Postpartum depression (also known as postnatal depression or baby blues) is a common issue experienced by a number of women after childbirth.
It is estimated that about 70% of all new mothers suffer from postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression manifests with having the feelings of significant sadness associated with fatigue, irritability, sleeping issue, and loss of interest in doing the usual things that you once enjoyed before. These feelings usually last a few hours to a few days for most days of the week.
There are several factors that can lead to postpartum depression including feeling overwhelmed with drastic major lifestyle changes when having a newborn baby, stress of caring for the baby when you are not well prepared for it, feeling dissociated from oneself due to all the physical changes within your body such as changes in your appearance, poor relationship with others (especially with your spouse), and other mental health issues.
When you go to your doctor for regular checkups after delivery, your doctor may screen for postpartum depression, which is a standard routine to ensure your mental health is well attended to. Some women may feel embarrassed to admit they might have this issue, but it is important for you to let your doctor know if you are having postpartum depression so that you can get appropriate help right away to avoid further complications.
6 Steps to Overcome Postpartum Depression
Managing postpartum depression is simple once you understand what it is and recognize that it is a very common and temporary event for many women after delivery. It is similar to other people who develop distress due to major life changes. The main goal is to sort out these changes, understand their impacts, recognize your feelings, and bring your stress down to a manageable level. The following 6 steps will help you overcome postpartum depression.
1. The baby is not everything. Having a new baby with all the care evolved around your child and the all the focus placing on your baby would shift the priorities in your life. You have much less time for your own care and very little time for other loved ones in the family, especially your spouse. Your relationships with other family members and with your friends seem to fade and you could feel disconnected and lonely.
At the same time, you would ponder if you’ve tried enough to be a good mother. You feel exhausted and overwhelmed with all the responsibilities and changes of your life and your role. Remember that your new baby is another addition to the family, and it is equally important to continue nourishing the relationships with other family members and your friends. Try to take a break every once in a while to spend more time alone with your husband, other family members, and your friends. It is also more important for you to make adequate “me time” to take care of yourself. This will help you reach a new normal and balancing out your life.
2. Get more sleep. Most mothers often have very little sleep, especially during the first few months after delivery due to the regular feeding and caring for the baby. However, it is essential for you to get enough sleep and rest in order to maintain good health and energy for many years afterward to raise your child well. Here is the secret: your infant usually sleeps about 12-14 hours a day, which means that you can also try to sleep during those hours as well. Adequate sleep helps with healing and recovery.
3. Exercise. The root cause of postpartum depression is triggered by hormone imbalance, which leads to changes in your mood and in your physical appearance. Some women would feel unattractive and inadequate, and there is a strong desire for weight loss and getting back to your previous physical image as quickly as possible. However, these feelings often time make it harder on you when your body needs time to heal and you truly want to push. The idea of physical exercise here is not about weight loss alone, but it also helps maintain good physical and mental health. When you engage in regular physical exercises, your body releases endorphin, which will ease the symptoms of fatigue and feel depressed. There are a series of exercises that you can safely do even right after delivery.
4. Eat a balanced diet. Your body after giving birth needs a significant amount of energy and adequate nutrition to help with recovery and also to help feed and care for your infant. With postpartum depression, some women would overeat while others would not eat enough, and this can lead to other health issues that could worsen the postpartum depression. Try to have balanced, nutritious meals with an appropriate amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fibers. Also, ask your doctor about taking the right kind of vitamins and supplements.
5. You are not alone. Most people are often very genuine and understanding, especially when postpartum depression is being recognized as a normal process commonly seen in many women. No one would expect you to do everything on your own. Your family, your friends, and even your neighbors or co-workers would be willing to offer help if given a chance. The only thing you need to do is ready to accept their help.
Generally, the small things like cleaning up the baby bottles, helping with laundry or other small chores around the house, holding the baby for you for some moments to allow you to have a quick nap, getting you a meal, picking up the mails, getting you some grocery, etc., would matter a lot. Feel comfortable to accept help from others.
6. Talk to someone. If you recognize you are suffering from postpartum depression with the symptoms discussed above, it’s not healthy to keep those feelings to yourself. Try to talk with your family members and friends to let them know how you feel. It is true that often time, they would a great resource and can help you overcome your postpartum depression easier. However, if it is difficult for you to talk to your family members or friends, then you can place trust on your doctors, counselors, therapists, or supportive groups, who have the expertise, or at least the experience, in helping women in the period similar to yours.