1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression. It’s a very common ailment to new mothers, but it doesn’t mean that your experience is any less real. Postpartum depression is very real and can be dangerous for the mother if left untreated. It’s important for you to seek help and reduce the effects so that you can function normally again.
Doctors don’t know what exactly causes postpartum depression (PPD). After delivery, the level of female hormones drops drastically, and this dramatic decrease frequently causes what’s known as the “baby blues” which is normal for many mothers. But other factors, such as having a history of mental illness, a difficult or traumatic birth, or being a new mom can cause the “baby blues” to develop into PPD. And because every mother is unique, as are the levels of her hormones, it is difficult to know if there is a way to prevent PPD. However, a woman can decrease the risk of suffering from PPD if she takes care of herself. Getting adequate sleep (even with a newborn), getting enough food and water, exercising regularly, and resting are all important to maintaining your sanity, especially while pregnant and after giving birth. By taking care of yourself, you can mitigate the severe impact PPD can have on you and your loved ones.
Seek Family Support
After giving birth, it’s important to seek family support. Having a baby is a lot of work and your body needs time to recover. Jumping back into life right away can be risky. You want to take things easy as you heal from giving birth, which means you should seek family support. If your mother can come and help with the baby, or if your mother-in-law, aunts, cousins, sisters, etc. can come and help for a few times a week with the baby, you can take that time as a much-needed break to rest, relax, and recover. That extra support can let you know that you are not alone and can give you strength at a time when you need it. Without family support, you can very easily get overwhelmed and be more at risk to develop postpartum depression.
Seek Professional Support
It’s also important to seek professional support from your doctor, especially if you have a history of mental illness. If you develop symptoms for PPD, including loss of energy and appetite, irritability, change in sleep habits, a lack of interest in things that you usually like, including your baby, and increased anxiousness, and these symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, you should schedule an appointment with your obstetrician as soon as you can. They can assess your situation and give you specific recommendations, including medication that can help your body and brain recover. Often, medical professionals also offer therapy groups that can help you to cope with PPD.
Get an Emotional Support Animal
Emotional support animals can also help reduce the impact of PPD. Having an emotional support animal will actually affect your brain chemistry. Having a furry friend who is well trained and who is responsive to your emotions releases oxytocin, which will help you feel better. An emotional support animal is different from a pet or a service animal. While they don’t require training like service animals do, an emotional support animal will need to be approved by your doctor. If you are approved to have an emotional support animal, you will want to make sure you have an animal that is good with children and easy to train. An example of a good dog to get would be Havanese puppies. Havanese puppies are great with children and are generally easy to train.
Practice Self Care
Self-care is just as important in treatment as it is in prevention. If you, as a new mom, don’t take care of yourself, it will be a lot harder to take care of your baby. Taking care of yourself can sometimes feel daunting when you know the baby needs you. It can even feel selfish if you take time out of carrying for the baby to care for your own needs. But by doing something that relaxes you, whether it’s taking a long bath, going for a walk, reading a good book, chatting to your girlfriends, or getting your nails done, you nourish yourself. Self-care is important to your brain chemistry, and it will help you recover from PPD.
It is also important to make sure you exercise consistently even after birth as that can help stabilize your emotions and hormones. Exercising releases endorphins that make you feel good physically and mentally and can help regulate your emotions. But because you just had a baby, you’ll want to take it easy. If all you can manage is walking, that’s okay. A short daily walk can get you outside, exposing you to Vitamin D (which also improves mental health) as well as releasing endorphins by exercising.
Along with exercise, eating right will also help regulate your emotions and hormones. Some good foods for new moms include salmon, which is rich in Omega-3s (which are good for brain function), beans and lentils (which contain fiber, protein and iron), and dairy products, including Greek yogurt and cheese. Drinking plenty of water is also good for your mental and physical health and will help you recover from PPD.
Meditation has many benefits for mental health, including PPD. Because your body is recovering, you should take the time to slow down and meditate. You can do this in a number of ways—practice mindfulness of your circumstances and your baby, simple yoga poses, and journaling among others. By being more aware of your circumstances and your environment, you can identify and address triggers that make your PPD worse. By slowing down and simply breathing, you help your brain relax and destress.
Postpartum depression is common in many women, but it does not have to rule your life. Like any mental illness, you can manage PPD so that the effects are not as severe so that you can enjoy life with your newborn child.
Read more tips in this article: What to Know About Using Medication to Help Manage Your Depression