The relationship between postpartum depression (PPD) and the inability to breastfeed is bidirectional in nature. To that effect while a woman suffering from postpartum depression may find it unpleasant to breastfeed, not breastfeedingat allwill have an adverse impact and may increase the risks of developing postpartum depression.
Earlier, women facing difficulties in breastfeeding or getting the baby latched found assistance from doulas and lactation consultants. These trained companions provided in-person services to help the new mother find the most comfortable position to breastfeed and bond with the baby.
Even when it came to addressing concerns related to the supply of milk – which more often than not – hasa psychological rather than a physical underpinning cause, doulas and consultants were extremely helpful. However, with the pandemic disrupting the way maternal healthcare is being disbursed and withthe high risk that newborns carry of contracting the deadly virus because of their weak immune system, approachinga doulas in-person is no longerviable.
As a result,many new mothers today suffer in silence. As visits to the gynecologist, postnatal care and self-help groups are curtailed, they feel more isolated than ever before. This is evident from the increase in the intensity of the symptoms most women face. Even medical experts corroborate the fact thatwhile the number of cases of postpartum depression might not have increased, the severity of symptoms witnessed by new mothers has certainly heightened during the current COVID pandemic.
Coping with postpartum depression
In this scenario, it becomes inevitable to reinvent howa new mother copes in case she is facing postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression. Enlisted below are few factors that aggravate the mental health conditions and how it can be addressed.
- Mismatch between reality and expectations: Most of the problem arises due to the mismatch between reality and expectation. Magazines and maternal brochures only share half the side of the story. While a baby’s nourishment is important, the health of the mother is equally important. Talking to women who have gone through the same pangs could be helpful and if that is not workable one could easily seek help from one of the several online forums that go a long way in clearing misconceptions.
- Coming out of the vicious cycle: That is not easy. Certainly not during the pandemic when one is alone and isolated. However, it is critical to realize that happy mothers raise happy babies.New mothers are so concerned about feeding the baby that they forget about forming a bond. The physical act of breastfeeding becomes so important that mothers of newborns often forget the psychological danger that comes with the inability to do so – anxiety and depression. In such conditions, it is important to realize that not being able to breastfeed your newborn does not make you a bad mother. Further, a baby raised on formula milk is no less than a baby raised on exclusive breastfeeding.
- Not a life and death situation by any account: Evidence suggests that women with breastfeeding concerns are at a greater risk for postpartum depression. A systematic review of literature covering 48 studies found that women who had a negative experience viz-a vizbreastfeeding were more likely to suffer from postpartum depression.Similarly, women suffering from postpartum depression were more prone to experience difficulties in breastfeeding.
- Finding help online: Ever since a young Canadian nurse ended her life due to postpartum depression induced by the inability to breastfeed a number of forums have sprung up. These forums offer help to new mothers to cope with the twin problems of breastfeeding and postpartum depression. They support new mothers through online consultations and meetings helping alleviate the feeling that their life is irredeemable.
- Seeking the help of a loved one: Even though a new mother maybe living alone and is homebound due to the lockdown, she can still seek the help of friends, partner and/or family members she is close to.
- Watching out for the signs: According to the Journal of Women’s Health, “In the first year after childbirth, suicide risk increases 70-fold, and suicide is the leading cause of maternal death up to one year after delivery.” Hence, it is extremely important for spouses and partners to look out for the warning signs and be ready to help in case the need arises.
- Paying attention to sleep patterns: Sound mother and baby’s sleep have the biggest positive impact on postpartum depression. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that both get a good night’s sleep.
Seeking help for postpartum depression
An extremely serious mental health condition –postpartumdepression affects nearly 13 percent women who have given birth recently. One of the most telling signs of this condition is a persistent low mood and severe mood swings. This could also be accompanied by feelings of worthlessness, and/or hopelessness and a heightened risk for a comorbid obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety. Suicidal ideation and thoughts of either causing harm to oneself or the infant are also evident in women with the condition.
Statistics prove that in the United States, only 25 percent new mothers exclusively breastfeed their infants up to the recommended minimum six months of age. Further, every one in seven new mothers experiences postpartum depression. In spite of this, more often than not, the condition goes unreported risking the life of the mother and compromising the quality of life of the infant.
Carefully observing a new mother around you for any symptoms of postpartum depression may help her in seeking the required help from a mental health treatment center. At Invictus Health Group, we partner with reliablemental health treatment centers that offer evidence-based treatment interventions for mental health disorders like depression. Call our 24/7 helpline 866-548-0190 and speak to a trained representative to seek guidance regarding the options available for depression treatment. Alternatively, you can chat online with a representative who would be happy to explain the treatment for depression available at our partner behavioral healthcare centers.