Postpartum depression or post-natal depression is a mental illness that mainly affects nursing mothers.
Even though it is a treatable medical condition affecting one in seven women, awareness about the condition on the continent has been low, considering the rising number of victims.
According to President, Postpartum Support Network (PSN) Africa, Dr. Onyedikachi Ekwerike, sufferers of this ailment, who fail to receive treatment are most likely to develop postpartum psychosis, which puts their lives and that of their babies at risk.
A woman that is down with postpartum psychosis faces the risk of committing suicide and infanticide.
Ekwerike, who spoke recently said it was imperative for the Federal Government to employ psychologists in public hospitals to provide medical assistance to pregnant women and nursing mothers, stressing that the continuous increase in the number of women living with the condition and the number of untreated cases puts mothers and children at constant risk of death by suicide.
Ekwerike, a clinical psychologist, lamented that the absence of psychologists in government-owned hospitals was greatly affecting the level of awareness and care given to sufferers of postpartum depression,
“What the Federal Government through the Ministry of Health should be doing to address postpartum depression is to employ psychologists in government hospitals. That is the gap we have; we do not have psychologists in our public hospitals even those available in psychiatric hospitals are just a handful.
Also shedding some light on post-natal depression, Chief Executive Officer of Ninekay Maternity, and founder of First Time Mums Academy, Mrs. Nkem Adediran-Adedokun said, “The condition can be minor and fade away within the first two weeks post-delivery, while severe ones will require medical attention.
Adediran-Adedokun said those afflicted with the ailment also suffer “from headaches, crankiness, anger for no specific reason, crying, shouting, regrets and sudden irritation when their spouses come close, thinking that what is happening is caused by their husbands or babies.
Sometimes, people with this condition feel like running away and refuse to breastfeed their babies as a form of punishment when the babies cry.
Insisting that it is “normal to experience two or three of these signs immediately after delivery because of loss of sleep, delayed breast milk flow, sudden change of normal routine,” she added that if not well managed, the condition can even reduce or stop the new mother from lactating.
She said: “Every new mom has her own experience. For instance, in my first two pregnancies, I felt fat and unattractive. I was always cranky and angry for no reason. I wanted more out of everything.
I was tired at work and exhausted coming home to care for my three-year-old and an infant, and to go to work the next day.
There were days I just wanted to run away or even be sick, so I can be admitted in the hospital so that I will be the one being taken care of. This is not to scare you but to make you aware of this possibility and work towards preventing or controlling it.”
She continued: “To handle this situation before the baby comes, you have to start by organising all those things around you that constitute additional stress; get someone who will assist you when you deliver; organise your home- from food to sanitary materials, and then get at least 90 per cent ready two weeks to your Expected Delivery Date (EDD).
“It is very important to get adequate rest and you have to be selfish about it; relax physically, emotionally and mentally before delivery.
Ensure your hospital bag is packed at 36 weeks; treat yourself to a fun photo-shoot and massage; go to a professional spa that can handle a pregnant woman; go out with your friends; just be determined to have fun,” she said.
“Then when baby comes, try not to get worked up because lack of sleep will make you cranky and may even cause a fever.
This is normal and will pass if you have a clear mindset; be determined to come out strong and filter all the advices and recommendations that will be flying in if you get confused,” she said.
She advised new mothers to “find time to sleep, and if there is help, they should express breast milk and allow their mothers, mother in-laws or nannies to feed their babies while they catch some sleep as lack of sleep increases the likelihood of getting depressed after childbirth.
Women should also learn to take things one at a time and not allow anyone put them under undue pressure.
Importantly, they should work at getting back their shapes by adopting a healthy lifestyle, and involve their spouses, to help rock baby to sleep, especially at night.
“Finally, new mothers should not be shy or afraid to seek medical or professional help. They should understand that this situation is not peculiar to them, and does not make them any less women or mothers but brave mothers, who want the best for themselves and their babies.”
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