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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Thoughts on Confinement #2 : Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a fairly common occurrance - about 1 in 10 women will suffer from depression after having a baby. The symptoms of this are terribly insiduous, and can be mistaken for 'baby blues', which about half of new mothers will experience.

The stress of this new position of responsibility often kicks in three or four days after the initial excitement of motherhood fades away. A new mum will naturally feel tired, weepy and anxious for a few days until she starts to figure out how to manage herself and the baby. In postnatal depression, however, these feelings persist and become more negative. A depressed mother can feel wretchedly guilty and is convinced of her inability to cope or she may be unable to enjoy being with the baby and be incredibly panicky about the baby's well-being.

It has been noted that postnatal depression occurs most commonly within the first month after giving birth and is especially prevalent amongst women who have poor social support or have a stressful home environment. I have noticed that many mothers in the UK live quite far from their parents or in-laws and often do not have any help managing the baby. When their husbands head back to work, they often have to manage their usual household chores alongside caring for their new baby whilst dealing with being sleep deprived. Imagine if they have other children or elderly family members to look after, or if they are entirely new to motherhood and have nobody to turn to for advice and support - what a lonely and exhausting situation to be in.

It is no coincedence that the practice of confinement takes place during this critical postnatal period. Having an experienced relative or a confinement lady to help with the baby is a really positive experience. One can draw on the wisdom of an experienced person in looking after the baby, and free oneself of the burden of running the household. One is also cared for, nourished, and has more time to rest. The new mother only needs to think of looking after herself and bonding with her baby.

Additionally, it is nice to have another adult around the house to lend a hand and a listening ear. There is nothing like a reassuring word, or even a hug, to soothe the anxious soul.

It is such a gentle way of easing oneself into motherhood.

(Read my other thoughts on confinement here)
(Where to find support on postnatal depression: information, UK support, Singapore support)


Blogger jadeite said...

Funny that you should be posting about this - my friend gave birth less than a month ago and they have taken on a confinement nanny - a very experienced (very expensive!) confinement nanny. And I was very dubious about the whole thing because I'm just not sure where the postnatal care ends and the superstition kicks in.

My friends are wholeheartedly doing everything that the nanny tells them - including the not bathing bit, which I simply cannot stomach. Absolutely no form of exercise for mommy either, which means her muscles are completely soft now.

I understand the idea of having someone there to help you care for the baby, but..but not bathing? The bordering on superstitious rule that you can't leave your house? I think I might go stir crazy from staying in for a month. And I would stink. And not heal well. From not bathing. :/ Doctor's advice? What did you do after Stardust was born?

3:33 pm  
Blogger tscd said...

jadeite: oh I'll get round to each confinement practice too (including this not bathing thing) - just wait for it!

4:55 pm  

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