For a lot of mamas there is a downside to bringing home that beautiful new baby home from the hospital: postpartum depression. While some mamas think they are just adjusting and maybe struggling with the baby blues, PPD is a medical condition that goes beyond the adjustment period (around 2 weeks) and will make your daily life overall miserable.
Postpartum Depression is a medical condition characterized by feelings of sadness or anxiety (generally caused by changes in hormones after giving birth) that can cause lack of interest in daily activities, inability to connect emotionally with your new baby, anxiety or feelings of guilt for things you can't control, and overall uncontrollable crying, mood swings, trouble sleeping, fatigue, and, in extreme cases, thoughts of self-harm or harming your baby.
Yeah. PPD is absolutely no fun, mama. It's also not something that should be ignored. So, if you're struggling with any of these PPD symptoms, you should be reaching out to your doc to get some help.
From a mama who suffers from PPD, my advice is to reach out to your OBGYN first. They will be able to talk through all your treatment options and can refer you to other specialists to fit your treatment preferences.
So, what treatment options are there for PPD? Similar to other psychological disorders, the average mama will be treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Your doctor may also suggest making certain lifestyle changes to help with your PPD.
Antidepressants. Go ahead and say it out loud. It doesn't have to be scary, mama. Like any other medical condition, PPD is something that can (and usually is) treated with medication. Antidepressants will vary in their dosage and side effects, and that's a conversation that you and your doctor can have. But just like having an infection means you would take a pill to feel better, you will use antidepressants the same way. Depression is caused by your hormones being out of wack which will cause your brain's neurotransmitters to go funky.
Hang with me for a minute, mama. I know I'm getting a little clinical, but I studied psych and love talking about this stuff! While you're pregnant, your estrogen (helps to produce your happy hormones) skyrockets, and in a hilariously unfair turn of events, it plummets (like lower than pre-pregnancy levels) once your baby is born. That's why even mamas who don't suffer from PPD will go through a baby blues adjustment period where their hormones regulate and they start to feel normal again. Antidepressants will simply help your brain to signal your serotonin to start firing to help you feel better.
About 6 months after starting an antidepressant, most mamas will be able to stop taking them for postpartum depression. This is because once your hormones start to regulate, your body can continue to produce the correct amount of serotonin on its own. However, you shouldn't stop treatment without consulting your doctor! Never ever self-medicate. You and your doc will work together to make sure that you are weaning yourself off safely.
You know how talking to your mom on the phone and unloading your stresses from the day can totally make you feel better? Well apply that concept to a trained therapist...yeah, you're gonna start to feel better. Therapy can get a bad rap, because of the misconception that you are unhinged or unstable. The fact is that therapy is one of the most natural ways to make you feel better.
It's normal to need interactions with people that validate our feelings, offer solutions, and provide support and encouragement when needed. A therapist will work through your underlying feelings of sadness and guilt, will offer coping mechanisms to help deal with tough times with a new baby, and will help to decrease your overall anxiety and stress by being an unbiased observer.
If you choose not to go the traditional therapy route (also known as psychotherapy, but I didn't want to use that term because it scares people), there are a lot of different therapy options you can try to help you feel better: support groups, yoga, spiritual or religious therapy, or meditation are all forms of therapy that could help your mental health!
Making changes to your daily routine once you have had a baby can seem like an absolutely impossible challenge, especially when you're dealing with depression. Trust me, mama, I know. But there are some simple things that you can do everyday that will make huge, positive differences in your mental health!
Don't shut yourself off from your loved ones! You have so many friends and family that are dying to help you in any way they can. If help is offered, take it. If an opportunity to go out with friends comes up, go! Being isolated and staying in the house with the shades drawn will have a huge negative impact on your mental health, so do your best to reach out to your closest friends and fam to make sure your staying connected to your support system.
Exercise is a great way to decrease your feelings of sadness, and to get your body to start producing those happy hormones we talked about! You do you when it comes to exercise, mama! Join a spin class, run with your dog in the mornings, or even just doing some house cleaning to your favorite Pandora station. Get your heart rate up, work out your muscles, and you'll start to feel better (and the looking better part is just a happy byproduct).
Eating more healthy is also something that can help to improve your mental health. Eating a good mix of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and tons of water will help your body to feel better, and can actually improve the way you feel mentally. It can also help your mental health to avoid chemicals like alcohol, tobacco, or even *shudder* caffeine.
Setting aside time for yourself is also super important to maintaining a healthy mindset. It can be
hard impossible to find a minute to yourself when you have a new baby at home, but you're a super mama, so you're going to have to find a way. This is the category where I tell you to SLEEP. When your babe falls asleep, you should be sleeping, mama. Your body and your mind need it! Hire a sitter, reach out to a friend, or ask your man to watch the babes, and take a little time to do something that makes you happy. If you're staying home with your littles, don't feel bad when you need to lie down for a minute and rest mentally (and physically) to maintain your sanity for the day.