- 1 POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION (aka Postnatal Depression)
- 1.1 What is Postpartum Depression?
- 1.2 What Causes Postpartum Depression?
- 1.3 Postpartum Depression Symptoms – What To Look Out For
- 1.4 Postpartum Depression Treatment & How to Cope
- 1.5 Over to you…
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION (aka Postnatal Depression)
I’m sure you’ve thought of all the unforgettable memories you have ahead of you once your baby is born? The toothless smiles, the first steps, the instances when your baby watches you & is in complete and utter awe… the first coos that turn to words… precariously teetering & trying to balance until they can run behind you… yes, you have great, joyous times ahead!
Whilst you will have all these memorable moments in store for the years ahead, it is important to know about the not-so-great moments that you may encounter in the few months after your baby is born… and recognize them so that you can seek help before they take over and stop you from enjoying your new bundle of unconditional love…
One of the most under discussed conditions that can affect both the mother and father is Postpartum Depression (PPD).
Maybe you suffered from it or know someone that did? It can be hard, but with the right help at the right time, it can easily be prevented or treated.
Surprisingly, many new mothers are not aware of the difference between a mild dose of the ‘baby blues’ and full blown Postpartum Depression. Even less fathers are aware of this very real condition.
This post strives to relay what postpartum depression is and its causes, and also offers some lifestyle measures you can implement to prevent and help treat it, should you find yourself suffering from it.
What is Postpartum Depression?
I started this series with Postpartum Depression because I feel it is vastly misunderstood and a lot of mamas are not aware of what to expect.
It is hard. Having a baby is not all sweet and simple. There are moments when you will cry from joy, but accept and realize that there will also be times when you shed tears from being so overwhelmed by it all.
A living, breathing being, totally, 100% dependent on you for feeding, cleaning, pacifying, sleeping, changing, bathing, every… single… thing.
That onslaught of responsibility you don’t get any real kind of break from, is quite unexpected for most women.
If you add into the mix financial worries, or concerns about your relationship, or even stress linked to other life events, what may start off as normal pangs of anxiety here and there can catapult into full blown postpartum depression (PPD) rather rapidly.
Don’t be alarmed! I am not trying to scare you, or cause you to panic… My aim is to inform you of what you need to be wary of. So you can catch it before it becomes overwhelming.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), it is estimated that upto 20% of women (in the United States alone) may suffer from postpartum depression (also known as postnatal depression) in any given year.
That is one in five mothers. This means that if you do end up with PPD, understand that you are NOT alone. It is relatively common, and there is a massive amount of support out there. You just have to seek it.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
After giving birth, your body undergoes big changes, both emotionally and physically. Not only do oestrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly (to pre pregnancy levels), but hormones that your thyroid gland produces may also drop sharply.
All this can leave you feeling, exhausted, lethargic and disinterested with extremely low moods, possible weight gain and excessive fatigue.
In addition to the physical factors that can cause postpartum depression, many emotional issues can also trigger it.
For example, previous history of psychological issues & stress during the pregnancy can increase the risk of suffering from PPD substantially. Other factors that can make it more likely for you to suffer from PPD are marriage/relationship problems and lack of social & financial status and support.
If you are having relationship difficulties, are not financially stable or feel you have no social support system… and sleep deprivation due to having a new baby on top of all that, it can be very overwhelming.
It might even be that you feel unattractive after giving birth, or that you are not able to control aspects of your life… all this is normal, and with time, it will pass. You will become accustomed to the new normal your life has become, the new curves you might have gained, the fresh scars you may have noticed…
… But on top of it all, keep in mind that it’s an exciting new chapter of your life… a life changing one in fact – so jump into it without a care in the world!
Postpartum Depression Symptoms – What To Look Out For
PPD can affect both men and women although it is more commonly reported in women (perhaps as men are less likely to self report, and tend to brush aside what they may feel are emotional weaknesses).
The most common symptoms of PPD are:
- Irritability at minor things
- sadness and excessively low moods for most of the time
- episodes of crying
- lack of appetite and eating, and consequently dropping weight rapidly
- little or no desire in having sex
- low energy levels
- changes in sleeping patterns and length of time
- little or no interest in interacting with newborn and feelings of worthlessness
You might experience some of these on certain days, or if you are hit particularly hard, you might get them all to some degree.
Key is to spot that you are not feeling normal, and that you need some help. Asking for help means you will get back to your normal, healthy self faster – so the quicker you mention how you are feeling to somebody, the faster you will be on the road to recovery.
And you will recover. You do after all have one of life’s greatest miracles patiently waiting for you! It might take some time, but you will make it. Oh, yes.
Postpartum Depression Treatment & How to Cope
First and foremost, it is important to identify PPD if you or a loved one is slipping into depression soon after having a baby. It doesn’t make you weak, your body has just accomplished a massive feat, and your mind has to catch up. You are the most important being in your babies existence and their reliance on you for everything is a testament to your strength and capability.
So recognise and accept that you may be suffering from PND and flag it up to your physician, your health visitor, your midwife, your nurse or any health professional that can either directly help you or signpost you to someone who can.
Most importantly, speak to your loved ones about how you are feeling, be it your partner, your family, a close friend or even a neighbour. Often times talking things through can help to bring things into a clearer perspective, and help you realise how best to deal with the postpartum depression.
The worst thing you can do is suffer in silence, or think that somehow it makes you weak to mention this to someone.
You might feel guilty that you are not immediately bonding with your baby, or that you are a bad mama because you need time out for yourself.
Wrong, and wrong.
You are no good to anyone if you are not feeling healthy both physically and mentally. If your emotional well being is not being taken into consideration, how is it possible for you to nurture your baby?
Knowing when to ask for help is a sign of excellent judgement and accepting the help shows you have a sound character.
Once you let people around you and health professionals know that you may be struggling with PPD, there are a number of treatment options available that can help you make a full recovery. It probably wont be a quick fix, but you will get there.
First line therapy is to implement some self help strategies. As I mentioned above, make sure your loved ones know what you are going through, and let them know how best to help you through it. When you are offered help, take it and if you need some help, never hesitate to ask. This will prevent you from feeling so overwhelmed.
Self Help Strategies to Help Combat Postpartum Depression
- Ensure you are eating healthy meals, and are getting enough exercise. Don’t stay cooped up in your home all day every day, get out and about regularly.
- Schedule time for yourself away from the baby. This could be something as simple as a nice relaxing bath, or something as elaborate as an afternoon spa session. Don’t feel guilty you are giving yourself some time, you are still your own person, and accept your life did not stop being yours the moment you became a mom.
- Get adequate rest. Try and sleep when the baby is sleeping, and take naps when the baby naps. This will ensure you are not running on empty, day in day out.
- Take Vitamin D supplements (or spend time in sunlight) as research into Vitamin D deficiency & depression shows that people with depression often have low levels of Vitamin D, and taking supplements can help to effectively treat it.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs which can cause your moods to fluctuate, and leave you feeling unable to cope at best, and may lead to you being unintentionally neglectful at worst.
If these self help techniques are not enough, your physician may recommend you therapy and/or medication to help deal with post partum depression.
Counselling & Drug Treatments for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression not only affects you as an individual, but it can also have a negative effect on the mother-child bond. The longer depression goes unnoticed and untreated, the more severe the effect on bonding. It can have long lasting effects into the child’s formative years and cognitive and emotional development may be disrupted.
For these reasons, an important part of therapy is to get counselling on how to improve the bond. This might include taking baby massage lessons to help strengthen the connection, getting into more of a routine especially at bedtime, and even breastfeeding for as long and as often as you possibly can. The time with your baby might be enough to uplift your spirits, but if you are still battling with depression, there are many options out there.
Counselling in one such option. Studies have shown that counselling can be more or as effective as drug treatments.
You may be referred to any one (or a combination) of these types of counselling:
- Interpersonal therapy (therapy sessions with a counsellor where you can talk through relationship, societal and other problems and figure out how they may connect to your depression). This can take 3-4 months, but can be highly effective as the counsellor not only lends a listening, non judgemental ear, but also can put things in to a clearer perspective
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy where you change the cycle of negative thinking and see failures realistically (as normal part of learning motherhood and not as you ‘failing’). Again, this can take 3-4 months and is thought to be a very successful form of therapy
- Self Guided therapy where you can do a self directed online or book based 2-3 month course. It allows you to go at your own pace and work through your depression with the help of a therapist (if you need), giving you practical advice and actionable tips on how to deal with the issues you might be dealing with.
If counselling is not sufficient, or you are not comfortable trying it, antidepressants are sometimes considered. The medicine of choice to treat postpartum depression is Paroxetine as it seems to be the safest option if you are breastfeeding. Like all antidepressants, it can take a few weeks to kick in and should be continued for some months after you feel better as it can cause the depression to bounce back otherwise.
Interestingly, studies show no additive effect when antidepressants and counselling given together. This means that taking part in both counselling and taking medication does not double the effectiveness of therapy. Which is why I feel that counselling should always be given a chance before opting for drug therapies.
Over to you…
Postpartum depression is relatively easy to detect and treat if it is identified in time. Health visitors can play an essential role in giving you support & counselling over a 2-3 month period to treat it, provided they are committed to checking in with you regularly.
Have you ever suffered from post partum depression? What helped you come out of it? I would love to hear your tips on how to battle this issue!
This post is the first in a series covering postpartum depression, cracked & sore nipples, kidney & bladder infections, fear of sex after giving birth & much more!
Please share and comment to spread the word about post partum depression & how to prevent it from taking over!
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