Maa Matters Part 3
(A series on Maternal Mental Health by Dr. Khushboo Kansal)
“My wife, Kalpana delivered our sweet little boy, one week back and since then I can sense something is not right with her. Initially she was restless and moody, but since last 2-3 days, she has started blaming everyone in the family including ‘the baby’ that we are trying to poison her . She has lost her sleep. She wanders around the house muttering to herself. Sometimes she becomes excited and laughs without any reason. She tells me about how the neighbourhood is talking about her. Earlier we were helping her breastfeed the baby, but since yesterday she has refused for the same. Infact she is getting irritable when we try to reason her for feeding the baby. She was so excited for the baby, but now she doesn’t seem to care for him at all. Initially we thought these might be the baby blues, but she is worsening day by day.” These were the words of a young worried and scared husband who came to my office with a perplexed, shabbily dressed lady who seemed to be lost in her own world.
How common is postpartum psychosis?
It occurs in 1-2 women per 1000 births.
Postpartum Psychosis is a psychiatric emergency.
Who are at increased risk?
- Previous history of psychiatric illness
- History of postpartum psychosis in previous pregnancy
- Positive family history of psychiatric illnesses including postpartum psychosis episode in close relatives
This can even occur ‘out of the blue’ in those who were perfectly healthy. The hormonal overhaul makes a lady more vulnerable biologically to the postpartum episodes.
What should you do?
- Medical Help:
Patient needs to be seen by a mental health professional right away. Sometimes, patient might need admission also.
There are very effective and safe medicines available.
- Social support:
It can be very distressing for the partner and family esp. when the patient does not understand that she is ill.
that this is an illness and your partner will need your support in every possible way. You need to:
- Be supportive to your partner: Be calm, listen to her, let her rest as much as possible, try to keep your surrounding calm and quiet with minimum visitors, take care of her medicines.
- Be caring for the baby: During the time your partner is not well enough to take care of the baby, you need to gear on as the primary caregiver. You can recruit in more help from family members.
- Be caring for yourself: There is lot to manage physically, financially and emotionally when your partner suffers from postpartum psychosis. You might feel anxious, stressed, low, angry, exhausted. To be able to care for your family, you need to take care of yourself too. Take some time for yourself to unwind, talk about your feelings to someone. Talk to a mental health professional if need be.
After the patient stabilises, it might take some time to full recovery.
The patient might feel all kinds of emotions ranging from guilt to embarrassment to anger to helplessness to complete lack of confidence.
You need to:
- Talk about your concerns to your mental health professional regarding medications
- Maintain healthy lifestyle: healthy food and exercise
- Take proper rest: recruit in more help from family and friends
- Bonding with the baby: talk to your baby, cuddle and massage the baby
- Talk to your partner
As partner and family:
- Help build the lost confidence of the patient
- Help her in daily chores
- Talk to her, spend time together caring for the baby
- Try to have fun together