Postpartum Depression Affects Mothers and Their Interpersonal Relationship

Postpartum depression is not only the most prevalent condition among new mothers in the Netherlands, it can also have detrimental consequences for the patient’s interpersonal relationships.

Postpartum depression usually sets in between a week to a month after the child is born. People who go through postpartum depression have unfounded concerns about being a bad parent, suffer from lack of energy, as well as feelings of sadness and being overwhelmed. “I constantly felt like I was letting everyone down. It felt like I was drowning in a sea of emotions,” Anna Korpershoek, a mother who went through postpartum depression, said.

Korpershoek is not alone. The national mental health knowledge center, Trimbos Institute, estimated that around 23 thousand women in the Netherlands get postpartum depression every year. It is a mental illness that affects around every one in eight new mothers.

For Arlette Kloppers, her postpartum depression diminished her relationship with her second-born child. “I already had a 3-year-old son, so I knew what it could feel like,” Kloppers said. At one point, she did not hold her daughter for two months. “My son also had times he did not want to come home. He would ask every day: ‘Mama, are you okay? Mama, are you crying?’”

In some cases, symptoms of postpartum depression can already be noticed during pregnancy. Shortly after Korpershoek found out she was pregnant, she already began experiencing feelings of intense anxiety, sadness and concern about her ability as a mother. This also put an added strain on her marriage.

In 2018, Health State Secretary Paul Blokhuis called for more attention to be brought to mothers going through postpartum depression. He did this during the ‘Hey, het is oké’ campaign, an initiative to raise awareness about depression.

Three years later, the topic is still shrouded in shame, according to Korpershoek. On social media, usually only the fun sides of motherhood are displayed, ignoring the stresses that raising children can also bring. “You can feel like you’re a lunatic,” Korpershoek said.

The exact cause for postpartum depression is unknown, although diverse biological, social and psychological factors have been linked to the onset of the mental illness. Difficulties during the pregnancy can also lead to the mother developing postpartum depression.

According to the Parnassia Groep, the largest provider of mental health treatment in the Netherlands, behavioral therapy along with the right medication can help relieve postpartum depression. Attachment therapy, for example, helped Kloppers rebuild the relationship with her daughter.

Luckily both Kloppers and Korpershoek had family who supported them along the way. However not all mothers may have the same support system around them, or are able to find a therapist equipped to treat postpartum depression.

Together with her sister-in-law, Korpershoek created a blog page under the motto “sharing is healing.” On their blog page, they try to give a more complete picture of what motherhood can be like, including bothunder the motto “sharing is healing.” “Try to find someone in your surrounding who you trust, even if it is only one person and open up to him or her,” she suggested.

Credits: Anthony Tran on Unsplash

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