Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues
Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues - Having a baby is stressful, no matter how much you’ve looked forward to it or how much you love your child. The baby blues are perfectly normal, but if your symptoms don’t go away after a few weeks or get worse, you may have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can interfere with your ability to take care of your child, so it’s important to get help right away. With treatment and support, you can get back on the road to happy motherhood.
The baby blues
You’ve just had a baby. You expected to be basking in new mom bliss. You expected to be celebrating the arrival of your little one with your friends and family. But instead of celebrating, you feel like crying. You were prepared for joy and excitement, not exhaustion, anxiety, and weepiness.
You may not have been expecting it, but mild depression and mood swings are common in new mothers—so common, in fact, that it has its own name: the baby blues.
The vast majority of new mothers experience at least some symptoms of the baby blues, including moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, appetite changes, concentration problems. Symptoms of the baby blues typically show up within a few days of giving birth and last from several days to a couple of weeks.
The baby blues are a normal part of new motherhood—probably caused by the hormonal changes that occur following birth. If you have them, there is no cause for undue worry. You’ll feel better once your hormones level out. Aside from the support of your loved ones and plenty of rest, no treatment is necessary.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
- Lack of interest in your baby
- Negative feelings towards your baby
- Worrying about hurting your baby
- Lack of concern for yourself
- Loss of pleasure
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Self-help for postpartum depression
The best thing you can do if you have postpartum depression is to take care of yourself. The more you care for your mental and physical well-being, the better you’ll feel.
Simple lifestyle changes can go a long way towards helping you feel like yourself again.
- Don’t skimp on sleep. A full 8 hours may seem like an unattainable luxury when you’re dealing with a newborn, but poor sleep makes depression worse. Do what you can to get plenty of rest—from enlisting the help of your husband or family members to catching naps when you can.
- Set aside quality time for yourself to relax and take a break from your mom duties. Find small ways to pamper yourself, like taking a bubble bath, savoring a hot cup of tea, or lighting scented candles.
- Make meals a priority. When you’re depressed, nutrition often suffers. What you eat has an impact on mood, as well as the quality of your breast milk, so do your best to establish healthy eating habits.
- Get out in the sunshine. Sunlight lifts your mood, so try to get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day.
- Ease back into exercise. Studies show that exercise may be just as effective as medication when it comes to treating depression, so the sooner you get back up and moving, the better. No need to overdo it. A 30-minute walk each day will work wonders.
Lean on others for help and support
- Make your relationships a priority. When you’re feeling depressed and vulnerable, it’s more important than ever to stay connected to family and friends—even if you’d rather be alone. Isolating yourself will only make your situation feel even bleaker, so make your adult relationships a priority. Let your loved ones know what you need and how you’d like to be supported.
- Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. In addition to the practical help your friends and family can provide, they can also serve as a much-needed emotional outlet. Share what you’re experiencing—the good, the bad, and the ugly—with at least one other person. It doesn’t matter who you talk to, so long as that person is willing to listen without judgment and offer reassurance and support.
- Join a group for new moms. Even if you have supportive friends, you may want to consider seeking out other women who are dealing with the same transition into motherhood. It’s very reassuring to hear that other mothers share your worries, insecurities, and feelings. Good places to meet new moms include support groups for new parents or organizations such as Mommy and Me. Ask your pediatrician for other resources in your neighborhood.
Coping tips for postpartum depression
- Find people who can help you with child care, housework, and errands so you can get some much needed rest.
- Make time for yourself every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Do something relaxing or that makes you feel good about yourself.
- Keep a daily diary of your emotions and thoughts. This is a good way to let everything out and to keep track of your progress as you begin to feel better.
- Give yourself credit for the things you’re able to accomplish, even if you only get one thing done in a day. If you aren’t able to get anything done, don’t be hard on yourself.
- Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed.
- Remember that no one expects you to be supermom.
- Be honest about how much you can do and ask others for help.
Professional treatment for postpartum depression
If, despite the self-help and the support of your family, you’re still struggling with postpartum depression, you may want to consider seeking professional treatment. Postpartum depression responds to the same types of treatment as regular depression. Therapy, medication, and support groups can all be helpful.
- Individual therapy or marriage counseling – Therapy can be very effective in the treatment of postpartum depression. A good therapist can help you successfully deal with the adjustments of motherhood. If you are experiencing martial difficulties or are feeling unsupported at home, marriage counseling can be very beneficial.
- Hormone therapy – Estrogen replacement therapy sometimes helps with postpartum depression. Estrogen is often used in combination with an antidepressant. There are risks that go along with hormone therapy, so be sure to talk to your doctor about what is best—and safest—for you.
- Antidepressants – For severe cases of postpartum depression where you’re unable to care for herself or her baby, antidepressants may be an option. However, medication use should be accompanied by therapy, as well as close monitoring by a physician.