What is depression in women?
Women go through several biological phases in their lives – puberty, pregnancy, motherhood, post menstrual phase and old age. Each stage can be overwhelming in its own way. In some cases, these stages may cause physical ailments that could persist for a long duration. Trying to cope with such ailments may affect the woman’s mental health and lead to the development of depression or anxiety disorders. It is estimated that one in five women suffer from depression during some phase in their lives.
Some of the factors that could cause depression in women are:
- Menstrual cycle changes and related ailments, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause
- Sexuality and body image issues
- Lack of freedom to make decisions (being controlled by parents, husband, or in-laws)
- Changes in lifestyle due to work, marriage or migration
- Marital conflicts such as divorce, an extra marital affair, or incompatibility
- Previous episodes of depression, postpartum depression
- Lack of social support
- Unwanted pregnancy, miscarriage, or infertility
- Being overburdened with responsibilities, or single parenthood
- Trauma due to physical or mental abuse. Read more on intimate partner violence.
What is postpartum depression?
Megha had just delivered a healthy baby and her family was overjoyed. Megha, however, began feeling restless after a few days. The baby’s erratic feeding times and sleep patterns were causing Megha a lot of stress. She would weep and worry constantly. She would get irritated by small things, fret about her body, and refuse to take care of her baby. She lost her appetite and ate irregularly. Confused by her behavior, her family consulted their general physician, who advised them to meet a psychiatrist. The diagnosis confirmed that Megha was suffering from postpartum depression.
This fictional narrative has been constructed to aid the understanding of this disorder by placing it in a real-life situation.
The pain and stress of childbearing, combined with anxiety, fear, excitement, and life adjustments, can make the mother very vulnerable.
Postpartum blues: Most mothers become emotional with perhaps depressed mood, crying spells, irritability, anxiety, appetite disturbance, headache and forgetfulness. This is post-partum blues. This condition is temporary and the mother will recover within 10 days. If these emotional changes persist for several weeks, this is probably an illness called postnatal or postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression: Postpartum depression affects new mothers and often presents in the first six weeks. However, the illness may not be diagnosed for many months, or at all. Postpartum depression requires treatment.
The exact cause of postpartum depression is not known, but doctors observe that it may be due to sudden hormonal and physical changes, and the stress of taking care of a newborn baby.