Five Tips for Coping With Postpartum Depression
Bringing new life into the world can be an emotional roller coaster. Many moms talk about the overwhelming rush of love and joy they experience in the days and weeks after giving birth – as well as the frustration and anxiety that comes with looking after a newborn. As any parent will tell you, pregnancy, labor, and the responsibility of caring for a little one can take a huge physical and mental toll.
While sleepless nights and exasperating feeding times are part and parcel of parenthood, some new moms experience feelings of anxiety and depression that limit their ability to enjoy their new life. In some cases, these low moods can impact a mom’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. If you or a loved one experience significant mental health issues after giving birth, it’s worth considering postpartum depression as a potential cause (also known as postnatal depression).
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone in your struggle. Postpartum depression is surprisingly common, affecting between 10% and 15% of mothers annually. It’s also highly treatable if you can find support for your needs. The first step to tackling postpartum depression is to fight embarrassment or stigma surrounding the condition and educate parents about the symptoms. So, in the spirit of openness and parental empowerment, we’ve put together a helpful guide to coping with postpartum depression. Share it far and wide!
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression looks very similar to generalized depression, with symptoms including:
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Feelings of sadness or numbness
- Inability to enjoy once pleasurable activities
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Increase in appetite and weight gain
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness
- Inability to concentrate
- Social withdrawal and frayed relationships
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s vital you seek a diagnosis from a trained professional. While low moods can feel overwhelming, it’s common for women to experience insomnia and anxiety in the days and weeks after giving birth due to hormonal fluctuations. Often termed the ‘baby blues’, this phenomenon tends to go away without treatment within a few weeks. Usually, loved ones and friends can help new moms cope with the baby blues by providing emotional and practical support.
Postpartum depression is more serious and longer-lasting than the baby blues. As well as causing more intense anxiety, it can induce scary thoughts. For example, some moms with postpartum depression experience paralyzing fears about something happening to their baby, as well as detachment from their partner or child. Some new moms even experience thoughts of harming themselves or their babies. While these thoughts may sound extreme, they don’t indicate that the mom will actually harm the baby. Rather, it reflects an acute state of anxiety that manifests in intrusive and upsetting thoughts.
Five tips for coping with postpartum depression
If you or a loved one are experiencing postpartum depression, there are several treatment options to try:
- Surround yourself with care and support
Receiving a diagnosis of postpartum depression can be frightening. Some women experience feelings of shame, being told that motherhood should be a joyful time. Fortunately, more people are educating themselves about the realities of new parenthood, and it’s easier than ever to find support groups and other moms who will understand what you’re going through. Your healthcare provider may be able to point you in the direction of support sessions where you can release pent-up anxieties and even make life-long friends.
Your family and friends also represent vital lifelines. Try to open up to the most trusted people in your life, as this will lighten your mental load and ensure you receive the love and care you deserve at this difficult time. If you’re supporting someone with postpartum depression, remember that lightening their daily workload will aid their recovery. Even simple tasks like cooking their favorite meal, running a bath, or taking on a greater share of nighttime baby responsibilities will go a long way to reducing their anxiety.
You might want to speak to your doctor about anti-depressant medications. They will be able to suggest potential treatment plans best suited for breastfeeding mothers.
- Gradually ease into exercise
While you won’t be running any marathons in the days and weeks after giving birth, it’s a good idea to begin gentle exercise if you’re not dealing with complications from giving birth or cesarean delivery. Even a short 20-minute walk could boost your energy, improve symptoms of insomnia, and relieve feelings of stress. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even sign up for a postpartum class at your local gym and meet moms going through similar experiences.
If you’re unsure about whether you’re physically able to start exercising, ask your doctor for advice. Remember – it’s important not to engage in activities that could harm your body as you recover from giving birth.
Psychotherapy treatments like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) have the potential to transform your mood for the better. While you may feel a little reluctant to open up at first, a trained psychotherapist will support you through the process and ensure you navigate difficult feelings gently.
It’s all too easy for moms with postpartum depression to beat themselves up about their diagnosis. However, a little self-compassion can aid the healing process. Why not treat yourself to daytime naps while your baby snoozes? Or catch up on your favorite Netflix shows while wearing your favorite silk pajamas? Even simple treats could help relieve your symptoms.
Help us spread awareness of postpartum depressionPostpartum depression can feel like a scary – and sometimes even shameful – prospect for new moms. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you found the above information useful, please share it with your social networks (simply click the buttons below!) or send it to any new parents who may be interested. The more willing we are to tackle mental health issues head-on, the better we will all feel in the long term.