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International Women’s Day 2024: Shweta Kawaatra shares her postpartum depression recovery journey, tips for new mothers

International Women’s Day interview: Actress Shweta Kawaatra, who’s best known as Pallavi of popular drama Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, battled postpartum depression for many years, experiencing symptoms like anxiety, brain fog, irritability, panic attacks and social anxiety. It took her one year to recognise what she was going through and almost five years to overcome her mental health condition completely. The actress credits her Buddhism practice – where she chanted and meditated – for her recovery. Talking about her symptoms and connecting with others to help them deal with their challenged also helped Kawaatra to cope with her own condition. “I tried alternative medicine through acupuncture and an Ayurvedic diet, which helped overcome my symptoms. I underwent a lifestyle shift, which helped me recover,” said Kawaatra in an interview with HT Digital. (Also read | International Women’s Day 2024: 6 tips for working women to overcome workplace anxiety)

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2024, Shweta Kawaatra opens up about how she overcame postpartum depression and also shares tips for new mothers to deal with this mental health issue.(Instagram/shwetakawaatra)

Post recovery, Kawaatra continues to spread awareness around postpartum depression and one of the initiatives she’s connected with is her own community on a mobile app coto called ‘My Mental Wellness Journey’.

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On the occasion of Women’s Day Shweta Kawaatra opens up about how she overcame postpartum depression and also shares tips for new mothers to deal with this mental health issue.

How was it for you to deal with postpartum depression and when did you come to know about the issue?

It was tough! There was no education provided on life/hormones/challenges post delivery, so it felt as though something struck me hard and broke me out of a dream on the day of the delivery. This was followed by anxieties of being a new mom. On most days I cried a lot, not knowing why I felt helpless. I blamed myself for not knowing what motherhood entails.

Slowly, anxiety gave in to brain fog, difficulty in processing my thoughts, difficulty in expressing myself and helplessness, which escalated to irritability, anger, panic attacks and social anxiety. The helplessness of not understanding what’s going on with me lead to suicidal thoughts. I’ve always been a fighter and it was confusing to me why I felt like a loser.

I had gained about 30 kg during my pregnancy and did not know how to take my life into a positive spiral. I lost all confidence. It took me one year to recognise it could be depression & five years to completely heal myself.

What strategies did you adopt to overcome it?

I have been practicing Buddhism for 20 years. That’s one thing I continued no matter what. Our practice also entails taking care of others’ sufferings and helping them overcome their problems. Every time I was overwhelmed, I used to chant and visit others and helped them overcome their struggles and become happier. This in turn helped me realise that my struggles are small in comparison, and I must continue to find a solution for myself without giving up or without resorting to cowardly actions. As a result, I tried alternative medicine through acupuncture and an ayurvedic diet, which helped overcome my symptoms. I underwent a lifestyle shift, which helped me recover.

During this time, I also challenged myself to work on the show Baal Veer, to be able to expand myself just to regain my lost confidence. Most importantly, talking about the fact that I had postpartum depression helped me and gave me more strength. It helped me connect with so many other women who were facing the same, and I was able to empathise with them a lot more.

What are your suggestions for new mothers who are battling postpartum depression?

1. It’s natural to have negative overwhelming thoughts postpartum. Seek help from your gynaecologist and ask them if hormonal tests are in place. Don’t let your doctors treat this as something small. They should be able to counsel you and give you hope – if not, look for a second opinion or a 3rd. Ideally, a compassionate gynaecologist should be able to guide correctly if you’re not feeling better in 3-4 months and if all hormonal tests are normal. If everything fails, seek a more holistic doctor.

2. Seek support in offline and online communities, read/listen to stories of other moms, new moms, old moms – getting perspective is important. On my community, I not only share my experiences with postpartum depression but learn from the experiences of all the other women who are connected with me there.

3. It’s imperative to seek support from family too. I used to share my feelings with my husband, Manav, but we didn’t realise that what I am going through could be depression. I also opened up to a few close friends about how I was feeling, and received a lot of support from them, too. So, my advice would be to find your support in your partner, family and those around you.

4. Allow yourself some room for error. As new mums, we often feel the pressure of ensuring that we do everything perfectly, but give yourself the time and space to make mistakes and learn from them. After all, being a parent is hard.

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