Handling Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is depression experienced by a mother following childbirth, typically from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue. Although mental health professionals try to break down the stigma associated with receiving health post-birth, it is hard to ignore the constant messages received from society that having a newborn should be the best thing in the world. This can even make the depression worse, as women may be made to feel badly for already feeling badly! While this pressure is not usually put on mothers on purpose, it is being added to little sleep, out of control hormones, and all of the new lifestyle changes that motherhood brings.

According to the CDC (link), 1 in 5 women experience postpartum depression. Unfortunately, many women do not realize they have it and/or do not report it, so the actual number is probably greater. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, try some of the tips below.

1) Build a secure bond with your baby

A large part of postpartum depression consists of feeling disconnected from your baby. Successful bonding allows your child to feel secure attachment, which can effect the way they communicate and form relationships in the future. There is no need to feel anxious or guilty if that bond is not naturally forming. It can take weeks or months, but it should come with time. If you can learn how to bond with your baby, even if it does not feel natural at first, it could benefit both you and your child. Close contact with your baby can increase oxytocin, which can make both of you feel happier. You can do this by making skin to skin contact, baby massage, or just simply smiling towards your baby. Between 6-12 weeks, they will likely smile back!

2) Take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself is one of those things that are easier said than done. But, simple lifestyle choices can improve your health and mood, which can make you feel like yourself again. Here are some quick things you can do:

  • Eat omega-3

  • Nap

  • Get sunshine

  • Pamper yourself

  • Engage in good hygiene

  • Make plans with your friends

3) Slowly reintroduce exercise

Physical activity is shown to help combat postpartum depression. Even if you are not able to engage in exercises you could do prior to pregnancy, try taking your baby for a 20 minute walk outside. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercise can help to strengthen the abdominal muscles, relieve stress, promote better sleep, and boost energy. Aim to be active 20-30 minutes per day and you can increase from there once you get into a positive habit. Maybe you can find a workout buddy who can help encourage you!

4) Build a support network

We are definitely social creatures and having positive interactions and emotional support from loved ones can be a protective factor in reducing stress and dealing with postpartum depression. You can make new connections by seeking out other moms who have children in the same age group. New motherhood can feel lonely at times, along with already being overwhelming. If you struggle to connect with others at first, don’t give up. There are many women out there who are going through similar transitions and are also looking for people to connect with. You can even join a Facebook mom’s group or download social apps.

5) Try therapy or medication

Sometimes self-help, lifestyle changes, and social support don’t help enough and that is okay. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms or reach out to a counselor in your area.

Talk therapy will allow you the opportunity to discuss your concerns and feelings, set goals that are manageable, and learn to respond to situations positively. Sometimes having a professional to talk to takes the burden off of you. Click here to work with a therapist who is trained to help.

Antidepressants may also be recommended if your depression is severe. This is something that has to be prescribed by a medical doctor or psychiatrist after a full evaluation.

Postpartum depression can make the already stressful period immediately following childbirth even more difficult. The sooner you can get help with managing your depression, the sooner you can begin to enjoy your baby and motherhood.