support from partner
  • Recent major life event- death in the family, separation and events such as the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Previous mental health problem- history of anxiety and depression, bipolar, schizophrenia in the past
  • History of abuse, misuse of  alcohol and drugs
  • Medical causes such as thyroid dysfunction

Signs and symptoms

Ms Scott says that the symptoms of postnatal depression can range from a very mild feeling of sadness to severe paralysing depression and suicidal thoughts.

  • Loss of joy and pleasure
  • Anxiety
  • Disturbed sleep or insomnia
  • Loss of appetite/ loss of concentration
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low energy level
  • In severe symptoms, new mums will have thoughts of self-harm or thoughts of harming their baby

Treatment

Self-help and the support of the family are vital but some may need professional help according to Dr Scott.

“For mild to moderate postnatal depression, treatment can be self-help or facilitated self-help strategies usually guided by trained practitioner. It can be a 9-12 week period of face to face telephone consultation.”

For those who have a previous history of severe depression, Dr Scott says anti-depressant tablets are offered.

High intensity psychological intervention is another form of treatment for women experiencing moderate to severe depression, she adds.

“For moderate to severe high intensity psychological intervention or committed behavioural therapy is recommended, or just anti-depressant, or a combination of both.”

The most effective treatment is interpersonal psychotherapy adds Dr Scott.

“It’s is very important that psychological treatment is provided promptly because this is a crucial period. They re not only looking after themselves, they’re also looking after their baby.

Support 

Dr Scott encourages partners of new mums to offer support and help especially these times when the mental health of women are severely affected by the pandemic.

She emphasises that fathers can also develop postnatal depression especially if they have a history of mental depression, therefore, communication is important in order to support each another.

“Family support is important. New mums need a lot of emotional and mental support so its vital we don’t judge them. But offer support and care to them.”

If you or someone you know has symptoms of postnatal depression, please seek help through any of the following organisations: 

 

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