While motherhood brings the feeling of bliss for many, it is not the single unchallenged reality experienced by a new mother. An equally powerful, overwhelming reality that’s thrust upon them is postpartum depression – something that no one talks about.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), postpartum depression is “an episode of non-psychotic depression according to standardized diagnostic criteria with onset within one year of childbirth.”
The WHO also states that one in every five mothers in India battle postpartum depression. However, for about 90% of mothers in India, the condition remains undiagnosed and untreated. This is mostly because most women feel shame and guilt that they are not “fit mothers” for being anything but sublimely happy after the birth of their child. Psychologists attribute many factors acting as a trigger to postpartum depression, but the most common causes are often narrowed down to genetics, a history of depression in the family, or lack of support during the course of her pregnancy.
While postpartum depression has been a hushed topic of conversation for a long time, with the rise in millennial parents and advent of social media, conversations around mental health are opening up. Discussions around postpartum depression or “feeling the baby blues” (as it is casually referred to) have finally been brought into focus.
As talks around this very common condition between new mothers grow, a host of influencers - led by Bollywood’s favourite moms - have broken social stigma and opened up about their battle with postpartum depression and how they got over it.
Television anchor and actor Mandira Bedi has also been vocal about suffering from postpartum depression. She has said that there is no guilt in “not falling in love” with your baby as soon as they are born.
“As a new mum I faced one issue - postpartum depression is for real. I had it for 6 weeks. I did not fall in love with my baby the moment I saw him,” she has said in an interview.
She emphasised that it was reading about the condition and about other women’s shared experiences battling the same, that helped her tremendously, as did the support from her mother and husband.
She has often spoken about the need to raise awareness around postpartum depression in her interviews. “I want to create awareness about this problem and tell mothers that they must not give up when they face this dilemma, because it's absolutely normal. After all, it's all about hormonal imbalance. And those close to them must understand and provide all the support possible,” she said.
Actor Sameera Reddy, now a mother of two, has been very vocal about her struggles with postpartum depression following the birth of her son in 2015.
In a blog-post, Reddy had written, “No one had told me about postpartum blues. Depression was a word I would never have related to. But this was hormonal. I hit a deep, dark space where the fake-ness of the world, of putting up appearances, was magnified a million times more. I could not look in the mirror. I could not feel happy.”
The Darna Mana Hai actor added that at the time she had gained 32 kilos and was suffering from intense anxiety. “At that time I was so ashamed of all those feelings of self-loathing that my self-worth was at an all-time low,” she added.
However, as time went by, she recognised that what she was experiencing was indeed postpartum depression and that there was no shame in feeling the way that she did. By the time she gave birth to her second child, she knew better how to stay in the light.
Her advice to all new mothers feeling the same way? “Don’t sweep it under the carpet because there’s no use hiding it. Brave is the new mantra.”
Actor Esha Deol has credited her mother Hema Malini with helping pull her out of postpartum depression after she gave birth to her second child. In a freewheeling conversation with a publication, she spoke about how completely alienated the condition had caused her to feel, considering that she hadn’t experienced this after the birth of her first daughter.
“Right after delivery, I didn’t know what was going on as I was in a room filled with people and suddenly, I felt like crying. I sat quietly. I had given birth to a beautiful baby girl again and it’s a very happy moment; and I didn’t know what’s going on,” she said.
However, she said, her mother noticed her changing moods and recognised the condition for what it was. She made her get some tests done, and helped her through the process. Within a month, Esha felt like herself again.
The Sacred Games actor has spoken vastly about dealing with postpartum depression and an onslaught of pregnancy weight. Keeping tabs on mental health and following a balanced diet is what helped her. “There were days when my emotions were all over the place. But I did my best to stay centered, and share my feelings with my partner. I reminded myself every day that I was doing the best I could,” she has said.
Television actor Deepika Singh of Diya Aur Baati Hum fame has shared on Instagram about how she suffered from postpartum depression and low self esteem after the birth of her baby boy in 2017.
Speaking about making positive changes to better both her mental and physical health, she said, “Everything comes back (is what) my Guruji Sanatan Chakarvarty told me during my postpartum days when I was suffering from low energy levels, sore back, low self-esteem, (and) furious about how to take care of baby and myself and how to be regular for the workout. But this line (words) gave me huge motivation, maybe (it will) to you as well.”
(Edited by Athira Nair)