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DNA India
By Shilpa CB
Bangalore, India

Psychiatrist Anita Vasudevan spoke at the Manasa Hospital, Jayanagar, about common psychological problems that afflict women. She dwelt on postpartum depression and the pre-menstrual syndrome. Greater awareness and timely medical intervention could reduce the intensity of these, she says, in conversation with DNA.

How common is premenstrual syndrome or PMS?
About 20% of girls and women have this. There are both physical and emotional symptoms, crying spells, irritability, anger that’s hard to control. Certain personality types are more prone to PMS, and stress can worsen the condition.

How does one know that it is time to seek treatment?
If PMS is persistent and leads to problems in relating with other people, it would help to go to a doctor.

What course of treatment is followed?
Gynaecologists first see such patients, and recommend lifestyle changes like regular exercise or a different diet. If the condition is not curable with these changes, the woman might need to see a psychologist. Greater assertiveness, an ability to deal with conflict and manage stress would help. Only the most severe cases are put on medication.

What advice do you have for women?
Women have this tendency to suffer in silence. They should seek help, and involve their husbands and family inchores.

Tell us about postpartum disorder. Is it also very common?
Nearly 80% of all new mothers suffer from some form of postpartum blues, which is usually gone in a week or two. There is treatment for the condition if it does not ease. Less than 2% of cases are acute, and mothers might be suicidal or want to abandon the baby. These cases have to be dealt with very seriously. Persistent blues could squeeze the joy out of motherhood, and adversely affect bonding and attachment to the baby, causing even the infant to develop personality problems.

What predisposes the mother to depression?
If the woman has a history of depression, she could suffer a relapse during pregnancy. Day-to-day stress might trigger it. If the woman is too young for motherhood, or if the pregnancy is unwanted,postpartum blues could result.

Why do few women with these conditions seek medical help?
The symptoms are subjective, and those around the woman might not know that she is in need of help. Besides, there is a stigma attached to illnesses of the mind.

The fact, however, is that of all psychiatric conditions, women suffering from postpartum blues are the quickest to recover.

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