Postpartum depression sucks. First, you’re handed a squirming small human being, and then informed that you’re the most important thing in their life. Your body’s been through hell and you still have to wake up nights, change a million diapers, and play host to the throngs of visiting relatives.
Or maybe your baby is 6 months old. And you just don’t feel anything for it. Other mothers claim this overwhelming, life-changing sense of love, and you’re left holding a baby and just feeling guilty. Sure, you take care of him — mechanically — but there’s no joy in it. There’s no sense of reward. There’s just a sure and certain knowledge that this is your life now, so you better learn to live it.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
A mom parent with PPD will often start to experience symptoms within the first month of having a child. However, symptoms can develop any time in the first 12 months, e.g. after four or six months.
- Persistent low mood; this may take the form of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, irritability, frustration, anger, a feeling of being overwhelmed, or other negative emotions
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that used to be enjoyable, including sex
- Strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Tiredness and lack of energy and motivation
- Trouble concentrating and making decisions
- Memory problems
- Overwhelming worry or anxiety
- Restlessness or trouble sitting still
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Disrupted sleep patterns, including difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite
- Persistent headaches, other pains, or digestive trouble without a clear physical trigger
- Recurring thoughts of causing harm to yourself or baby. If a person shows signs of crisis – obvious indicators that they are strongly affected by depression or at risk of suicide – it is important to call a doctor, emergency services provider or suicide prevention line without delay.
While PPD is often attributed to hormonal changes, these are strongest factors in making moms more susceptible to experiencing PPD:
- A personal or family history of mental health conditions, e.g. depression or bipolar disorder
- Lack of social support, i.e. friends and family
- A poor relationship with one’s partner
- Significant stress or major life events, e.g. death of a loved one or a major move, during or after the pregnancy
Other risk factors may include:
- The pregnancy being unplanned
- Being unemployed
- Not breastfeeding
- A complicated birth
- The baby having health challenges or special needs
- Thyroid problems during pregnancy
- Experiencing other health challenges during or after the pregnancy
- One’s partner being depressed
- Moms of multiples
Ways to Cope
Admit you have PPD
This includes recognizing the signs and symptoms in yourself, and that can be hard to do. But once you have, you can go to a doctor. There may be therapy or medications that can help you.
Mostly, you need to tell those around you, dont make the mistake of suffering silently: tell your family, colleagues, tell moms at the playdate you drag yourself to. Tell them that you are suffering from postpartum depression. I promise you’ll feel less alone.
Many of them will offer to help; take them up on it. Random friend offers to clean your kitchen? It’s not weak to say yes.
Identify what you need- time away from the baby, a babysitter for your therapy appointment, a clean sink and make your needs known.
Our tribe is also available to assist with our self care as they can.
Remind yourself a million times: these people really do want to help. This isn’t pity. It’s caring.
Realize that you are not alone. Build a support network
It’s likely that people will tell you their own stories of PPD. But you need more than that. Connect with moms on online, in local mom groups or on forums, who are going through the same thing you are.
You need to know deep down that this isn’t your fault, that it doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby, and that it doesn’t mean you’re “crazy.”
Let the housework go.
You’re suffering from a serious mental illness. If you were suffering from a physical illness, we wouldn’t expect you to scrub the house down. As long as rodents and bugs aren’t invading, you’re good. Put the clothes in baskets rather than drawers. Rely on quick meals. Your house does not have to be mother-in-law ready.
If your partner expects you to do it all, now is the time to point-blank tell them to step it up. If you can’t manage to tell them, just show them this essay instead.
Regardless of whether you breast-feed or formula feed your baby, try doing so while their bare skin is against your own. If the room is cool, wrap a blanket around your baby’s back to keep them warm. You can also cradle your baby skin-to-skin.
Skin-to-skin contact relaxes both you and your baby, as well as enhances the bond between you. Other benefits of skin-to-skin contact include prolonged periods of sleep and alertness, less cold, improved weight gain, better brain development, decreased crying, and an earlier discharge from the hospital.
Consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish such as herring and salmon, during pregnancy may lower the risk of postpartum depression. It may also serve as alternative treatment for postpartum depression.
Sleep when the baby sleeps” is a phrase often used by those giving new parents advice — advice that parents usually roll their eyes at (including myself). Lets face it, getting any form of sleep while looking after a newborn is a hard task.
Women living with postpartum depression however, often take long to fall asleep and sleep for less time than those without the condition. Moreover, the lower the quality of their sleep, the more severe their depression often is.
If you have family or friends who can look after your baby while you take a nap, be sure to enlist their help.
Get out in the sunshine and introduce a fitness routine
Exposure to sunlight and fresh air will significantly improve your mood. Even if your hair is a mess or your baby has spit up on your favorite pair of yoga pants, take the stroller for a spin and aim to get outside for at least for at least 10–15 minutes each day.
Studies have demonstrated that physical activity might help to combat postpartum depression. Exercising during the postpartum period is an efficient way to achieve better psychological well-being as well as ease the symptoms of postpartum depression.
You can begin gentle exercise just a few days after birth if you have had a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated vaginal delivery. If you have had complications or a cesarean delivery, ask your doctor for advice on when you can begin exercise.
Walking is a good starting point, with the added bonus of being able to push your stroller at the same time. Aim to be active for around 20–30 minutes per day. Even exercising for 10 minutes can benefit your body.
Try psychotherapy and medication
If you have tried self-help, made lifestyle changes, and sought support but have experienced no improvement, your doctor may suggest that you try medication, psychotherapy, or both.
- Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help you to discuss your concerns and feelings, set goals that are manageable, and learn to respond to situations positively.
- Antidepressants may be recommended if your depression is severe or when other treatments have not improved your symptoms. Your doctor will take that into account if you are breast-feeding when prescribing your medication.
Ultimately remember- experiencing postpartum is nobody’s fault. It is a medical condition that requires treatment. You are not alone. Postpartum depression can make the already stressful period immediately following childbirth even more difficult. The sooner you can get help with managing your depression, the sooner you can begin to enjoy your baby and motherhood.