Depression and anxiety are one of the most common obstetric complications women feel during pregnancy.
Postpartum depression is a serious mental health condition experienced by moms post delivery. It is characterized by constant low mood feelings of sadness, worthlessness and hopelessness. And if a mother feels these symptoms post pregnancy, it can reduce her ability to comprehend her child's needs.
Your mental health after delivery and breastfeeding have a close relationship. Depression or anxiety can have a negative influence on breastfeeding. Mothers with postpartum depression will find it challenging to bond with the baby. This in turn can affect their ability to breastfeed.
It is necessary for mothers to know about the signs and symptoms of this condition to take appropriate action for the welfare of their mental health.
How Can Postpartum Depression Affect Breastfeeding?
We cannot deny the fact that a mother's mental health is crucial when it comes to the development of her baby. A depressed or anxious mother would find it extremely challenging to provide the proper support that her baby requires. They can face difficulties with initiating or sustaining breastfeeding.
When a woman goes through postpartum depression, her doctor will try to understand what parts of her day bring happiness and peace and what are the factors that make her anxious and sad. Here they will try to determine in what category breastfeeding falls.
If the mother feels breastfeeding is helping her form a bond with her child, then the treatment for her postpartum depression will be built around protecting the breastfeeding relationship.
Treatment would usually include a combination of medications and therapy. She would be given anti-depressants that are safe to use while breastfeeding.
On the other hand, if the thought of breastfeeding is contributing to worsening her symptoms, then her doctors will suggest alternate forms of feeding.
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What Are The Warning Signs Of Postpartum Depression?
It feels more than just baby blues - It is common to have low mood during the first two weeks after delivery but if this feeling is constant for weeks, then it could be a sign of postpartum depression
You lose interest in things you once enjoyed : You don't feel like pursuing your favourite hobby? Or anything that you once enjoyed does not interest you anymore. These signs can be much more than just being lazy or tired.
Facing trouble with making decisions - You are in a phase of self-doubt and confusion. Inability to take even basic decisions can be a sign postpartum depression
Your sleeping patterns has changed : While having a baby influences your sleeping pattern drastically but if you are unable to give it a rest even when your baby is napping, then you need to keep a check of your mental health.
Sadness and guilt do not go away - Feeling sad or guilty while everything seems okay, can often be signs of postpartum depression.
You think of self-harm - Thoughts of suicide and self-harm are advanced symptoms of postpartum depression. These signs are really serious and you should seek help in case cases as soon as possible.
When To Seek Help And Treatment
If the symptoms are becoming overwhelming and affecting you day to day life, then you may need to get professional help. You don't have to deal with the burden of low moods alone. Getting treated for this condition will not only be beneficial for you, but it will also impact the development of your baby.
Healthcare providers can talk to the mother to analyse her condition. Depending on your individual case, treatment options can be discussed. Treatment for postpartum depression can include medications or you can go for non-pharmacological options.
Some therapies like individual or group therapy can help the mother in getting appropriate mental health support that they need.
Some women choose not to breastfeed due to various reasons including mental health and are subjected to negative pressure by society for their decision. The awareness around postpartum mental health and breastfeeding is quite low among the population and our aim should be to encourage conversation around the subject.
Though breastfeeding is undoubtedly beneficial for the mother and child, a mother should not feel guilty if she is unable to do it. She can always take the help of her doctor to solve the challenges and initiate breastfeeding. In case, that is not possible, there are alternate methods of feeding available.
(Dr. Lini Balakrishnan is a Pediatrician Consultant at Motherhood Hospitals, Bangalore.)