Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan
Psikiyatrist

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is also known as “puerperal syndrome” or “postpartum syndrome”.

Postnatal depression is a universal disorder that is curable. The symptoms of postnatal depression include an intense sense of emptiness, an urge to cry, indifference to the environment, sudden increases or decreases in appetite, increase or decrease in sleep, exhaustion, sense of insignificance or guilt, touchiness, fast mood changes, asexuality, problems in focusing, indecisiveness, suicidal ideation, and decreases in functionality. Some of these symptoms are listed under the title “Maternity Blues”.

Sleeplessness, anger, apprehension and astonishment are the expectable postnatal symptoms. It is only possible to make a diagnosis of “Postnatal Depression” if severer symptoms like excessive difference in the weight, thoughts of self-harming or harming the baby, or excessive mobility continue for 4 weeks following the delivery.

In addition to the aforementioned symptoms, in case there are symptoms like weird behaviors, hallucination, believing in unrealistic things, speech impairment, remaining in a fixed position for hours/days, or excessive sexual appetite, then the mother may be experiencing a “Postnatal Psychosis”. Considering all these symptoms, it is recommended not to leave the mother alone in the postnatal period.

Postnatal depression not only affects the mother, but also the baby. A study conducted claims that a child, whose mother is suffering from postnatal depression, has challenges in terms of social and emotional skills.

Another study offers that postnatal depression has a negative effect on the physical health of the child. These conditions are explained with the genetic transmission of the postnatal depression. In fact, it is considered that a mother who had a direct depression history or whose close relatives had depression, has a high chance of having postnatal depression.

Even if a mother with a depression history recovers from postnatal depression, she will have depression again in the upcoming times due to genetic reasons. It is considered that the child may ignore some of his/her physical needs and face social and emotional problems due to the lack of communication, if the child grows up with a mother, who occasionally suffers from depression from his/her birth.

While the prevalence of postnatal depression varies between 10% to 13% in high-income countries, it is between 16% – 20% in countries with medium and low income. This situation makes us think that postnatal depression is not only in association with genetic or hormonal reasons, but also with environmental conditions.

The problems with the spouse and family, not being able to receive adequate support, unwanted pregnancy and the concerns for the future are the most common complaints. Therefore, pharmacological treatment will not be enough by itself in the treatment of postnatal depression. The importance of Psycho-social support or psycho-therapy in the treatment must be assessed.

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