Navigating Postpartum Depression

It’s a few weeks after you’ve welcomed your child into the world. The celebrations and excitement with family and friends have slowed down, and now it’s just you and your baby at home.

Around this time, it’s common for new mothers to experience the “baby blues.” Feeling worried, sad or overtired are all normal symptoms after the birth of a child, and thankfully, they don’t last long. Typically, within a couple weeks, after mother and baby have settled in and hormones are back to normal, these feelings dissolve.

However, postpartum depression is a more serious issue, typically lasting longer than a few weeks, and it is considered a serious medical condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20 percent of women who give birth each year experience the symptoms of postpartum depression. It is best treated with professional help, as soon as possible. Treatment may include counseling, therapy, medication or a combination. Your doctor can help you to explore coping skills, like breathing and relaxation techniques, as well provide you with options for managing anxiety and stress.

While your physician is your best asset for providing solutions and care for postpartum depression, there are some things you can do at home that could help reduce some symptoms or stress:

Visit with friends and family

Often with depression, we isolate ourselves. This, however, can compound the problem. Getting out of the house to meet others and talk about how you’re feeling gives you the opportunity to share the burden you’re experiencing. On top of that, it gives you fresh air, someone other than your partner or baby to talk to and the opportunity to unwind.

Eat a healthy diet

Being on a newborn’s schedule makes meal planning a bit more difficult, but it’s important to stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet. It’s true what they say: a healthy body really does lead to a healthy mind. Avoid caffeine and junk food as much as possible, as neither will help your body repair itself, give you valuable long-lasting energy or make you feel as strong as you do from consuming nutritional foods.

Ask friends and family for help

This might be the hard to do, but it’s important and it helps you to realize that you’re not alone. And while we know you’re Superwoman, even Superwoman needs a little time off. Call up a friend or family member to come by to give you a hand and a much-needed break, even if it’s just 30 minutes.
Have YOU time

Self-care is  important after the birth of your child. It’s easy to fall into the routine of feeding ➡ napping ➡ diaper change ➡ repeat. It’s easy to forget to eat, shower, brush your hair or keep up normal routines. But try to make time because feeling like yourself will boost your mood immensely. Take breaks to step outside and read a book, rest your eyes or just “be” – even if just for 10 minutes. It can refresh you physically, mentally and emotionally. The Vitamin D you get from the sun is an added bonus for your energy levels and will naturally spike your mood.

Consider a postpartum doula or hire a sitter

While you may be trying to save money with a new baby, a few dollars spent on a doula or babysitter could be very beneficial to your mental and emotional health in the long run. Whether it’s for a solo trip to grab a cup of tea and a breather, or a date night with your partner, having someone else takeover for a little bit of time can be a major help. Creating a support system will help relieve the stress and lessen the weight of anxiety.

Bond with your baby

Depending on your postpartum depression, it might feel difficult to establish a connection with your new child; however, the effort is worth it. Not only will it begin to build your relationship but it will also help your mood. By bonding with your baby and starting to grow attachments, endorphins are released which will make you feel happier and more confident as a mother. Check out this video for tips on creating an attachment with your baby.

Join a support group

There are plenty of resources online and a number of support groups to join, locally and via the Internet. There is a weight lifted when expressing how you feel. It relieves the burden of guilt, fear and loneliness. In addition, you might feel a sense of purpose knowing you are also supporting other mothers who need help. Check out this resource that can connect you with other mothers and information about postpartum depression.

If you find that you feel isolated or are withdrawing from your partner, child or family and friends, it’s important to let your partner or loved one know, and to contact your physician immediately. With sleeplessness, stress, guilt and other emotions piling up, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, confused or even unsure of the emotions you’re feeling. You are not a bad person, you are not a bad mother and you are not alone.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, give your doctor a call immediately to try to figure out how to get you back on track:

  • Extreme sadness or hopelessness
  • Lack of interest in normal activities or hobbies
  • Insomnia, inability to sleep for long periods, nightmares
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Inability to make decisions or feeling as though in fog
  • Irritability and anger
  • Disinterest in your child(ren) or feeling unable to care for them
  • Inability to get out of bed
  • No appetite/refusal to eat
  • Desire to self-harm or harm your child(ren)
  • Feeling of panic

If you are having suicidal thoughts: Call your mental health specialist, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and contact your primary doctor immediately. At Burdett Birth Center, we’re here to talk to you about both prenatal care and post-care. Postpartum depression can be treated and we’re here to help support you through it.

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