Nothing beats the feeling of holding your baby in your arms for the first time. While motherhood is one of the most amazing feelings in the world, it also is a tough spot to be in. More often than not, women go through multiple emotions as they juggle everything at once. Actor Alia Bhatt, who had a daughter with husband Ranbir Kapoor last year, is no different. Handling work and motherhood seems like a cakewalk for her on the surface, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it can be overwhelming. She has also spoken up about experiencing anxiety and ‘mom guilt’ as she continues to work along with raising a child.
In a recent interview with Vogue India, Alia opened up about going to therapy, which helps her understand that motherhood is an “ever-evolving, ever-growing process.” While a lot of new mothers tend to put their own emotions on the backburner, Alia chose to pay attention to her mental health by addressing the “healthy amount of mom guilt”.
New mothers need to focus on their mental health
Just like Alia, many new mothers out there find it difficult to tackle and manage everything at once. However, most end up neglecting their mental well-being due to a lack of awareness or social pressure. To help new mothers understand the common issue of postpartum depression and the need to raise their voices, Health Shots consulted Dr Kersi Chavda, who is a consultant psychiatrist at P.D. Hinduja Hospital and MRC, Mahim, Mumbai.
Normalising mental health problems for new mothers is an important issue that needs to be addressed. Of all the mental health problems, postpartum depression is one of the most common disorders that affect new mothers. Dr Chavda explains, “What basically happens is that the mother passes through a series of symptoms that make her feel overwhelmed, which makes her feel very depressed, which makes her feel that she’s incapable of being a mother.”
The problem exacerbates when people around the new mother judge her for not feeling what she should be feeling. We have to understand that it affects a huge number of mothers who just delivered and that this is not something that is a fad, or that the mother doesn’t want to look after the baby. Feeling overwhelmed and anxious, or feeling depressed has nothing to do with them being a bad mother. It is a psychiatric illness that needs to be dealt with by a psychiatrist and the support of her family and friends.
What does postpartum depression feel like?
For a new mother, it is considered normal to feel joy that she has become a mother to a beautiful child. But that’s not the case always! The key is to have a suspicion of the problem, says Dr Chavda. Since a lot of people believe that it is not possible for a newly born mother to actually not like bonding with the child, the mother ends up feeling guilty and even inadequate. She may even think that she is a horrible person when she’s not. Even lactation becomes a problem. They might feel tired or find it difficult to sleep. Things get worse when new mothers get questioned for not having a good time when everyone else around them is delighted. What people need to understand is that postpartum depression is a common problem in new mothers and should be dealt with with care and support.
For the unversed, women going through postpartum depression may not feel any joy or happiness in holding the baby. They could have a feeling of overwhelming dread and anxiety, associated with doing things for the baby. Often there is a feeling of extreme weakness and tiredness. And all of this relates to the fact that the person is suffering from postpartum depression, explains the expert.
Most women experience the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in the first three months of having a baby, but the condition can persist even up to a year. They may even experience the symptoms after about six to nine months of having a baby.
So, how do you deal with it?
The basic guidelines would be to have a suspicion for this problem. Once you know that you have been experiencing a psychiatric illness, it would be easier for you to understand the intricacies of the mental health problem and how to manage it.
Dr Chavda suggests counselling as the first step to dealing with postpartum issues. Family support is important. One needs to be put on medication to prevent the condition from getting worse. “Everybody freaks out when we talk of medication, but it is essential at times for medication to be given to prevent further deterioration of the mental health of the mother, which then will have its attendant problems on the child.”
Research points out the fact that most medication that the mother was on before pregnancy has to continue during pregnancy as well. The mother should not stop because someone from the family has advised them to as it can aggravate the symptoms and make matters worse. Dr Chavda recommends staying on medication during pregnancy and lactation if you were on medication before pregnancy. It will increase your chances of being a happy mother to a healthy child.