By Sneha Kohli Mathur, CNN| August 28, 2020
"Nima Bhakta was that college friend who everyone knew would be a great mother.
We met in 2006, and I could see that she was always at ease when she interacted with children.
Kind and confident, she was also the friend who talked about how excited she was to have children of her own.
That's why it was such a devastating loss to her family, friends and to me, when she lost her battle with postpartum depression and died by suicide on July 24. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in women with postpartum depression.
In a letter to her family before she died, Nima wrote that she tried to tell her loved ones about her struggle with postpartum depression but she hadn't been able to find the words to explain the depth of her suffering. She wrote that she had a loving and supportive husband and that no one was at fault for her pain.
It started, she wrote, after her son was born in 2019. She felt completely changed as an individual, wife, sister, daughter and aunt, and she didn't understand how she couldn't even attempt cooking or other things that she once enjoyed.
Her constant worry about the future and self-blame for any difficulties with her son overwhelmed her. She got to the point that she believed that she was a complete failure as a mother and was scared that she would cause him harm in the future. Throughout her letter was a sense of shame for needing help taking care of her son, and guilt that she wasn't feeling better despite having an incredibly supportive husband, Deven Bhakta, and her sisters and family.
In her text messages to me she expressed she was experiencing postpartum depression. "Everything I do for Keshav just seems like a task for me, it's been hard to have that bond between me and him. Really didn't expect all this since I love kids but with Keshav I've been struggling. I haven't been out of the house either unless it's for a doctor appointment, it's pretty bad. Deven's been such a big help it's ridiculous."
She couldn't see what a wonderful mother she was to her beautiful baby boy. I saw her as a devoted mother diligently attending to all of his daily needs. I could see she loved him so much.
How did a mother who didn't have any of the risk factors for PPD -- factors that include a personal or family history of depression and lack of social support -- still succumb to it? It can be harder for Indian women like us to ask for psychological help because these issues are not always discussed in our community, but there are other reasons women suffer from this misunderstood condition.
What is postpartum depression?
During pregnancy and in the hours after childbirth, women experience a dramatic drop in their estrogen and progesterone hormone levels, and that fluctuation is thought to contribute to postpartum mental health problems, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In addition to the changes in hormones, emotional factors, fatigue and general life stressors may contribute to PPD, experts say. Postpartum depression may begin in the days or weeks following childbirth, or it may begin months later, and it can last weeks, months or years if untreated.
While the experience of PPD can look different for each woman, common symptoms include a loss of pleasure or interest in doing things she once enjoyed; eating and sleeping much more or much less than usual; experiencing panic attacks or anxiety most or all of the time; feelings of guilt, worthlessness and self-blame; sadness or crying uncontrollably; fear of not being a good mom; fear of being alone with the baby or disinterest in the baby; difficulty making decisions; and thoughts of hurting oneself or the baby.
Postpartum depression is not the so-called "baby blues," which 70% to 80% of all moms experience, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
While baby blues may begin soon after birth, its symptoms -- which can include crying for no apparent reason, anxiety, insomnia and mood changes -- should dissipate two weeks after childbirth. If they continue past two weeks, mothers should be examined for postpartum depression."