New Mothers And Postpartum Depression
The time period that falls after the birth of your baby can subject you to a real emotional rollercoaster. Joy, fear, sadness, and countless other emotions are all common for new mothers. If sadness starts to dominate your feelings in this time, to the point that you struggle to live your life the way you want to, the culprit may be postpartum depression or PPD.
PPD symptoms typically appear within a few weeks of your baby’s birth, but some mothers may see them appear up to six months after delivery. The most common symptoms of PPD include mood swings, confusion, indecisiveness, and difficulty establishing an emotional bond with your new child.
Don’t feel like you’re alone if you develop feelings of depression after giving birth. It’s a common condition, and roughly one mother in seven in the US experiences PPD to some extent.
Postpartum depression is best diagnosed by and treated by your doctor. Talking to your care provider is the best way to evaluate your symptoms and get started on an effective treatment plan. PPD is commonly treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy, or a blended approach that includes both.
You can also take a few steps on your own to make PPD easier to cope with. For an overview of these methods, read on.
1) Set Aside Time For Yourself
Does it feel like breastfeeding has become your whole world all of a sudden? Are you struggling to balance caring for your newborn against other family responsibilities, household chores, and resuming your career? Don’t try to tackle everything on your own! Reach out to people who can help. Say yes to those relatives who are offering free babysitting. Don’t be afraid to take an hour or two for yourself while a trusted adult takes care of your baby.
Many new mothers find it helpful to build dedicated “me time” into their schedules on a weekly basis. Even if all you can find is a little gap between nursing sessions, it’s important to decompress and be on your own for a little while. Take a walk, catch up on your sleep, meditate, do a little yoga, or even go see a movie.
2) Make Exercise A Priority
According to research conducted in Australia, physical exercise may serve as an effective antidepressant for fighting PPD. Installing your child in a stroller and getting out for a walk is an excellent way to integrate a little fresh air and movement into your schedule. According to research data published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, the beneficial effect of walking to combat depression has been statistically verified.
If your schedule seems too busy for long workouts, try breaking up your exercise into smaller chunks. Squeezing a few 10-minute sessions into your day is a lot better for you than giving up! For simple, short workouts that don’t require any equipment, take a look at Fitness Blender.
3) Get As Much Rest As Possible
New mothers often get told, “You need to sleep when the baby sleeps.” Although this chestnut can get irritating, there’s research out there that verifies it. In a 2009 report, researchers demonstrated a direct correlation between lack of sleep and depressive symptoms. Women who couldn’t get more than four hours of sleep between midnight and 6 AM and also couldn’t find time for an hour’s worth of napping during the day had the most trouble with depression.
Babies don’t always sleep through the night, particularly newborns. An early bedtime or a nap-friendly day schedule can help you stay well-rested. If you’re breastfeeding your baby, try to keep a pumped bottle available so that your partner can handle a share of the late-night feeding duties.
4) Eat Properly
You can’t actually cure PPD by eating healthy. It definitely helps, though! Getting all of the nutrients you need from healthy sources can improve both your physical health and your mental outlook. To take some of the stress out of your day-to-day life, do long-term meal planning and advanced snack prep whenever possible. Plan out your meals a week in advance, and prepare healthy whole foods (e.g. apple slices and peanut butter, carrot sticks and cubed cheese) for quick, healthy energy boosts when you need them.
5) Get More Fish Oil In Your Diet
New mothers are particularly open to the benefits provided by DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of DHA were linked to higher postpartum depression rates in a research study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
DHA is plentiful in seafood. Vegetarians can find the same compound in flaxseed oil. If you’re not getting DHA from the food you eat, remember that you can easily find dietary supplements at grocery or drug stores.
6) BreastFeeding – Yes Or No?
Some research (published as recently as 2012) suggests that breastfeeding reduces the odds of developing PPD. This natural antidepressant effect may hold sway for up to four months after birth. If you find nursing to tolerable or enjoyable, you probably want to keep it up.
On the other hand, some mothers actually develop depression symptoms linked to breastfeeding. If you experience sudden feelings of agitation, sadness, or anger when your milk lets down, you may be experiencing a condition called D-MER – Dysmorphic Milke Ejection Reflex.
Before you make a permanent decision on breastfeeding, consider how it makes you feel.
7) Don’t Succumb To Isolation
Time flies when you have a newborn to take care of. Before you know it, whole days have passed without your leaving the house. Based on research published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, discussing your feelings with other people can be a potent mood-booster all by itself. The study showed that depression levels in new mothers dropped when they had conversational access to other mothers who had dealt with PPD themselves. This antidepressant effect lasted from four to eight weeks after birth.
Though the mothers providing support in the study were specifically trained, all sorts of social interaction can have an undeniable positive impact. Make the effort to get out into the world and talk to other moms.
PPD – When To Talk To Your Doctor
Lots of new mothers experience flashes of sadness (the “baby blues”) in the first few weeks after birth. PPD is a deeper and longer-lasting negative feeling. Postpartum depression can become chronic and dangerous if it is left untreated.
If you have negative feelings after birth that worsen over time or stick around for more than a few weeks, it’s time to go see your doctor. Even though treatment is essential to resolving PPD, only about 15 percent of mothers seek treatment for its symptoms. Let your doctor guide you to the help you need.
Psychotherapy is a common and effective treatment for PPD. It involves talking through your thoughts and feelings with a mental health professional on a regular basis. Therapy sessions can help you work through feelings and also equip you with coping strategies and goals so that you can work on your issues yourself.
Antidepressants may be suggested in severe cases of PPD. Though antidepressants may enter the breast milk of nursing mothers who take them, doctors generally consider this situation safe for children. Talk over any concerns you might have with your doctor so that you can develop a full understanding of the risks and benefits.
Build A Support Network
Some mothers draw strength from family members and close friends. On the other hand, you might feel more comfortable reaching outside your social circle for PPD support.
* Ask for assistance from healthcare providers
* Seek out local PPD support groups
* Contact leaders in your faith community (ministers, etc.)
* Participate in online forums like Postpartum Progress
* Call the PSI PPD hotline, 1-800-944-4773 (this service is completely anonymous)
PPD is treatable and curable. Many women resolve their PPD symptoms within six months.
If you feel disoriented or confused, experience hallucinations, feel paranoid, or experience obsessive thoughts regarding your child, call your doctor immediately. These symptoms may indicate a more severe condition, postpartum psychosis.
Call local emergency services if you’re having thoughts of suicide or considering harming your baby.