Awareness is growing rapidly surrounding the issues of Postpartum Depression and the so-called “baby blues.” Did you know that 80% of new moms experience baby blues? Left untreated, these fairly common baby blues can turn into something far more serious. As many as 1 in 8 of new moms suffer from Postpartum Depression (PPD). It’s not just “feeling sad” – it’s actually a form of clinical depression and can have severe consequences. If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, there are steps you can take.
1. Know the symptoms.
While there’s a difference between being blue and suffering from PPD, the symptoms can be very similar and you can’t begin treating a problem if you don’t recognize it. Irritability, decreased appetite, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, feelings of isolation, low energy levels, low libido levels, suicidal thoughts, and trouble sleeping are all signs of an underlying issue. If it’s baby blues, these symptoms should dramatically decrease as your hormone levels even out, within about 2 weeks postpartum. If symptoms persist or worsen, it may be PPD.
2. More rest, less stress.
Technically speaking, when we’re sleep deprived our serotonin levels decrease. When we experience stressful situations, our adrenaline levels increase. An excess of adrenaline can make it even harder for our bodies to produce enough serotonin, which just further complicates the hormonal imbalance. Put simply, getting lots of rest and minimizing stress helps to regulate our hormones and makes us feel better. Take necessary steps to make this happen. Take advantage of newborn naps and get some shut eye. Learn meditation or relaxation techniques. Get a sitter to help out so you can take a short break.
3. Move it.
It’s no secret, exercising releases endorphins, and endorphins are happy hormones! There’s no quicker way to feel happier than to get your body moving. Early on in postpartum recovery, this may be as simple as taking a short walk around the yard or neighborhood. As soon as your doctor gives the ok, you can return to your normal exercise routines or begin a new regimen with doctor guidance and approval. The added benefit is that you’ll sleep a lot better as well!
4. Vitamin Power!
Continue taking your prenatal vitamins and any other vitamins and supplements your doctor has prescribed even after giving birth. You’ll want to be sure you’re not deficient in D, B, Iron, Magnesium, and zinc especially. All of these help to regulate mood. If you’re concerned about deficiencies, talk to your doctor about adding supplements or changing your diet.
5. Breast is best.
There’s been a major push in the “breastfeeding is best for you and the baby” movement. One thing is sure, breastfeeding naturally produces prolactin, which has an effect similar to antidepressants. If it’s possible, breastfeed.
6. It takes a village.
Every mom needs a support system, be it family, friends, a mommy group, church group, what have you. The help they can provide is invaluable. Not only will you automatically have people to act as a sounding board to your PPD, but they can also be there to listen to worries about the baby, give advice, do the dishes, or just hold the newborn while you take a shower! It’s ok to ask for help. It’s more than ok – it’s recommended! If you don’t have family nearby, make sure to reconnect with old friends (especially those with babies!), make some new friends in your neighborhood, check online for local “mommy and me” groups or go to church!
No, really, talk. Do NOT bottle your emotions, worries, guilt or problems up. Talking to a trusted confidant will help you to make sense of what you’re feeling. Not only will it offer relief, but whoever is lending a listening ear may be able to offer help, suggestions, or show you things in a new light. At the very least, they can validate your emotions.
No, really, let it out. Feels cathartic, doesn’t it? That’s because suppressing your feelings decreases serotonin levels and increases depressive symptoms. So don’t be a martyr. Everyone needs a good cry sometimes.
9. Do NOT be ashamed.
It’s easy to feel guilty when you’re bogged down with negative emotion at this stage in your life – after all, when you have a baby you’re supposed to feel nothing but love and contentment and sunshiny happiness. You’re supposed to “love every minute” and count your blessings. Don’t feel ashamed about your baby blues or the depression you experience. It isn’t something you can wish away; there’s no magic wand-waving cure. And you are not weak, bad, or un-maternal if you need help. AND, what’s more, you’re NOT ALONE.
10. Star treatment.
Above all, treat yourself well. Physically, emotionally and mentally, you need star treatment. Be healthy – eat right, sleep enough, exercise. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling with pushing it away or becoming guilt-ridden. Take time out for yourself. Shower regularly. Sweatpants are ok, but make sure to get dressed every once in a while and if you’re a makeup kind of gal, whip out the mascara. You can use these little tricks to help your mind and body feel better.
If you’re feeling a little blue after giving birth, give it 2 weeks. Follow the tips and allow yourself some time for your hormones to find balance. If there’s no improvement, or things seem to get worse, see your doctor right away. There are treatment options – including therapy, counseling, or medication – that are all safe. You don’t have to – AND SHOULDN’T – suffer alone. This puts everyone around you in jeopardy, but mostly yourself and your baby.
If you’re concerned or just want more information, call or email Postpartum Support International (PSI): 1-800-944-4PPD, [email protected]
The following are helpful websites with more information:
- Postpartum Support International
- Northridge Hospital Medical Center
- she knows Parenting
- Your Tango
Kimberly Mueller is the “me” over at bugaboo, mini, mr & me, a blog that highlights her creative endeavors. She especially likes to share kid crafts, sewing attempts, recipes, upcycled projects, photography and free printable gift tags/cards. When she’s not enjoying being married to her best friend, chasing after the natives (AKA her three kids) and attempting to keep the house in one piece, you can find her with a glue gun in one hand and spray paint in the other. Aside from DIY pursuits, she also enjoys writing, reading, music, singing (mostly in the shower) and the color yellow. Kimberly recently published a craft book entitled Modern Mod Podge. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest,Bloglovin’ and Instagram. Email her at: bugabooblog(at)yahoo.com