Postpartum depression: tips to overcome this invisible disorder

If there is a mental disorder that suffers from a certain invisibility, it is postpartum depression. Being a mother is perhaps the most important life decision a woman can make, since it is about something so important, decisive and delicate such as bringing a new person into the world. From the moment you give birth your life changes forever. And many women who have had a baby once feel some regret or nostalgia for your past life, a previous existence in which his thoughts were not continually revolving around the well-being and education of that new person who still does not even know how to talk or walk.

"They hardly tell us the details or risks of suffering from postpartum depression, especially before making the decision to have the baby," he says. Paula Alvarez, Madrilenian psychologist in Sexology with Pedagogy, to El Confidencial. “Suddenly a feeling of irreversibility appears because the woman realizes that she cannot back down. Even if you feel regret, it would be hard for you to accept it. Once you have it, it is a path of no return. Also, you know he is your son, something very strong binds you to him ”.

They may feel regret at some point during their motherhood, especially when the child is a teenager

Álvarez cites the book ‘Repentant Mothers’ (Reservoir Books), by the Israeli sociologist Orna donath, which sowed a great controversy at the time of its publication by bringing to light the sensations that plague many new mothers, not as magical or pleasant as they normally sell them. And, furthermore, in contrast to the figure of the father, on whom not so much pressure rests to want to have the baby. "In the case of men it is not so frowned upon, they always make excuses saying that it was not their time to make such an important decision or that their careers were cut short and they surpassed them ”, asserts the sexologist. "But when it comes to women, it is like there is a very bad perception around those who do not want to have it or who regret it."

What are the sensations that appear shortly after giving birth and that can define the symptoms that characterize postpartum depression? "At the beginning, the woman may suffer great concern for the baby, doubting whether she will be able to attend to his needs or if she is doing it well," he says. Júlia Pascual, psychologist and director of the Center for Brief Strategic Therapy of Barcelona, ​​to this newspaper. This does not mean that a feeling of regret should appear: “Any good mother can feel regret at some point during her motherhood, to a greater or lesser degree. It can also happen to those who have teenage children, ”he says.

Obviously, postpartum depression goes far beyond mere regret. "The woman focuses so much on these types of thoughts that she begins to feel more and more anxiety," explains Pascual. "There are often recurring thoughts of disability throughout the day, a need for constant control and specific moments of anger about the situation. Progressively, if the mother does not receive the necessary psychological attention, this anxiety is transformed into feelings of extreme fatigue, frustration or sadness. And doubts as to whether or not he will be capable turn into the conviction that he will not be. So, you start to create feelings of guilt for not being able to take good care of your baby and of regret for having made the decision ”. Hence the importance that at the slightest symptom you go to a professional specialized in this type of disorder to ensure that it does not get worse.

Being a mother is not something fixed; each woman builds her motherhood through her relationship with her baby, with herself and with her environment

How can it be different from a common depression that anyone can feel? "Postpartum depressive symptoms are linked to the circumstances," adds the psychologist. the mother's life and her self-perception as a person, increasingly resembling a common depression ”. One of the keys to this disease is, as Álvarez also points out, the enormous expectations that mothers have before having the child. "If they do not agree with reality, frustration appears," reflects Pascual, for his part. "As much as a woman gets used to the idea, until she has the baby in her arms she will not be able to know exactly what it means to be a mother. "

"People tend to anticipate many future events and to build in our minds all the possible situations in which we may find ourselves," he adds Rosa Soria, Pascual's colleague at the head of his psychology office. “This anticipation of the mother is influenced by her own expectations, the environment, the type of messages she receives and how she handles them. Being a mother is not a fixed status, each woman builds her motherhood every day through the relationship with her baby, with herself and with her environment ”.

The role of the father

And the most important thing in case of suffering symptoms that fit with postpartum depression: What role should the father assume? Or in case of being a single mother, how should the environment of family and friends behave to provide the necessary support to get out of the situation? "It is about the most essential," Soria sentence. "First, there must be understanding, since at first a mother tends to feel overwhelmed by responsibility and the desire to be good, which triggers her fears ”. In this sense, the first thing is to "normalize your problem", and later "attend her, listen to her, pamper her". Also "find moments for herself, that she feels she can delegate to others." The psychologist admits that it is natural that the father also feels overwhelmed by the situation, but that the most important thing is that both are calm, since "this will benefit the baby."

Depression can also be a product of your perception of reality before pregnancy that is exacerbated by being a mother

Álvarez, for his part, thinks that the most essential thing is that the woman have her time to recover from physical and emotional shock After giving birth, in a process that takes an average of six months. Although as in all medical and psychological issues, each person is different and needs more or less time to adapt to changes. "The woman's body is another ”, admits the sexologist from Madrid. “It is vital that there is a task of reconnecting with him, as well as with his new life as a mother. The rush is not good and the father or the environment must be supporting her more than ever in this new stage of her life ”.

How is the psychological treatment of postpartum depression? "It is much more specific than that of a common depression, since they are different depending on the circumstances," admits Pascual. "We focus above all on feelings, we accompany her in every action and decision she makes. If she suffers more fear or concern about not being up to par, we work on it before it becomes chronic and we intervene in her environment with very specific guidelines that vary. depending on each case ", he asserts. In this sense, we proceed to work on the management of emotions, since also in many cases "they can be a product of their perception of the reality prior to pregnancy and are exacerbated by the demands of motherhood."

A final message to all mothers

Finally, Pascual sends a message to all new mothers who at some point may have suspected that they have certain symptoms of postpartum depression: “I know that you had not imagined that being a mother was going to be like this and it would turn you into this. You have given life to a human being and at the same time it seems that something within you has died. You have started to be a mother through the most difficult level, in the dark part where you must fight against the worst of ghosts: depression. I know you're going to tell me that you won't be able to, but every morning you must decide to do one little positive thing. I know that it will be very difficult for you to do these small actions as if your problem was solved, but think that every time you give up doing something, even if it is silly, your problem not only remains but it gets worse ”.