Latest News Of Kashmir And Daily Newspaper

Silent Struggle: Postpartum Depression Takes Toll on Kashmiri Mothers, Experts Urge Greater Awareness and Resources

By Syed Safa Chishti

Srinagar:  For weeks after giving birth to her daughter, 33 year old Salima Aijaz (name changed) recalls how short-lived the happiness of delivering her baby had been for her. As soon as she held her baby in her arms, a scary disturbance illusion interfered her auspicious moment which she had been praying for months to witness.

“I had a premature delivery and was aware about the complications by the doctors. As soon as I saw my daughter in my arms, my heart panicked on looking at how weak my baby was. The thought of something happening to her even when I held her frightened me. The image sent a cold shiver down my spine. I couldn’t bear anyone coming near her. At one point I even accused my husband and my family for harming my baby. I threatened them that they wanted to hurt her and screamed for days over the thought that everybody wanted to attack my baby. It was a nightmare I still shiver upon”, said Salima.

Salima recounts that her worrisome husband tried to understand the behavior that concerned his wife. “He was so worried about me that he went back to the doctors narrating them about my behavior. He knew I wasn’t like this. He tried investigating what could go wrong with my condition. That night when he returned home, he gently sat in front of me and told me about what today I know of  my postpartum depression”, Salima added.

Postpartum Depression (PPD) usually seen as ‘baby blues’ initially is a condition with symptoms that go far more serious and could last longer than expected. These may eventually interfere with a mother’s ability to care for her baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth. But may begin earlier during pregnancy or end up later to a year after birth.

The lack of awareness about the illness, more significantly in Valley could be summed in conclusion that as a society Kashmir has yet a much longer way to go on causing the right kind of awareness and acceptance amongst the people about the PPD. 

Asma Nasir, Counseller from Department of Psychiatry, GMC Baramulla, highlights how people insinuate the symptoms of a new mother experiencing such grave delusions or mood swings as a part of childbirth, “Many a times it becomes a learning experience for the patient’s families on seeing the mother undergoing hallucinations, fear, obsession for baby, excessive crying etc. Other times the families accompany deny any such relevance of childbirth being a causing factor for such symptoms”. She informs how the confusion among people in accepting depression, post-delivery does not usually sync with their ideologies which in other words often delays the treatment of a patient too when the symptoms go unrecognized.  

“In Kashmir there is no large scale awareness about it. The after effects could grow intensely even in postpartum psychosis which develops usually after a week of delivery. The depressive symptoms include not talking or holding baby, suicidal tendencies, denying breastfeeding the child, over protectiveness, delusions, and panic for child attack hallucinations due to psychosis, feeling lost, obsessive thoughts about your baby, hallucinating and having delusions, having sleep problems, feeling paranoid, attempting to harm yourself or your baby etc”, said Asima Nasir.

However if diagnosed timely and treated regularly, a lot could change for a family, reveals Asma, “The illness could be sudden or prolong post-delivery but all could go fine even within a week when the symptoms are recognized and consulted to the doctor who would refer the patient to psychiatric help. Many of our patients have been diagnosed and discharged within a week when in postpartum psychosis”

She further adds, “Our body possesses many different chemical neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and imbalance in psychiatric illnesses which work upon bio-psychosocial factors that could have biological, psychological or environmental stresses. This chemical imbalance upon medication and support can help a mother to feel well again”

Awareness of PPD even though in dearth but when worked upon would ensure large scale knowledge and consciousness to take care of the expecting mother prior and post-delivery, “First of all gynecologists have an important role to play since they keep a patient in check of any symptoms of depression and anxiety. Once diagnosed, it becomes imperative to make sure that they are referred to psychiatric help”

She stresses a proper acknowledgment of such conditions developing in a patient to be accompanied with love and support by the mother’s family too. “Even after being discharged, the responsibility of a family thereafter in helping out and nurturing the mother with love and support would ensure a healthy life for the mother and infant and thereby the society over all on a large scale”