By Peter Mutuc
First things first: having postpartum depression (aka PPD) doesn’t make you a terrible mother.
While having PPD can adversely affect your ability to be an effective mother, it doesn’t mean that you’ve already failed as a parent. There are many ways to bounce back from PPD. And it all starts with early diagnosis and treatment.
Postpartum Depression Comes With Plenty of Warning Signs:
- Consistent depression that lasts for 2 to 3 weeks
- Insomnia and anxiety even when the baby is asleep and well
- Easily cries/gets angry
- High levels of anxiety that sometimes turn into full-blown panic attacks
- Obsessively worrying about the baby’s health even though the baby is fine
- Feeling of guilt
- Extreme hopelessness
- Low concentration
- Low physical energy even after a good night’s sleep
- Low libido even after full recovery
- Inability to feel pleasure (not just sexual)
- Reluctance to let others care for the baby
- Seems uncomfortable when with the baby
- Feeling like the baby doesn’t like you
Experiencing two or more of the above warning signs in severe or obsessive ways means that you may have PPD. It’s different from just periodically worrying about your child’s well-being. That’s just regular, good parenting.
PPD is something else. It’s obsessive, unhealthy behavior that can also have adverse effects on the baby:
- Delay in cognitive development/language acquisition
- Significantly decreased responsive to the mother
- Excess weight gain/loss
Additionally, PPD doesn’t just occur during the first couple weeks after delivery. It can start months or even a whole year after pregnancy. And this is because…
PPD is a Combination of Physical, Psychological, and Emotional Stress Factors
Having PPD means that you’re suffering from chemical imbalances in the brain due to the sudden plummeting of pregnancy hormones. At the same time, you’re under pressure from new-mom anxiety which can lead to feelings of inadequacy.
Meanwhile, as your body repairs itself and adjusts to not being pregnant, it requires more energy, which means you can be easily exhausted. If you have a history of depression, you’re even more at risk of developing PPD.
All of these mental, emotional, and physical factors contribute to Postpartum Depression. And if you want to cope with PPD and become a better parent to your baby, you need to address how these factors affect your life
Life style changes are the best way to combat PPD
Adopt good sleep hygiene practices.
Sleep hygiene is when you adopt certain behaviors that make it easier for you to get some sleep. It includes but is not limited to the following:
- Not looking at electronic screens (phone, laptop, TV) at least an hour before bedtime
- Not exercising too close to bedtime
- Keeping your bedroom organized and clutter-free (less distractions)
Let your partner carry some of the load. If you’re lucky enough to share the experience of raising a baby with a partner, they can help you with certain tasks so you can sleep better. If not, enlist the help of a family member.
- Invest in a good breast milk pump and bottles. This is essential to getting enough sleep when it’s not your turn to wake up to feed the baby.
- During days that you’re “off-duty”, sleep in a separate area for better chances of getting uninterrupted sleep. Wear an eye mask, earplugs, and do whatever you can to get at least 6 hours of sleep.
- Hiring a nurse or a nanny for your baby, even for just some nights of the week, can really help you and your partner catch up on sleep.
Sleep is an essential part of getting over or at least lessening the effects of PPD. And if you don’t have PPD but are prone to it, getting enough sleep can lessen your risk of developing it.
Do light to moderate exercises.
Just don’t pressure yourself to do it because you need to lose weight or get back into shape. Exercise is its own reward.
Dopamine, adrenaline, endorphins, and all sorts of feel-good hormones and chemicals are released when we exercise. You don’t need to do Crossfit or start training for a marathon. Light exercises is also good. Even periodic outdoor walks everyday can lift your mood.
While severe PPD can make you feel like you never want to exercise again, you need to combat this feeling and start moving.
Schedule separate days for dealing with stressful tasks.
If you need to do chores that are considerably more stressful than others, spread them around. Try not to spend consecutive days dealing with high levels of stress.
This is a good way to make stressful but necessary tasks much easier to manage alongside coping with PPD.
Make it a habit to engage in relaxing activities.
Make the most of the days when you’re not swamped with errands and other new mom responsibilities.
Get a full body massage. Get a full mani-pedi with your best friends. Go on a relaxing ‘staycation’ in a nearby luxury hotel. Play a video game. Finish that book you’ve been putting off because of mommy duties. Do whatever loosens you up and gets you mind off your responsibilities, even for just a while.
Eating healthy gives your body a better fighting chance.
Say goodbye to alcohol because it’s a depressant. Caffeine may also contribute to PPD-related mood swings. Try to avoid really fat or really salty food.
Drink tons of water and make sure to eat your vegetables regularly. You can even consult a nutritionist to come up with a diet plan that can give your body more energy and less junk.
Consult a professional psychologist and accept help from friends and family.
One of the most effective ways to combat PPD is to find help. Remember: you don’t have to deal with this alone. Apart from trusting doctors and psychologists, you also need to trust your partner, your family, and your friends.
Recovery can be hard, especially if it’s your first time experiencing PPD. But when you surround yourself with trustworthy people who can help you cope with depression and insomnia, the road to recovery is a little easier.
Peter Mutuc is obsessed with natural, non-pharmaceutical solutions to insomnia and awry sleeping patterns, which comes in handy at his job as the web content writer for a small, Aussie startup mattress company called Onebed.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect all or some of our beliefs and policy. Any links on this page does not necessarily mean they have been endorsed by Defying Mental Illness.