The birth of a baby can be a very exciting, stressful, joyous and anxious time in a woman’s life. As you’re preparing for the arrival, there may also be something else that arrives in which a woman isn’t expecting….depression.
Up to 80% percent of women experience the “baby blues” after delivery. This generally lasts until about 2 weeks after the baby is born, and symptoms are mild and consist of sadness, anxiety, tearfulness, and trouble sleeping. Generally the woman needs emotional reassurance, help with household chores, and care with the baby. There is a later-onset of depression that occurs which is what is considered to be known as Postpartum Depression (PPD). This affects 10-16% of women and is more severe and recognized several weeks after delivery of a baby.
Symptoms include: feeling unable to take care of the baby and of yourself; daily tasks (showering, cooking, etc..) seem impossible to complete; loss of appetite, loss of interest in sex; feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy; insomnia; overwhelming fatigue; intense irritability or anger; lack of joy in life; severe mood swings; withdrawal from friends or family; difficulty in bonding with the baby; or thoughts of harming the baby or yourself.
Women who are at risk for PPD are those who have had a history of depression or anxiety (either during pregnancy or before); a history of alcohol abuse; a history of severe or moderate PMS; have experienced a stressful event (such as a loss of a loved one, job change or moved recently); have low self-esteem; lack of sleep; experienced complications during the pregnancy or this was an unwanted pregnancy; have problems managing stress; or those who do not have a lot of support.
Almost all women who receive professional help for PPD are able to overcome their feelings and take good care of themselves and their children. If you think you have PPD, seek help as soon as possible. In rare cases some women experience hallucinations or delusions about themselves or their babies. If you are experiencing this, contact your doctor immediately. This is called Postpartum Psychosis and is an emergency that needs to be treated.
Some fathers can have PPD too, and it is more common with step-fathers in blended families. Some contributing factors can be financial stress or marital/relationship stress with the mother.
PPD is not a condition you can treat solely on your own. There are things you can do in conjunction with professional treatment. As always, speak to your doctor first before trying any supplements or exercise programs. Your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons of specific options and help you decide which ones would be best for you. Here are some suggestions:
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Get as much rest as you can. Get enough exercise; take a walk with your baby. Eat enough fruits, veggies & whole grains. Avoid alcohol.
- Set realistic expectations. Scale back your expectations for a perfect household. Do what you can then ask for help with the rest. If someone offers help then accept it!
- Make time for yourself. Get dressed, leave the house, visit a friend or run errands. Schedule some time alone with your partner.
- Avoid isolation. Tell your partner, family, and friends about how you’re feeling. Ask other mothers about their experiences. Ask your doctor about support groups for new moms or other women with PPD.
- Get acupuncture. It can promote deep relaxation and sometimes even sleep.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Some research suggests that whether eaten in fish and other seafood or taken as a nutritional supplement, Omega 3’s may help relieve PPD.
- Massage therapy. Some studies suggest this can be helpful for PPD.
- Creative arts. Art, music & drama therapy have been suggested as possible ways to relieve PPD by providing a supportive, relaxed environment, offering new ways of expression or encouraging positive behavior changes.
If you find yourself struggling with PPD, “baby blues” or the adjustment to motherhood, please give Imagine Hope a call at (317) 569-0046. We have experienced trained therapists who can offer extra support and guidance. We provide individual, marriage and family counseling for Indianapolis, and the surrounding areas including Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Noblesville and Westfield.
Local PPD Support Group: Gallahue Mental Health Services
Marcia Boring, MSW, ACSW, LCSW