Dealing with baby blues

Dealing with baby blues

MASERU-WHEN a 19-year-old mother shocked Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital staff and patients after she slit her six-day-old baby’s throat with a razor blade in July last year, many called her a Satanist.
Phone-in programmes at local radio stations were jammed with callers advising churches to visit the hospital and drive away evil spirits, while others even chipped with names of prophets they thought were powerful enough to drive out such demons.

The teenage mother, who was still under health care when she killed her baby, later died from unknown causes, according to police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli.
Very few thought of a condition called post-natal depression, which could have been responsible for the teenager’s actions.

Doctors say post-natal depression is one of the most common forms of depression faced by women after giving birth.
This week, thepost tackled the topic via Facebook with different women who claimed they suffered depression after giving birth.

One of them only identified herself as Rethabile.
For six months after giving birth, Rethabile enjoyed inflicting pain on her baby boy.
His cries of agony were like music to her, she said. She would pinch the baby so hard that every cry would be louder than the previous one.

For Rethabile, when the baby was wet or hungry, it was not time to change nappies or breastfeed. It was a moment of joy, watching the baby feel the pain and cry.
“I felt at peace when he cried,” says Rethabile.

“I would continue sweeping when he cried and would just shout that I was coming. I would sweep and clean until he stopped crying. Then when I was done I would attend to him,” she says.
Neighbours realised this unusual behaviour and advised her husband who was working in Bloemfontein, South Africa, to take her to a doctor.

Rethabile says she is now a happy mother after receiving counselling by professional psychiatrists in Bloemfontein.
Rethabile blames her condition on the treatment she received at a Lesotho hospital where she delivered the baby two years ago.

She did not want to mention the hospital and she refused to reveal her surname and where she comes from.
She says when she was about to give birth, she felt pressure down her abdomen and she called out for help.
The nurse on duty seemed disinterested when she told her the baby was coming.
“She was so rude. She asked me how I knew I was giving birth,” Rethabile says.

This was Rethabile’s second child and according to her, “I knew very well what I was talking about when I said I thought the baby was coming”.
The nurse took Rethabile to the examination room and it was just then that she realised that indeed the baby was on its way.

“She told me to walk myself to the delivery room where she would be with me in a minute. My medical booklet fell on the floor but she instructed me to bend down to pick it, which I couldn’t,” she says.
As she tried to bend down, the baby’s head popped out.
“It felt slippery, wet and very much like the head of my baby, I could not believe it,” she says.
Rethabile was rushed to the labour room after the nurse realised that indeed the baby was not just on the way but was out already.

“I could not push harder than I did because the baby’s shoulders were trapped, the nurses helped me until I gave birth,” Rethabile says.
Instead of being happy when the midwife handed her the baby, she says she “was not happy, neither was I sad. I didn’t know how to feel except like a piece of me was ripped away from me”.
Days after she was discharged from the hospital, all she would do was feed the baby when told to do so by her mother who had come to Maseru to help her.

She did not want to bathe the baby.
“Later I discovered I hated the baby, I enjoyed hearing him cry because I thought that was the only moment I would stop thinking about what I experienced during labour,” she says.
“I still hadn’t told anyone about the incident. I didn’t know where and how to start,”
She had painful headaches, and her blood pressure was too high that she had to go onto high blood pressure medication “and still I said nothing about my birthing experience”.

Things got better after she moved to Bloemfontein to be with her husband because she was taken to a psychiatrist who helped her.
“I am all good now. I love my son more and I see the consequences of not speaking out or seeking help from professionals.”

Another mother told thepost that she always felt like committing suicide and at the same time kill her new-born baby.
“For several times, I would ride with him in my car and drive with intentions to drive under a truck on purpose so that it would kill us both,” she says.
“At a certain spot after Ea Rona Guest House in Masianokeng, I had even identified a tree that I was determined to crash into,” she says.

“What was worse was my partner and family thought I was silly. The only thing I believe helped me was prayer with the Women of the Union in the Catholic Church.
“I would confess things that troubled me and we would together pray. My child is six years now and I am always grateful that I did not go ahead with the suicidal plans,” she says.

According to WebMd, an online health journal, there are three types of mood changes that women can experience after giving birth. These are baby blues, postpartum depression (post-natal depression) and postpartum psychosis.
Postnatal depression is the name given to depression that develops between one month and up to one year after the birth of a baby.

The journal says all parents go through a period of adjustment as they try to handle the huge changes a baby brings.
For most people, this time of adjustment will be temporary and will not be overly distressing.
It says many women experience the ‘baby blues’ in the first few days after having a baby.
The baby blues usually only last two to three days “and you might feel teary, anxious and moody during that time”.
Centre for Perinatal Excellence (COPE) says unlike the baby blues which passes on its own, postpartum depression can be long-lasting, and affect your ability to cope with a new baby.

The site further says symptoms of postpartum depression can develop gradually or within a short period of time.
In some women, depression may develop during pregnancy (antenatal depression) and continue through to the postnatal period, whilst for others postnatal depression will develop for the first time in the weeks or months after the baby is born.

Health Direct says postnatal psychosis (also called postpartum or puerperal psychosis) is less common than postnatal depression and can develop in the first week, or up to 12 weeks, after childbirth.
It involves having difficulties thinking clearly, extreme mood swings, seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations), feeling everyone is against you (paranoia) and powerful delusions.

“This is a medical emergency and a doctor should be contacted immediately,” it reads.
Postpartum psychosis is a very serious mental illness that can affect new mothers.
This illness can happen quickly, often within the first three months after childbirth.

Health Direct says women can lose touch with reality, having auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren’t actually happening, like a person talking) and delusions (strongly believing things that are clearly irrational).
It says visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there) are less common.
Other symptoms include insomnia (not being able to sleep), feeling agitated and angry, pacing, restlessness, and strange feelings and behaviour.

“Women who have postpartum psychosis need treatment right away and almost always need medication,” it reads.
“Sometimes women are put into the hospital because they are at risk for hurting themselves or someone else.”
COPE says for all these reasons, it is important to seek help early, “so that you can reduce these negative impacts of postnatal depression on you, your life and your family”.

“Postnatal depression can be treated and managed. The faster you seek effective help, the faster you can recover.”
Serialong Mokitimi, who is a clinical psychologist at Mohlomi Hospital says Post-partum Depression (PPD) is a form of major depression that happens after a mother gives birth and sometimes during pregnancy and even at times a year after giving birth.

Mokitimi says the symptoms are just similar as any other depression case.
Mokitimi says cases of PPD are very common in the country and they have and are still treating patients with this type of depression.

Mokitimi did not have statistics as to how many patients they have or they have had in the last year.
“There are a whole lot more of such cases that go unreported because people still don’t know that when a mother shows signs of distress, fatigue, unhappiness, loss of interest to the baby, this is a sign of depression and should be reported,” Mokitimi says.

“People should not take symptoms such as these for granted. It is better not to be worried when told not to be worried than to not be worried about something that you should have worried about,” Mokitimi says.

Rose Moremoholo

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