Postpartum depression is a common mental health condition that occurs after childbirth. It can be quite severe, and coping with postpartum depression often requires professional intervention.
The postpartum period, also known as the "fourth trimester," is not always a happy and joyful time. Yes, you have a new baby, but you also might experience overwhelming stress and depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) often occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the body from pregnancy, the taxing adjustment to motherhood, fatigue, stress, and anxiety about becoming a parent.
According to the NHS, one in ten women will suffer from postpartum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can include frequent negative or upsetting thoughts, trouble bonding with the baby, feeling excessively hyper-critical, worthless or guilty about not feeling connected to the child, loss of appetite, anxiety, irritability, and feelings of extreme sadness or depression.
To start coping with postpartum depression, you first need a professional diagnosis so that you can be referred to mental health professionals who specialize in PPD.
The only way to diagnose postpartum depression is by visiting your doctor so they can analyze your symptoms, send you to a psychologist for diagnosis, and devise a treatment plan. A treatment plan for coping with postpartum depression may include prescribed medication and other therapies such as talk therapy. You can also try the following tips to help you cope with PPD:
Attend Postpartum Fitness Classes
Postpartum fitness is just as important as prenatal fitness. Find a postpartum fitness class near you, as soon as your obstetrician gives you the green light to resume exercise. In these specialty postpartum fitness classes, activities are tailored to your body’s unique needs post-pregnancy. It will also help connect you with other mothers who are in the same life stage. In these classes, you can find friends who are new moms like you, and a support system.
Don’t forget that exercise is highly beneficial for your mental health, for instance by providing your brain with feel-good endorphins that naturally combat feelings of depression.
Try to Exercise at Home When Coping With Postpartum Depression
As we just mentioned, when coping with postpartum depression, few natural remedies combat feelings of depression as effectively as exercise. If fitness classes don’t fit your schedule or aren’t available in your area, find time for exercise when you can at home, or while taking breaks at work. This can be something as simple as taking a walk with the baby in the stroller to get some much-needed fresh air. You can also take walks in the hallways or staircase at work to stretch and move your limbs. Or, do some yoga poses at home, some squats, or gentle lunges. Research shows that walking in fresh air can especially ease depression. Alternatively, you can follow a Youtube guided home workout video while the baby is asleep. There are many workouts you can do at home to boost your endorphins or happy hormones without any equipment. Check out these ideas for at-home workouts that don’t require any equipment.
Eat Healthy Foods
Although diet alone won’t cure your PPD, making healthy postpartum nutrition choices make a significant difference on your mood. Eating nutritious dishes with the five main food groups will give your body what it needs to recover. Eating nutrient dense foods help improve the mood. Think fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Non-vegetarians will benefit from fish oils like DHA, whether through supplements or eating fatty fish like salmon, while vegetarians can supplement with flaxseed oils. According to studies, women with low levels of DHA have higher rates of PPD. And don’t forget to up your intake of calcium and vitamin D because pregnancy and childbirth can deplete your body’s stores.
Make Room for “Me Time”
Self-care is the highest form of love because you cannot pour from an empty cup. You cannot provide your love to others if you’re running on an empty tank. Reach out to your partner or other trusted friends so they can watch the baby for an hour or two. You can have ‘me time’ once or twice a week. Do things that will replenish your soul like hobbies, going to the spa to get a massage or pedicure, or other self-care activities you enjoy. Use this time to decompress from breastfeeding, nappy changes, work duties, and other household responsibilities. You will feel invigorated after spending quality time with yourself. Coping with postpartum depression requires a lot of self-care and ‘me time’.
Allow Yourself Plenty of Rest
The adage “sleep when the baby sleeps” is rooted in good intentions. However, a 2009 study shows that the advice is also based on science. This evidence suggests that women who garner the least number of hours of restorative sleep could experience more depressive symptoms as a result of being sleep-deprived. In the newborn stage where babies tend to wake up at night, it would help to nap when the baby naps. You can also alternate night duties with your partner to get more nighttime rest. You need lots of sleep to recover mentally, physically and emotionally.
Reach Out to Your Support System
Staying at home with a new baby while your partner is at work could make you feel isolated. That’s why it’s important to reach out to family and friends. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, emphasizing the importance of support groups. They can help keep tabs on your baby or even just be a sounding board for your frustrations. Research affirms that seeking out help from others and staying socially connected can decrease depressive symptoms and shift your mood.
Coping with Postpartum Depression: Final Thoughts
If your “baby blues” end up being intense feelings of sadness and anxiety that last longer than two weeks, this is likely postpartum depression, so seek medical intervention right away. Don’t feel guilty about asking for help, because left unaddressed, postpartum depression can escalate. You might even have a genetically higher risk of depression. Make an appointment with your doctor to gain access to advice, medication and therapies you need to alleviate symptoms. Although PPD is common, it is highly treatable, especially when there’s early intervention.
Remember, postpartum depression can become a severe mental illness, and many new parents experience this, so you have nothing to feel embarrassed about. It’s not your, fault nor does it mean you love your baby less. Without proper medical guidance and treatment, you will continue to suffer from longer, deeper, and more lasting feelings of sadness, anxiousness, worry, and agitation. These ill feelings could get worse and morph into chronic depression without professional intervention.
If you notice symptoms of postpartum depression and you don’t feel okay mentally after giving birth, tell your loved ones and explain that you’d like to get help.
- Overview Postnatal Depression (NHS) https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-natal-depression/overview/
- Facilitators and Barriers to Disclosure of Postpartum Mood Disorder Symptoms to a Healthcare Provider (Betty-Shannon Prevatt & Sarah L. Desmarais) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10995-017-2361-5
- Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: An Overview and Methodological Recommendations for Future Research (Carley J. Pope and Dwight Mazmanian) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4842365/
- Walking for depression or depressive symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis (RomaRobertson et.al.) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1755296612000099
- N-3 (Omega-3) Fatty Acids in Postpartum Depression: Implications for Prevention and Treatment (Beth Levant) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2989696/
- Fragmented maternal sleep is more strongly correlated with depressive symptoms than infant temperament at three months postpartum (Deepika Goyal et.al.)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00737-009-0070-9
- The Effect of Peer Support on Postpartum Depression: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial (Cindy-Lee Dennis, RN, PhD) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/070674370304800209