Warda, an expat based in the UAE who requested that only her first name be used, said she had no idea the term postpartum depression even existed three years ago. “My pregnancy went fine, with the usual ups and downs. Nothing unusual. After delivery, my mother was looking out for me and my in-laws were supportive. I did have some conflict with my husband and that probably played a role in how I was feeling,” she tells Gulf News in an interview, “But there was no real explanation at the time.”
In hindsight, Warda explains that what she was going through was postpartum depression, which, says Dubai Health Authority, affects about out one of nine women.
“In the beginning, I didn’t feel very attached to the baby,” says Warda. “And I also I would cry for no reason and I would have these long periods of loneliness; I didn’t want to meet anybody. I didn’t want to look at the baby and I would feel worthless. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening to me, because I was very happy [earlier] and my family was very happy. Of course I was grateful for the blessing – sometimes, you know, when you tell people, they say, ‘You are being ungrateful’, but I think that’s absolutely wrong and of course you are grateful for the gift, but it’s hard to explain that feeling that you get.”
Initially, say the doctors, a swaying of moods is expected. As is a mild case of PPD, also known as the baby blues.
Types of PPD
There are three distinct levels of affliction, based on the severity of symptoms, explained Dr Mrabet Jihene, Director of the office of counselling and disability - Assistant Professor in Psychology at Amity University, in a previous interview with Gulf News.
What is it? A usual phase that happens due to a decrease in oestrogen levels.
- Lack of concentration
- Poor appetite and
- Sleeping problems
Treatment: Manageable with familial support and help with the baby.
What is it? If the period of baby blues continues, it may well be that the new mum is facing postpartum depression.
- Extreme mood swings
- Excessive crying and intense irritability and anger
- Severe anxiety and inability to bond with the baby
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- The mother may have thoughts of harming herself or her baby – but these are just thoughts
What is it? The most dangerous of depressions, this can cause a new mother to behave in an irrational way. She may at this point be a danger to herself or her baby.
Felt after: The first three months after the birth
- Attempts to harm herself and her baby
How do you know if it’s PPD or just the baby blues?
Dr Marie Thompson, Clinical Director and Clinical Psychologist at UAE-based clinic Vivamus, explained in an interview with Gulf News: “The distinction between PPD and baby blues comes down to duration, consistency and intensity.
“Prevention is better than cure and mental health screening goes a long way to averting PPD or making the duration shorter. With this in mind I always recommend that all women have a mental health check up with a psychologist or psychiatrist who is trained to work with women in this perinatal period, preferably between two and four weeks post-delivery. Of course this needs to be sooner if you are someone close to you is worried about you.”
- Dubai resident and mum of two: ‘The second time I had post-partum depression I couldn’t breathe’
- After being caught off guard with postpartum depression, Emirati begins an online counselling platform
- Living with postpartum depression: ‘I love my baby, but I just want to be alone,’ says UAE-based mum
For Warda, it’s been an uphill journey back to health. “Now, my daughter is almost three and I feel like I’m slowly crawling out of that phase. Now I feel like I’ve gathered myself and I’m actually happy being a mother. But it [that sadness] lasted a long time; I think it’s different for everybody. But according to my research, it’s pretty common but people won’t acknowledge it. That’s the worst part,” she says.
“I would advise those looking to get pregnant or those who are pregnant to just do your own research; don’t just depend on what people tell you or what your mother-in-law or mum is telling you, because times have changed – everything is available at your fingertips so do your own research, even if you don’t think you’ll go through it. No matter how happy or comfortable you are in your pregnancy, every woman should know about PPD and have some knowledge so you know how to deal with it. Make a plan on recovery’; how you are going to deal with it all – physically and mentally – and attend the pre-natal classes offered in the hospital of your choosing,” she says.
In spite of her rough road to emotional wellness, Warda says another child is not out of the question. “I am so much better equipped to deal with what comes after,” she explains.
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