Ever wondered why postpartum depression happens in some women and not in others? New research has shed more light on the subject.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a series of negative emotional changes a woman may experience after delivering a baby. It may manifest as undue and persistent anger, irritability or indifference towards the newborn and others. Some women may kill themselves or their babies in the most severe cases.
Studies in Nigeria estimate that postpartum depression affects 10.7% – 44.5% of women. Although common, PPD often goes unrecognised because many Nigerians lack adequate knowledge about the topic.
Learn more about the symptoms of postpartum depression here.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Like any other mental illness, postpartum depression is caused by a complex interaction of biological, psychological and social factors. The psychosocial factors are easy to identify, for example, unwanted pregnancy, marital conflict, the recent loss of a loved one, unemployment, etc. Any unfavourable circumstance in a new mom’s life can increase her risk of having PPD.
But what is the biology behind it; why do people suffer from postpartum depression even when the circumstances around their lives seem perfect? Why do other women who have psychosocial risk factors never develop the illness?
Some theories suggest that PPD is caused by hormonal changes that happen after delivery. Estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones are the common culprits. Therefore, women are advised to:
- eat natural, nutrient-filled meals;
- drink plenty of water and avoid coffee and soda;
- pay attention to their sleep;
- engage in exercise and other stress-relieving activities.
Such lifestyle habits may help new moms to balance their hormones fast after childbirth and reduce the risk of developing PPD.
Although the hormonal aspect is important, recent research has helped us to further understand the biological cause of the condition.
What’s New About Postpartum Depression?
A 2022 study at the University of Virginia was conducted to understand the biological reason why some new moms come down with depression.. The study suggests that PPD could likely develop when there is an accumulation of cellular and genetic waste materials in a woman’s body. These toxins circulate in the body and affect the brain in a negative way. The negative brain changes then manifest as symptoms of postpartum depression.
Some women clear up cellular debris faster and better than others. This person-to-person variation could explain why two moms could be exposed to the same psychological and social stress, and one would develop PPD while the other would not. No two individuals are the same afterall!
What Does This Mean For Us?
This new discovery is becoming a hot topic in the scientific community, and it will likely birth further studies along that line. With more evidence and understanding, targeted treatment can be developed to address toxin buildup and treat the illness. Screening tests for PPD may also be developed in the nearest future.
Postpartum depression is not a sign of weakness. We should not blame the sufferer because she is only experiencing bodily processes that are beyond her control.
Although we still have more grounds to cover in understanding the condition, treatment is available in the form of antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy.
Every woman should enjoy motherhood, don’t suffer in silence. Visit your doctor today.