One of the most joyful events that one can go through in their lifetime is having a child. Having a child is a wonderful thing, because you're bringing a life into the world and you are commissioned to take care of that child and love them. Obviously, some people aren't the best at that and they struggle with trying to go through with it, but in general, many mothers are ecstatic when their child is born. That being said, there are a lot of things that go on inside a woman's body before, during, and after pregnancy, and sometimes there can be mental health complications as a result of it. This is called postpartum ("after birth") depression. In today's blog post, we're going to take a closer look at what postpartum depression is and some coping strategies that you and/or your loved ones can use in order to get through these times if they happen in your own life.
What is Postpartum Depression?
So, what is postpartum depression? Of course, as I've kind of mentioned in the introductory paragraph, postpartum depression is depression that you fall into after having a child. It can start right after you've had your child, or it can start up to two months after the birth has happened. So what can we do about it? What are the symptoms that we have to look out for, and is it something that we just have to deal with or is it a treatable disorder that we can take care of in some way, shape or form?
Honestly, the symptoms aren't a lot different than what you may be working with with standard symptoms of depression. Some of the symptoms of postpartum may include, but are not limited to:
- Inability to get sufficient sleep (other than sleep that is interrupted by feedings
- Emotional responses to a variety of things that may have not otherwise done so.
- Suicidal or homicidal thoughts and feelings (if these occur, contact emergency crisis services as soon as possible)
- Loss of interest in your hobbies or other things that you would normally spend time doing
- Lack of eating or overeating, depending on your own personal reaction to the issues.
- Physical pain in almost any area of the body (headaches and backaches are the most common symptoms)
- Hopelessness, guilt, constant sadness, and other lingering, negative feelings that do not seem to have a source.
In some cases, you may also deal with a level of anxiety. As many of you likely know, anxiety and depression are dance partners, and they show up a lot, well, together. Because of that, you may also want to keep an eye out for anxiety symptoms, including irrational fear, sleeping problems, and in the worst cases, panic attacks. Postpartum anxiety is less known than postpartum depression, but it is still quite common.
As with all mental health issues, you want to make sure that you get diagnosed by a mental health professional or by your primary care physician. We talk about this more in the next section, but they will be able to get you what you need in order to thrive in your current situation. Postpartum depression is usually not a permanent ordeal, which means that you honestly have to get through the rough spot as long as you can before seeing the other side and going back to "life as usual." If it seems to last longer than a couple of months after your child's birth, a reevaluation may need to occur and you may have another underlying mental health issue that will have to be dealt with.
How Do People Cope with Postpartum Depression?
There are a number of ways that people can work through postpartum depression, and, like I always say, you will just have to try some of them out for yourself in order to see whether or not they are able to work for you and your particular situation. By using these coping skills, you will be better able to adjust your lifestyle and your family life, even if you are struggling with the sometimes painful and frightening results of postpartum depression. Here are some things that you can try out for yourself.
After the birth, make sure that you relax a bit more than you had been - reducing stress is absolutely vital. Stress is something we all feel at times, but if we are suffering with depression of any sort (including postpartum depression), we want to do everything that we can in order to reduce the stress in our lives. Don't spend time with people that stress you out, make sure to make the most out of your maternity leave so that you can be sure to feel ready and rested when it's time to go back to work, and make sure to treat yourself sometimes so that you don't feel like you're constantly doting on everyone else and not on yourself.
You are not in this alone, so don't try to be an island that suffers without anyone else knowing about it. This is so hard, because many women will feel bad that they're complaining after they brought their beautiful little life into the big world. Yes, it is a wonderful thing, but sometimes our bodies react differently than we want them to in these situations. That being said, you want to be sure to communicate with your loved ones, and especially your partner, so that you feel safe, you reduce stress, you get out what you're feeling and you get the support that you need from those around you. This will help prevent you from "getting lost" from within yourself.
Do some of your favorite things and "get away" every once in awhile if you can in order to reduce your stress levels. Yes, it's hard to do this when you're a new mom, but even just leaving the baby (kids) with your loved ones so that you and your partner can go out to dinner can help reduce your stress. Go take a walk when your partner or relatives are home, or read a book while the baby is sleeping. If you keep up with your recreation and still do things that you enjoy when you can, you will find that the stress and depression will lessen and you won't feel the same amount of pressure as you may have in other situations.
Encouragement is key - instead of beating yourself up, take the time to encourage yourself and lift yourself up instead. Encouragement is something that everyone struggling with depression needs. It's hard to encourage yourself when you feel like you're down in the dumps. Read something inspiring every day, get those little inspirational text messages sent to your inbox so that you can see positive words daily. In my house, I have a few post it notes that I keep up all over the place to remind me about my good traits and the fact that I have a purpose in the world I live in. Surround yourself with encouragement, because on the hardest days, that encouragement will help pull you from the pit.
Keep up with a regular diet and exercise plan, and try to get enough sleep - taking care of yourself is important. This is so hard after you have a child, because the baby really is the center of the world. But, as I've talked about in other articles, all parts of your self are connected. If you don't take care of one part of the whole, you will find that the other parts start to decline incredibly quickly. That being said, you should try to have at least a semi-regular diet and exercise plan in place after you've had your child. By doing this, you will find that you feel healthier, you have more energy, and your depression symptoms may get a bit of relief.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of things that you can do in order to cope with and walk through postpartum depression. That being said, there are some cases where you may need to reach out for some extra help in order for you to try and get through it effectively. There are a number of resources out there for women who are dealing with postpartum depression, and we can also point you in the direction that you can go in order to make sure that you get the help that you need for your own struggles with it. A mental health professional can help you work through the feelings and get through the hard times so that you can focus on raising your child and loving your family as you should. You should also encourage your spouse to go through therapy with you as well - it can help you both in great ways.
BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board. (2014, April). Postpartum depression. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.babycenter.com/0_postpartum-depression-and-anxiety_227.bc
McGraw, P. (n.d.). Dr. Phil.com - Advice - Coping Strategies for Postpartum Depression. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://drphil.com/articles/article/159
Revelant, J. (2013, July 07). 10 ways to cope with postpartum depression. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/07/07/10-ways-to-cope-with-postpartum-depression/
Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2014, July). Postpartum Depression & the Baby Blues. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/postpartum_depression.htm
Stone, K. (n.d.). 5 Things Dads Can Do To Help With Postpartum Depression. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs/5-things-dads-can-do-understand-help-postpartum-depression