Depression after pregnancy/birth (postpartum depression)
Postpartum depression (PPD) is more common than you might think. Around 1 in 7 new mothers get PPD. It often starts within 1-3 weeks after birth but it can occur anytime within the first year. Symptoms differ but can include:
- Feelings of anger or irritability.
- Lack of interest in the baby.
- Appetite and sleep disturbance.
- Crying and sadness.
- Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness.
- Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy.
- Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself.
Don’t worry; postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. If you feel you may be suffering from it, know that it is not your fault, and there are things you can do to help cope and recover. If you think you have PPD, see a doctor or check with your local Beba-ks Center for a referral to a specialist.
Is there anything I can do to feel better?
There are three things you can start doing for yourself right away to feel better:
- Stay healthy and fit:
- Do something active every day. Go for a walk or get back to the gym.
- Eat healthy foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and lean meats. Try to eat fewer sweets and salty snacks (even though that is what you might crave).
- Get as much rest as you can. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps
- Don’t drink alcohol; it is a depressant, which means it can slow your body down and make you feel more depressed.
- Don’t take street drugs. These affect the way your body works and can cause problems with the medicine you might be taking for PPD.
- Ask for and accept help:
- Keep in touch with people you care about and who care about you. Tell your husband, family and friends how you’re feeling.
- Take time for yourself. Ask someone you trust to watch the baby so you can get out of the house. Visit a friend, get outside or do something you enjoy. Plan for some time alone with your partner.
- Let others help around the house. Ask your friends and family to watch the baby, help with housekeeping or go grocery shopping. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you need.
- Join an online support group. You can get more information and talk to experts at Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Progress (both in English only).
- Lower your stress:
- Do the things you liked to do before you had your baby. Listen to music, read a good book or take a class.
- Do the things that used to make you feel good about yourself before you got pregnant.
- Try not to make any major changes in your life right after having your baby. These include moving or changing jobs. Major changes can add stress to your life that you don’t need right now.
- Talk to your boss about going back to work. Maybe you can work at home or part-time when you first go back to work.
If these things help, great! Keep doing them as if you stop you might find your symptoms return. If these things don’t improve your symptoms within two weeks, you should definitely see a doctor or check with your local Beba-ks Center for a referral to a specialist. You might need additional therapy, including prescription antidepressants. It’s very important you take PPD seriously as it can make it hard for you to take care of your baby and will only get worse if left untreated. If you have thoughts of harming your baby or yourself, see a doctor immediately.
How will a doctor treat your PPD?
They will first ask you some questions to help determine if you have PPD. They may do tests to see if you have other health problems that may lead to PPD. For example, they may check your thyroid hormones as low levels of thyroid hormones may lead to PPD. The sooner you see your provider about PPD, the better. You can get started on treatment to make you feel better so you can take good care of yourself and your baby. These are treatments your provider may suggest:
- Counseling: this also is called therapy. It’s when you talk about your feelings and concerns with a mental health professional. They help you to understand your feelings, solve problems and cope with things in your everyday life.
- Medicine: PPD often is treated with medicine, including 1) Antidepressants - some have side effects and some are not safe to take if you’re breastfeeding so talk to your doctor to decide if one is right for you. 2) Estrogen - this hormone plays an important role in your menstrual cycle and pregnancy, but check with your doctor if you are breastfeeding.