Depression affects as many as fifteen percent of new mothers. An estimated eighty percent of mothers experience some elements of PPD after childbirth, and the symptoms are transitory. If the condition continues, mothers should seek help because PPD untreated can have sad consequences for mother, child, and the entire family.
[Note: Fathers can experience PPD as well, although a full-blown disorder occurs far more seldom than with mothers. For the purposes of this article, we will address only mothers, but a suffering father should definitely consider hypnotherapy for many of the same reasons discussed here.]
Postpartum depression presents a complicated combination of issues, but it is a disorder that hypnotherapy can untangle in order to assist the mother in managing and overcoming each symptom.
Once flippantly referred to as the “Baby Blues,” PPD present many serious and troubling symptoms. A PPD sufferer is likely to report many of the following conditions: mood swings, crying spells, irritability, anxiety, depression, self-doubting, visions or thoughts of harming self or child (including thoughts of suicide and murder), fits of rage, general lack of interest, sleeping problems (beyond the obvious ones associated with having a newborn in the house), eating problems (too much intake or too little), and difficulty bonding with the child. The condition can result in overwhelming guilt and embarrassment. If left untreated, beside the fact that the child is at risk of physical harm, the children from a mother with PPD can develop emotional and behavioral problems. A mother with severe PPD will often be confused, experience obsessive thoughts, delusions, and paranoia.
Researchers can point to no one culprit as the cause of PPD because of the complexity of all the changes occurring in the woman’s body during pregnancy and childbirth. Mothers who already deal with mental or emotional issues, such as bipolar disorder, are at a higher risk for PPD. Even with no real history with these disorders, certain women with family histories of mental problems may also be predisposed to PPD. Physically, a woman’s body after childbirth must heal from this traumatic event, and during this healing, significant hormonal changes occur. Added to the physical changes are the multiple life and family changes that can generally be characterized as “adjustments to motherhood.” In one single event, all the family relationships and dynamics are altered. The mother may lack support, or at least sense a lack of support. Outside pressures that come with a job, finances, or social responsibilities may contribute to a rise in PPD. Just simple fatigue from being a new mom or a more serious health problem that mom and child may experience may add to the challenges. No wonder so many women are overwhelmed by PPD! It is a wonder that more of them are not!
Physicians tend to rely upon antidepressant drugs for treatment of PPD. However, with the complexity of causes and symptoms we have just outlined, it is easy to see why drugs alone fall short of what a mother needs to overcome PPD. Talk Therapy, i.e. psychoanalytical styles of treatment with dozens of sessions over extended periods of time, may offer some relief. But many new mothers are already overwhelmed with time constraints and family obligations, and such an approach can be costly and time consuming.
Hypnosis-based therapy offers a faster, more flexible treatment plan. Hypnosis can alleviate many of the symptoms of PPD, such as anxiety, stress, eating disorders, or sleep problems. The hypnotherapist, as needed, can utilize the tools necessary in a treatment plan tailored to the mother’s needs. In the first session, the therapist and the patient will work together to identify the immediate threat issues, develop the steps necessary to address them, and implement hypnosis to change them. Concern about physical injury is paramount, so a therapist must first work to neutralize any strong feelings about self-harm or harm to others. As they work through those immediate concerns, the therapist and the client will start to unpack the peripheral symptoms, working through not only the plethora of physical and social changes, but also the complex emotions that arise from pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery. The therapist will help the client work to re-program her confused Middle Mind, identifying the challenges, and developing a plan for recovery and restoration. In addition to dealing with each symptom, the mother will learn hypnosis-based techniques to handle the guilt and embarrassment she may experience, building more confidence and finally establishing a clear mental image of the joy of motherhood.