The arrival of a baby usually comes with a lot of feelings. While some couples are excited about having a child, some are scared and doubt their ability to adequately care for the child. These feelings could have some sort of psychological effect on both parents.
Women, when pregnant, tend to be very fragile and in need of more attention during the critical periods before and after delivery of their baby. Baby blues are a common experience for most new mothers. Baby blues commonly include crying, mood swings, loss of appetite, impatience, poor concentration, anxiety and difficulty sleeping, among others. But some women experience a more severe condition. This is known as postpartum psychosis. Bipolar disorder triggered by childbirth can also be regarded as postpartum psychosis. Psychosis is a condition that affects the way the brain processes information, making it difficult to differentiate what is real from what isn’t. It has a lot to do with brain chemistry. Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental illness that starts suddenly in the first few days or weeks after having a baby and this could affect the mother’s ability to adequately care for her baby, it could even result in her harming the child.
This mental illness is however curable. People often tend to think that only moms are affected psychologically by the arrival of a baby.
But Yes! Fathers do experience psychological distress also resulting from childbirth and this can affect their wellbeing, functioning, and general relationships. Men are however reluctant to express their need for support or seek help owing to the traditional attitudes towards fatherhood and masculinity.
Depression in new fathers can begin during the pregnancy and could even increase after the birth of the baby. This could occur as a result of stress and changes in relationships, the father’s necessity to meet up with demanding expectations, a lack of emotional and social support, a shift of all of the attention to his pregnant wife. Some men may even go through a traumatic experience and may be unable to have sex with their wives after seeing them experience the pains of childbirth. These could in turn make them depressed. Worries about extra responsibilities, financial stresses, and managing work can also have psychological effects on the father.
As with women, it is important that depression in fathers is recognized and handled early and effectively as this would help avoid long term effects on the father’s mental health and relationships with their partner, children, family, and friends.
There is no single cause of postpartum psychosis but physical and emotional issues may play a role:
Physical changes: After childbirth, there is usually a rapid drop in hormones (estrogen
and progesterone) in the woman’s body. This could trigger the condition.
Emotional issues: When you’re sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. The mother may become anxious about her ability to adequately care for the newborn. She may start to feel less attractive, struggle with her sense of identity or feel that she has lost control over her life.
Women who often suffer from depression are more likely to be prone to express this illness.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis
Postpartum psychosis symptoms are similar to those of a bipolar manic episode. This usually starts with insomnia and restlessness. After which other severe symptoms sets in. These symptoms include:
Hallucination. (This is a most common symptom)
Extreme feelings of sadness and anxiety, confusion, and delusions
Difficulty in responding emotionally to the baby.
Sudden thoughts of harming the baby or those around her
Excessive energy and agitation
A blank facial response or a lack of emotional response
Thoughts of suicide as the new moms start to doubt their ability to care for the child resulting in beliefs that the baby or the family would be better off without her.
In more severe conditions, the new mother may find herself often absent-minded, she gets lost in thoughts most of the time and doesn’t pay sufficient attention to the things she ought to, staring off into space and muttering words to herself.
These symptoms, among others, once noticed in new mothers, should be taken seriously and attended to at once as postpartum psychosis, if not properly handled, can lead to a more extreme and permanent mental illness. It could also have adverse effects on the child.
Postpartum Psychosis Treatment
The mother might be likely to know that she has a problem but may not be willing to seek help.
Thoughts of the mother wanting to harm her baby like throwing her baby out the window are actually thoughts the woman might be scared of sharing. Nobody likes to have the tag “crazy”.
This often leaves mothers with postpartum psychosis feeling very lonely. Treatments for
postpartum psychosis include:
The mother shouldn’t be left alone, she should stay around people she feels happy and comfortable with. She should laugh more often.
The mother should share how she feels with someone she trusts, friends or family.
Aside from talking with friends and family, she should also talk with a professional body.
Therapy and counseling are very necessary when dealing with this illness.
Antidepressants and antipsychotic medications.
Lectures on postpartum psychosis and how it can be handled should be included as part of the antenatal courses being taught to expectant mothers. Postpartum psychosis is curable, it should be treated once it is observed so it doesn’t result in a more severe mental illness.
Author: Agbikimi Etherberth