Postnatal depression, also known as postpartum depression, affects 1 in 7 women in the United States. Before sharing how to deal with postnatal depression, let’s look into what it actually is. Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of depression that affects women after having a baby. Women experience feelings of sadness, tiredness, and worry that last longer than “baby blues.” The baby blues typically disappear on their own after a couple of days, while postpartum depression sticks around for much longer.
Questions People May Ask
- What Can Help PND?
One can attempt to help themselves through this period of depression by talking to friends and family about their feelings. You can also make time for the things you enjoy and delegate, so you can get as much sleep at night as possible. Remember to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly once you are cleared by your ObGYN for exercise.
- How Long After Birth Does Depression Usually Set In?
Immediately after birth, a mother often experiences what is known as the “baby blues.” This tends to last up to two weeks after giving birth. If you find your symptoms start later or last longer, you could be suffering from postnatal depression, and not the baby blues. Postnatal depression can start anytime within the first year after giving birth.
- How Long is the Postpartum Period?
The postpartum period begins when an infant is born. The end of the period is not very well defined, but six to eight weeks after birth is considered the end since most women have returned to a pre-pregnancy state by this time.
- Can Postnatal Depression Go Away on Its Own?
PND is a very common condition for women after birth. It is as serious as any other depressive condition and is not likely to improve on its own without any support or attention given to it.
- What is the Difference Between Postnatal and Postpartum?
These terms are often used interchangeably, but sometimes postpartum is used to refer to issues concerning the mother, and postnatal is used to refer to issues concerning the baby.
Now let’s delve deeper into postpartum depression to determine how to catch it and cope with it for the health of the mother and the child.
8 Ways to Deal with Postnatal Depression
The journey of parenthood can spark many emotions, some of the more common ones are anxiety, excitement, and joy, but there can also be fear. New moms find themselves experiencing the baby blues quite often, while others experience postpartum depression, which is a severe and long-lasting mood disorder.
Women suffering from postpartum depression will experience highs and lows in their emotions, feelings of guilt, anxiety, fatigue, and frequent crying. This can lead to some women even having trouble taking care of their babies. Treatments for postpartum depression include counseling and medication, as well as lifestyle changes or implementations.
When feelings of sadness become severe and start to interfere with your ability to get through your daily activities, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. Your symptoms may start within a few weeks of delivery but can develop up to 6 months afterward. You may start to have mood swings, difficulty making decisions or thinking, or trouble bonding with your baby.
Suffering in silence is common among women who suffer from postpartum depression. The best thing for you to do if you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression is to talk to your doctor. They will evaluate your symptoms and come up with the best treatment plan for your needs. Some treatment options include antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and sometimes a combination of both. There are also some things you can do or change in your everyday home life that can help you cope as well. Here are 8 ways you can deal with postpartum depression outside of medication and therapy.
Once you are cleared by your ObGYN to start exercising, you can start small. Physical activity has been shown to help combat postpartum depression. Not only does exercise help to ease the psychological symptoms of the postpartum period, but it also benefits your body and can help you to get back to your pre-pregnancy body sooner.
A great way to start out is by simply walking. Take a walk with your baby for around 20 to 30 minutes each day. Even 10 minutes can do you a world of good.
2. Consume a Healthy Diet
While healthy eating will not cure your postpartum depression, giving your body the right nutrients will help you to feel better, and it will support you in your exercise. You can plan your meals on a weekly basis so it doesn’t get too overwhelming and so that you don’t run out of time and end up eating unhealthy foods.
Choose whole foods like apple slices, cheese, carrots, and peanut butter for your grab items when you have to eat on the go.
3. Make Time for Yourself
It is easy to feel stuck when taking care of a baby that needs you to do everything for them. Added to that, you may have older children and household responsibilities that you have to handle.
Delegate some responsibilities to your partner, and get some help from your mother-in-law, your sister, or a trusted friend. Let them take the baby for an hour or two, so you can have some time to yourself. Try to have this “me time” once per week, even if you can’t get out of the house. Take a little pamper time, take a bubble bath, or watch your favorite show uninterrupted.
We do recommend getting out of the house, even if just in the front or backyard, to soak up some sun and get some fresh air for 10 to 15 minutes each day.
4. Schedule Rest Into Your Day
They say sleep when the baby sleeps, and this advice can get annoying real fast, but a 2009 report indicated that the women getting the least sleep were the ones having major depressive episodes and symptoms. This was especially true for women who were getting less than 4 hours of sleep each night and less than an hour’s nap during the day.
In the early days, when your baby isn’t sleeping more than 2 hours at a time, you should try to take naps throughout the day and try going to bed early. If you are breastfeeding, pump a bottle so your partner can help with one feeding, so you can sleep a little longer.
5. Build a Bond with Your Baby
Emotional bonding is good for both parents and babies. Bonding creates a secure attachment that helps your baby to feel safe. This bond affects their ability to communicate and form relationships later in life. Studies show that a lack of bonding made it more likely for children to have educational and behavioral problems.
Bonding is easy for some parents, but for others it is hard, and when reality sets in, it can further cause anxiety and feelings of guilt. If you are experiencing this, don’t give up, the attachment to your baby will come in time.
Try to have as much close contact with your child as possible. This releases oxytocin, which is called the “cuddle” or “love” hormone. When oxytocin increases, you will feel more sensitive to others’ feelings, will feel more caring, and will feel happier overall.
Here are a couple of ways you can strengthen the bond with your baby.
A) Skin-to-Skin Contact
Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, doing so with skin-to-skin contact is a great way to develop a bond between you and your baby. If the room is cool, you can wrap a blanket around the baby to keep them warm while they are pressed up against you.
Skin-to-skin will relax both you and your baby, while also enhancing your bond.
B) Baby Massage
Touching your baby supports bonding, and it also helps with their development. Baby massage is known to decrease the severity of the symptoms of mothers suffering from postpartum depression.
You can find classes to teach you how to massage your baby properly, and you can even find videos online or you can read a book.
Before 6 weeks of age, all baby’s smiles are reflex smiles and this reflex is lost before the 12th week. Research has shown that seeing a baby smile causes the reward sections of a mom’s brain to light up. Seeing your baby smile gives you a natural high. Spend more time with the baby inciting those smiles so you can start feeling better and also bond with your baby. Make sure you hold them so they can see your face properly, and give them the most genuine smile.
Singing to your baby has many benefits, and they really don’t care if you are the worst singer in the world. Singing to your baby is just as effective as reading them a book, and it is found to be more effective than leaving them to listen to recorded music.
Singing to your baby helps to learn to focus their attention, while also giving you a distraction from your depressive symptoms and thoughts.
6. Supplement with Fish Oils
You need to make sure you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA. Women with low DHA levels have been shown to have higher rates of postpartum depression. Seafood is an excellent source of DHA, but if you don’t like seafood, you can add in flaxseed oil or take supplements containing omega-3 fats.
7. Look Into Breastfeeding
Studies suggest that women who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing postpartum depression. If you are able to nurse and you are enjoying it, continue to nurse your baby to build your bond and help with your mental health.
There are also cases where women experience agitation, sadness, and anger a few minutes after letdown. This is a condition known as Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER)
Choose the feeding method that feels the best for you.
8. Resist Isolation
When you are not feeling happy, it is easy to want to lock away from the world, but this is the worst thing you could do. Talking to others about your feelings can help you shift your mood. Speak to your experienced mother, friends, or family members and get the support you need to get through your postpartum period.
When to See Your Doctor
The first couple of weeks after delivery is marked by feelings of sadness and agitation. But when these feelings are deeper and long-lasting, they may be cause for concern. Baby blues and chronic depression are two different things. Depression will only get worse without help. If you feel like your symptoms or feelings of sadness are lingering for too long or are intense, then you should make an appointment to speak with your doctor. They can guide you and provide you with recommendations and resources to help you find the right treatment for your needs.
Psychotherapy is one of the most used treatments for postnatal depression. This will have you speaking to a mental health professional about your feelings and thoughts. You will work over multiple sessions with a therapist, where together, you will find solutions for coping with symptoms and solving problems.
They will help you to set goals and find the ideal ways to deal with different situations that help you to feel more in control of your feelings and your body as a whole.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend antidepressants. While antidepressants do enter your breast milk, they are generally safe for breastfeeding mothers. Let your doctor know your concerns, and they will help you weigh the risks and benefits for you.
Develop a Support Network
If there is a close friend or family member that you are comfortable with confiding in, please share your feelings with them. If you would like to share your feelings with a stranger, that is okay too. There are many people who can be a listening ear and who may also be able to point you in the right direction. Here is a list of people who may be able and willing to help:
- Your midwife
- Your obstetrician
- Another health care provider
- The leader or members of your faith community
- Local postpartum depression support groups
- Online mom forums
- The anonymous PSI postpartum depression hotline – 800-944-4773
Postpartum Depression Outlook
Postpartum depression is treatable, and with effective management, you can feel better, with your symptoms improving drastically within 6 months. The services offered at ESTADT Psychological Services may just be what you need. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us so we can help you.
If you find yourself experiencing hallucinations, feeling paranoid, or having obsessive thoughts about your baby, call your doctor. These are signs of a condition known as postpartum psychosis.
If you are having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your baby, you should call your local emergency services.
And remember, the main way to deal with postnatal depression is to talk to someone and let them know how you feel so you can get the help you need.