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Coping with post natal depression




“A few days after I gave birth to my child, I broke down. For reasons that I could not explain, I simply broke down into bitter tears one morning. Fortunately, I was still in the hospital recuperating, so I thought that the hospital could have treated me for the immense sadness that I felt.

“I had prepared myself for the pregnancy and childbirth and read up what I thought that I needed to know; I had seen something about postnatal or postpartum depression but I did not know how I could suffer from it. Yet the doctor subtly mentioned PPD as the nurses tried to console me. But just as that feeling of crushing weight came so suddenly, it disappeared within a few days.

“I was happy, too, because I could not have been able to care for my beautiful daughter, not at that state at all,” a nursing mother who craved anonymity once told me her story.

Postnatal depression may not be a word or condition common to many Nigerians, but it happens nonetheless among Nigerian mothers. According to some researches that have examined the condition, first time mothers are seven times more likely to have some mental disorders within the first 10 to 19 days after giving birth than women who have children before.

A research which was done in Denmark some years back observed that mental disorders like postpartum depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders were common during the first three months. The study observed that about 1000 mothers in three months were likely to have some form of mental disorders within three months of giving birth.

To form their opinion, the researchers considered the medical records of 2.3 million people over a 32-year-period. They noted that second time mothers were unlikely to be depressed because they have become parents and their worry is how to bring up a newborn baby while at the same time taking care of an older child.

According to Mr. Augustine Shaba, a Clinical Psychologist at the Federal Neuro Psychiatrist Hospital, Yaba, post-natal depression can affect both sexes. The symptoms, he says, are sadness, low energy, changes in eating and sleeping patterns. There may also be a reduction in the sexual drive as there will be irritability.

It is a clinical disorder, Mr. Shaba said, that makes a person who has PND feel hopeless and helpless. It may be severe, he said, adding that after two weeks of being in this state, the person should seek treatment.

The causes are not known, he observes, positing that hormonal changes are sometimes suspected. The emotional changes are said to be caused by sleep deprivation due to anxiety about parenthood and caring for the child. The feeling of identity crisis may be due to the feeling of lack of control in the person’s life. There is also that anxiety brought about by the romantic or sexual partner.

“Many women recover after counseling or getting in touch with a support group and with the use of medicine,” Mr. Shaba stated.

But the psychologist added: “I did not know of the existence of postnatal depression until I came to live in Lagos. Childbirth is seen as a joyous occasion and a new mother is surrounded by family, friends-a whole community is involved when a baby is born, so there was no cause for childbirth to lead to anxiety.”
For First-Time Mother Especially

Prepare your mind for a joyful parenthood and you will enjoy a healthy and happy first experience; prepare your mind for the necessary adjustment that parenthood brings. Your lifestyle will change with the coming of the child; parenting does not stop with the delivery of the baby in the womb, as we tend to tell ourselves when the months of pregnancy appear to stretch to forever. Childbirth is the beginning and it will take your time.

Do not be carried away with the shopping for baby clothes, bath and parties. It may not be new to you that a child is so helpless and is dependent on you until the reality dawns with the birth of that tiny child that you now have another person, besides you to care for.

The support from other people is essential; include your family and friends. Think of how you can manage after the birth. It seems that as we prepare for a family of our own, we do not think that the time may come when we may need to step out for a brief period and need a capable hand to care for the child while we were out such that after delivery, we discover that we could not leave baby alone while we stepped out to do things we enjoyed before the arrival of the baby.

“I was so desperate to go to the market that I would lock my months-old baby inside alone,” observed a desperate first time mother.

There was the story of this young mother who could not forget party life in a hurry. Her young husband loved parties and when their first children who were twins were born, the man did not see the need to adjust his lifestyle for those first few months; he felt that parenting was a woman’s role. She did not argue with him, so came Saturday night, he went to parties with his friends. When she could not bear it anymore, she locked in the weeks-old twins and went to parties.

A woman who has given birth before has learned how to cope: “I took pride in my Persil white which I hung prominently on the clothesline,” she observes. “But at nearly one-year-old, I thought that my daughter should not wear them and began to put her in trainer pants. Any accident was met with real anger and beating until another woman told me not to do that. She made me to feel better when she told me that she made the same mistake with her first child.” So make friends with other mothers and their families; observe how they deal with difficult or annoying problems.

Know about PND
During pregnancy you have learnt about possible complications that can come about; but what about knowing what can crop up after you have been safely delivered of your bouncing baby? As you read up on other issues, don’t give a brief glance to PND; it is right to assume that mental diseases happen to others, to ‘them’ according to the belief of the average Nigerian, but you can still know about it; that it can happen for no reason at all. But the good news is that the disorder more often than not may not affect the same person twice, so that a woman who had the experience after the first baby may not have it a second time. But studies have found, too, that somebody who has up to six children may go through it again with the birth of the fourth child. But with support, you should enjoy parenting.

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