Suicidal tendencies, anxiety, mood swings: 60% new mothers in Kashmir suffer from postpartum blues

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Srinagar: Rahila’s (name changed) happiness knew no bounds when she had her first child. However, her joy was short-lived.  Just two months later, she started feeling lonely and neglected. If it was not enough, the  25-year-old woman started having suicidal thoughts.

Her family took her to a doctor doctor who diagnosed her with postpartum depression (PPD). A woman suffering from PPD experiences restlessness, sleep disorders, anxiety, low mood, and detachment from her first child.

“Rahila had already seen a psychiatrist, but it did not help. She then traveled from Jammu to our facility in Kashmir to receive therapy. We admitted her right away. We switched her medications. We now give the therapy to her under anesthesia. She has made almost a 30% recovery from her condition, and we are making sure that we get the most positive response from her before we discharge her”, he added.

Rahila is not an isolated case. There are many new mothers with similar mental health difficulties in Kashmir.

“Postpartum depression is a serious mental health issue where a mother can harm herself or her child. Treatment and post-treatment monitoring are essential to prevent bipolar disorder. In the past three to four years, postpartum depression cases among Kashmiri women have been rising, particularly following the Covid-19 pandemic,”  said Dr. Fazl E Rouf,  a psychiatrist at IMHANS.

 He said that almost 50% -60% of the mothers encounter postpartum blues. It ranges from mood swings, anger outbursts, sleep disorders, aggression, and anxiety. “In last year, I have treated over 100 cases of postpartum depression”, he further added.

A study conducted by a PG doctor in Kashmir found that postpartum depression is most common in younger mothers, specifically in their 20s and 30s. The majority of them are unemployed, come from a lower middle-class background, and are mostly educated at the primary level.

Titled `Clinical and Social Demographic Profile of Postpartum Psychiatric Disorders,’ the study revealed that a mother’s chances of experiencing another bout increase by 40 times if she has already experienced a PPD episode during her earlier childbirth.

Dr. Seema, who led the study said in postpartum depression mother – child relationship is affected. She said and family has to supervise very carefully not by snatching away the child from the mother but by keeping an eye on both of them.

“In most cases, I have seen that the mother gets neglected after her delivery and the child catches all of the attention of the family members which adds to her health issue. A mother thinks that she is not being validated. Besides the treatment and counseling, family support, care, and love towards the mother is also important,” she said. 

According to The Lancet Global Health study, at least 40 million women are likely to experience a long-term health issue each year as a result of childbirth. The study, which is part of a special series on maternal health, reveals that there is a significant prevalence of postnatal conditions that continue for months or even years following childbirth. These include pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), affecting more than a third (35%) of postpartum women, low back pain (32%), anal incontinence (19%), urinary incontinence (8-31%), anxiety (9-24%), depression (11-17%), perineal pain (11%), fear of childbirth (tokophobia) (6-15%) and secondary infertility (11%).

  “Many postpartum conditions cause considerable suffering in women’s daily life long after birth, both emotionally and physically, and yet they are largely underappreciated, underrecognized, and underreported,” Dr. Pascale Allotey said in the report.

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