Postpartum depression is a surprisingly common problem that doesn’t get recognized or spoken about as much as it should. Statistics suggest that anywhere between 50 and 75 percent of pregnant women experience the so-called “baby blues” after delivery. For 15 percent of these women, the consequences will be more long-lasting and they’ll develop postpartum depression.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a complex psychological condition that occurs after the birth of a child.
After birth, women go through extensive physiological and emotional changes. Chemical imbalances and social factors could add up to contribute to a state of depression.
Getting the baby blues is considered fairly normal after labor and birth. Having a child after nine months of carrying one in the womb is obviously a life-defining moment. It’s also linked to serious hormonal and lifestyle changes that can both lead to a sense of sadness.
Postpartum or perinatal depression, however, is much more severe and it lasts longer than the typical baby blues. It’s characterized by alternating highs and lows, extreme irritability, apathy, constant fatigue, feelings of guilt or inability to take care of the baby.
Women who have gone through postpartum depression in the past are more likely to experience it again. Other factors that often contribute to the condition include having a family history of depression, marital problems and lack of support from one’s spouse, being uncertain about having a child and lacking a social circle or family support.
Postpartum Depression Is Serious: Talk to a Professional!
Before attempting anything else to counteract postpartum depression, understand the fact that it’s a serious condition.
You need to see your doctor and a mental health professional to understand what’s going on. Many women going through postpartum depression would feel “out of it” but they wouldn’t know exactly what’s going on.
In some instances, a treatment for postpartum depression will be required to make things better. Most treatments consist of medications and therapy (or just therapy – your healthcare provider will determine what’s best). Medications come in the form of antidepressants. These are needed to alter brain chemicals and regulate your mood, eliminating the most troublesome symptoms of postpartum depression.
Alternatively, you may be advised to opt for therapy and lifestyle changes. Here are a few of the things you can do to experience serious improvement over time.
Exercise and Taking Care of Yourself
Research suggests that exercise often acts as a natural antidepressant.
A single session of your favorite workout activity (walking, jogging, Zumba, dance, swimming, aerobics, biking, etc.) helps produce endorphins and dopamine. Endorphins trigger a feel-good sensation and the can also reduce pain and anxiety. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that can also help for mood regulation.
When you’re feeling down, working out could be the last thing you’d want to get involved with.
In these instances, a good support network can come in handy. Exercising with a friend will give you a bit of “me time” and a chance to socialize with someone that you love. Hence, the social aspect of the activity will further contribute to feeling better.
Make Enough Time for Rest
Sleeplessness in the first months (or even years) after giving birth is another factor that will make you feel less like a “normal” human being.
This is why it’s important to find enough time for rest and for sleep.
Your partner can offer a lot of assistance in this sense. Have a nighttime feeding and soothing schedule that involves both of you. Taking turns to care for the baby will give both of you a chance to enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Enlisting the help of grandma, grandpa and other extended family members during the day provides additional chances to take a breath, slow down and have a nap if you need to.
Studies suggest that sleeping well can reduce many of the depression symptoms. Sleep doesn’t just recharge your batteries. It increases cognitive abilities and even impacts emotional wellbeing. Hence, finding time for sleep may seem absolutely impossible but this is definitely something you should be focusing on.
Enjoy Intimacy and Quality Time with Your Partner
Many women who have just given birth miss the opportunity to connect with a partner, spend romantic moments together and enjoy intimacy.
You can try to bring some sense of normalcy into your relationship routine. A date night, for example, will potentially make you feel much better.
As far as sex goes, give it a try whenever you feel ready. There isn’t a set timeframe for going back to it. If your sex drive is low or you’re still recovering from childbirth, don’t push yourself too hard. You and your partner can do various things to bring back intimacy in your life without jumping straight into penetrative sex.
Exploring sexuality on your own is another good way to rediscover passion and pleasure. Something as simple as getting yourself a non-threatening squishy dildo and playing with it (or asking your partner to) can reconnect the dots after the major and life changing experience of childbirth.
Do Not Isolate Yourself!
When feeling down, meeting others and spending time with them may seem like the last things you’d want to do.
Isolation, however, is postpartum depression’s best friend. The more you distance yourself from your social circle, the deeper the symptoms of depression will eventually become.
Talking about what you’re going through is a really beneficial outlet. Research suggests that women who share their experience are more likely to get over postpartum depression in a shorter amount of time.
People aren’t going to be burdened by your account of the situation. On the contrary – those who care for you would probably want to find out what’s going on. Pushing loved ones out of your life isn’t doing anyone any good.
Bringing a little human being into the world is exhilarating but it can also be quite scary. Understand the fact that if you’re feeling anxious and depressed, you’re not alone. There’s no reason to suffer in silence. Letting others know about what’s going on and seeking professional help can both contribute to the quicker and easier overcoming of postpartum depression.