27/09/2017 07:39 SAST | Updated 27/09/2017 09:16 SAST

Postnatal Depression Can Be So Severe That A New Mother Needs To Be Hospitalised

This is called postpartum psychosis.

New Mother Suffering From Post Natal Depression.
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New Mother Suffering From Post Natal Depression.

President Donald Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump recently opened up about her experience with postpartum depression (PPD), also known as postnatal depression.

The mother of three told U.S. talk show host and health expert, Dr Oz: "I had such easy pregnancies that in some ways the juxtaposition hit me even harder. It was a very challenging, emotional time for me because I felt I was not living up to my potential as a parent."

What is PPD?

According to the South African Depression And Anxiety Group (SADAG), PPD is linked to chemical, social and psychological changes associated with having a baby. The term encompasses a range of physical and emotional changes that many new mothers experience.

Studies in KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town previously revealed rates of 41 percent antenatal depression and 35 percent postpartum depression, respectively.

There are three types of postpartum depression:

1. Baby Blues

Baby blues are considered the most normal. They can occur immediately after birth or in the few days after giving birth. Baby blues are characterised by mood swings, feelings of fragility or being overwhelmed. "They usually disappear after a while and do not need medical treatment," Sally Baker, a perinatal social worker, told HuffPost SA.

2. Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is more severe than baby blues. "It can manifest in different ways such as depression and anxiety disorder, a few weeks or months after giving birth," explained Baker. A woman may exhibit similar symptoms as with baby blues, but these may be much stronger, affecting how a new mother goes about her daily business.

Model Chrissy Teigen, who is married to musician John Legend, told US Weekly that she lost interest in everything after her daughter, Luna was born last year. "I couldn't get out of bed. I kept all my pyjamas in the pantry because I didn't want to go upstairs."

PPD normally requires treatment, without which the condition can worsen. Teigen also sought medical assistance and recovered.

3. Postpartum psychosis

This one, although rare, is the most severe. New mothers suffering from postpartum psychosis can have hallucinations and delusions. Other symptoms include insomnia, feeling agitated and angry. "Treatment is needed right away and mothers often need to be hospitalised," explained Baker. Some mothers suffering from this type of PPD may even have thoughts of self-harm or to harm the baby.

There's help

Baker advises that mothers seek help if symptoms persist beyond two weeks. They can call SADAG on its 24-hour number (011-234-4837) and speak to one of its trained counsellors who can make a recommendation.

The Postnatal Depression Support Association also has support group networks across the country and can recommend help.

Further, Baker believes help starts at home -- through the support of a spouse, a helper or other family members.

Singer Adele, who opened up about her PPD journey with Vanity Fair, said after feelings of inadequacy and feeling like she "made the worst decision of her life," she decided to give herself an afternoon a week away from her son and did not feel guilty about it.

"It's important to give a new mother the type of help she needs. With baby blues and PPD, she may need something that seems as simple as a warm bath, to take a walk alone or two hours to just watch a movie," clarified Baker.

However, with postpartum psychosis, while she is on treatment or in hospital, a mother needs to know that her newborn is in good hands.

More importantly, however, Baker is of the opinion that what mothers need the most, is the assurance that there is nothing wrong with them -- that they just have a treatable condition that affects many new mothers face worldwide.

"It's important that they know they are not alone. This is a huge misconception mothers face."

The social worker also lays some of the blame on societal pressures on mothers. "We give the message that mothers must be perfect and be superwomen, then they feel like failures when they face PPD after giving birth. This must stop," she concluded.