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Jamaica Gleaner - - F & R - (About To­day - The Na­tional) fam­ilyan­dreli­ion@glean­erjm.com

To­day you were far away and I didn’t ask you why What could I say, I was far away You just walked away and I just watched you What could I say ER HUS­BAND is filled with joy at the birth of the lat­est ad­di­tion to the fam­ily, but that joy seems to be onesided. He is now filled with doubts about whether it was a mis­take adding to the union as his wife seems to be in a con­stant state of de­pres­sion. This is just one of the signs of post­par­tum de­pres­sion, ac­cord­ing to Francine Derby of Safe Space Ja, a newly formed or­gan­i­sa­tion to help per­sons with men­tal is­sues.

“Post-par­tum de­pres­sion is a se­vere, chronic form of clin­i­cal de­pres­sion that oc­curs af­ter the birth of a child. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, both new mothers and fa­thers can face the chal­lenge of post-par­tum de­pres­sion, though it is def­i­nitely more com­mon in women,” she ex­plained.

Un­for­tu­nately, she said, many do not un­der­stand the symp­toms of this ill­ness while some pass it off as ‘baby blues’.

For Derby, ev­ery new par­ent will ex­pe­ri­ence ‘baby blues’ as they get ac­cus­tomed to the chal­lenges that come with a new­born. She pointed out that it’s nor­mal to feel over­whelmed, sad, or in­ad­e­quate.

“How­ever, this usu­ally passes within two weeks of birth. Post-par­tum de­pres­sion has more se­vere symp­toms and is far more long-last­ing. It of­ten in­volves feel­ings of worth­less­ness and anx­i­ety about the new role as a par­ent. You may feel con­stantly ex­hausted, dis­sat­is­fied, and empty, while be­ing un­able to en­joy ac­tiv­i­ties that you once found en­joy­able,” she said.

Among its other symp­toms are de­creased sex drive and a gen­eral lack of en­ergy.

Pulling away from friends and fam­ily mem­bers as well as even the baby can also oc­cur.

“If these symp­toms per­sist for sev­eral weeks, or even months, post-par­tum de­pres­sion is a likely di­ag­no­sis. In more rare and se­vere cases, post­par­tum de­pres­sion can in­ter­fere with the baby’s devel­op­ment. A par­ent may be in­con­sis­tent with child­care, feed­ings, and ad­min­is­tra­tion of med­i­ca­tion. In even rarer and more se­vere cases, post­par­tum de­pres­sion can de­velop into post-par­tum psy­chosis,” she said, point­ing out that this is when the mother can be a dan­ger both to her­self and the child.

Derby fur­ther stated that Ja­maicans are not prop­erly ed­u­cated on this form of men­tal ill­ness, and, as a re­sult, these kinds of ill­nesses are placed on the back burner.

“Post-par­tum de­pres­sion specif­i­cally is not some­thing that is widely dis­cussed. Clin­ics, hos­pi­tals, and health-care cen­tres do not place ma­jor em­pha­sis on post-par­tum de­pres­sion. It is un­der­stand­able that this men­tal ill­ness may fall to the way­side since so much in­for­ma­tion has to be passed on to a new par­ent,” she said. Derby stressed, how­ever, that greater ef­fort should be made to ed­u­cate the gen­eral pub­lic so that the signs can be recog­nised and the nec­es­sary help given.

AT GREATER RISK

Preg­nant women with a his­tory of de­pres­sion are at greater risk of de­vel­op­ing this ill­ness, ac­cord­ing to Derby. She also pointed out that per­sons with bipo­lar dis­or­der also have in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing post-par­tum de­pres­sion. Ad­di­tion­ally, prob­lems in one’s re­la­tion­ship with one’s sig­nif­i­cant other may in­crease the risk.

“Mothers who have dif­fi­culty breast­feed­ing may be­gin to feel in­ad­e­quate about their abil­ity to ad­e­quately take care of their baby. These feel­ings can de­velop into post-par­tum de­pres­sion. Hav­ing a weak sup­port sys­tem can lead to a par­ent feel­ing over­whelmed, which can quickly de­velop into full-blown de­pres­sion. Ad­di­tion­ally, if the preg­nancy was un­wanted, this can in­crease the pos­si­bil­ity of post­par­tum de­pres­sion,” shared Derby. All is not lost, and mothers can help them­selves by reach­ing out to their doc­tors if they sus­pect that they may be bat­tling this ill­ness, ac­cord­ing to Derby. She stressed that there should be no em­bar­rass­ment about or fear of seek­ing help. “Your doc­tor can rec­om­mend a ther­a­pist or psy­chi­a­trist who will be able to help you through this dif­fi­cult time. Speak­ing to a trusted friend or fam­ily mem­ber can also be ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial,” she said. The al­ter­na­tive of not deal­ing with the ill­ness and leav­ing the symp­toms un­treated will have se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions for the en­tire fam­ily. The baby may be at a dis­ad­van­tage be­cause the par­ent is un­able to ad­e­quately pro­vide child­care. The par­ent may be­come dis­tant, which can cause a rift in the home and with the ex­tended fam­ily. In more ex­treme cases, post-par­tum de­pres­sion can de­velop into post-par­tum psy­chosis, which can lead to the baby be­ing phys­i­cally harmed. In reach­ing out, Derby said that fa­thers should pay close at­ten­tion to their part­ners and to changes in their be­hav­iour. “Be un­der­stand­ing and sen­si­tive dur­ing this time. A strong sup­port sys­tem is nec­es­sary, so be sure to con­stantly re­as­sure her and of­fer help and sup­port when­ever pos­si­ble. Be open to con­ver­sa­tion and never dis­re­gard or in­val­i­date her feel­ings. Un­der­stand that post-par­tum de­pres­sion is very real, and be mindful of your role as a part­ner,” she said.

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