After you have your baby, you can feel many emotions. You’ll feel anything from fear to sadness to joy. However, if you notice that your sad feelings have become more severe and interfere with your life, you may be experiencing postpartum depression or PPD.
Symptoms typically start a few weeks after delivery, but they can take up to six months to develop. Indicators may include difficulty thinking or making decisions, mood swings, or trouble bonding with your baby. If you feel like you’re depressed, you aren’t alone. Almost one in seven women in the US develop PPD.
The most efficient way to diagnose postpartum depression is by visiting your doctor. They can discuss your symptoms and develop a treatment plan for you. You can also benefit from antidepressants, psychotherapy, or both. If you’re not ready to see your doctor, there are some things you can do at home to help cope. Here are some tips for dealing with postpartum depression.
Spending time at home with your baby can be rewarding, but it can also make you feel stuck. You may feel trapped on the sofa breastfeeding or overwhelmed with work, not to mention other household tasks or your older children. Instead of dealing with this stress alone, reach out to your support group for help.
Take up your mother-in-law’s offer for free babysitting, or let your partner take the baby for an hour or two. It may be helpful to schedule some “me time” once a week. Even if that only means getting out of the house between nursing sessions, use this time to unwind. See a movie, take a nap, go for a walk, or try meditation. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so remember to invest time for yourself.
Try to exercise when you can.
Australian researchers believe that exercise can have an antidepressant effect on women with postpartum depression. Specifically, walking with your baby in a stroller can be an easy way to get some steps in while getting fresh air.
A study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity says that walking is a way to ease depression statistically. If you can’t fit in an extended exercise session, you should try working out for 10 minutes during the day.
Eat a healthy diet.
Although a healthy diet won’t cure postpartum depression, eating nutritious foods can make you feel better and give your body the nourishment it requires. To start, try planning your meals for the week on the weekend and preparing healthy snacks in advance. Chopped carrots, cubed cheese, and apple slices are easy snacks you can eat on the go.
Take time to rest.
Every mom has heard, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Hearing this advice may be annoying after a while, but science backs up the notion. A 2009 report found that moms who got the least sleep had the most depressive symptoms.
Specifically, this applied to women who got less than four hours of sleep between midnight and 6 a.m. or less than 60 minutes of napping during the day. More than likely, your newborn baby isn’t sleeping throughout the night. Still, try to fit naps into your schedule or go to bed early. Breastfeeding moms should consider pumping a bottle so their partner can take over with an overnight feeding.
Don’t isolate yourself.
Postpartum depression causes the days to mesh together, causing you to feel isolated. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that sharing your feelings with others can improve your mood. Researchers also found that new mothers had lower depression levels after talking with other mothers who experienced postpartum depression. These results extended to eight weeks after delivery.
The peer mothers in this study had specific training on how to give support, but the power of social interaction is irrefutable. Try your best to get out of the house or talk with other adults and mothers for help.
Assess your breastfeeding.
A study from 2012 says that breastfeeding may decrease your risk of developing postpartum depression. This alleged protection can extend to the fourth month after delivery. If you enjoy nursing, try to keep doing it.
However, there are some circumstances where women develop depression symptoms while breastfeeding. This condition is called Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER. With this condition, you may feel sudden bursts of anger, sadness, or agitation that lasts after your milk lets down. Ultimately, you should choose the best feeding method for you.
When it’s time to see your doctor.
Many moms experience the “baby blues” in the weeks after delivery. Still, postpartum depression tends to include deeper feelings of agitation and sadness. These feelings can worsen and become chronic depression if you don’t get medical help.
It would be best to make an appointment with your doctor if you recognize feelings of depression after birth, specifically if they don’t go away after a couple of weeks or worsen over time. Despite the importance of treatment, only 15 percent of women ever get help for their symptoms. Your doctor can give you the tools to get the help you need.
Psychotherapy is another treatment for PPD. This method involves talking to a mental health professional about your feelings and thoughts. You can work on ways to recover and solve issues in your sessions. You can also set goals and find methods to deal with different situations to feel better and in control.
In serious cases, your doctor may recommend antidepressants. The antidepressants may enter your breast milk but are usually safe for women who breastfeed. However, if you’re still concerned, talk about your issues with your doctor. They can weigh the pros and cons with you.
Having a baby is a joyous time in any new mom’s life. However, postpartum depression can creep in and try to take away your joy. The good news is that PPD is treatable. Some women see their symptoms improve in six months.
However, if you feel confused, disoriented, or have obsessive thoughts about your baby, these are symptoms of a more severe illness called postpartum psychosis. Call your local emergency services if you’re having suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming your baby. You may feel like the world is crashing down on you after the birth of your baby, but things will get better.