Having a baby is a massive change in your life, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Your hormone levels drop postpartum, and you aren’t getting enough sleep. That’s enough to make anyone feel like sh***! You’re not the only mom who feels this way. Up to 80% of new moms experience these feelings, commonly known as baby blues. Baby blues usually go away on their own after about four weeks after giving birth. What you really want to watch out for is postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is more severe and lasts longer than baby blues. Up to 20% of women get PPD. You’re more susceptible to it if you’ve had depression, or if it runs in your family.
A lot of the symptoms of PPD and baby blues overlap. The difference has more to do with how long your symptoms last and how severe they are than the actual difference in symptoms.
You may have postpartum depression if you:
- Can’t stop crying
- Don’t enjoy your baby
- Are filled with anger
- Have overwhelming anxiety
- Can’t sleep
- Never get out of bed
- Feel isolated and like you have no one to open up to
- Can’t function
- Think about self-harm
- Feel worthless
- Have no appetite or can’t stop eating
- Don’t have interest in things you used to enjoy
- Feel overwhelmed and hopeless
- Feel like your symptoms aren’t improving after four weeks
You may be at risk for postpartum depression if you have:
- A history of previous depression
- A history of substance abuse
- A family history of mental illness
- Prenatal depression or anxiety
- Low self-esteem
- An unhealthy relationship
- High stress levels
- Little support from family and friends
- No partner to help raise your child
- Lots of stress already in your life
What to do if you think you have postpartum depression
If you think you have PPD, go see your doctor ASAP, so you can get the necessary treatment.
The two main types of treatment for PPD are therapy and medication. They can be used individually or together. Keep in mind, everyone is different, and you will have to see what works best for you.
Antidepressants are a common treatment for PPD. Different antidepressants work for different people as each type of medication targets different brain chemicals.
Some of the most common antidepressants are listed below.
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Doxepin (Deptran, Sinequan)
- Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
- Trimipramine (Surmontil)
Antidepressants can have side effects, including trouble sleeping, weight gain or loss, headaches, or nausea. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your side effects, or if you aren’t seeing any improvements from your medication. You and your doctor can work together to find the best combination of medications and dosages for you.
Many women who suffer from PPD are recommended by their doctors to seek out counseling. If this is the route you and your doctor decide is best, you and your therapist will meet on a regular basis. You and your therapist will discuss topics including your behavior, your feelings, and your history. There are two main types of therapy for women with PPD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This type of therapy involves identifying and changing behaviors and thoughts harmful to your mental health.
Interpersonal Therapy. Your therapist helps you understand and improve the relationships in your life.
You could be going to a therapist anywhere between a few weeks to over a year, depending on what your counselor thinks is best for you. The important thing to remember is to go to your appointments and try to implement your counselor’s advice.
Are natural remedies a viable option?
Natural remedies can sometimes help with PPD, but make sure to consult your doctor about anything you try. Keep in mind that in many cases, natural remedies won’t be enough on their own to help improve your condition.
It’s always important to get a healthy dose of self-care in, whether or not you’re suffering from PPD. Here are some of my favorite things to do when I treat myself to some “me time”.
- Quality time with your partner
- Quality time for yourself
- Skipping housework
There are numerous benefits to exercising with your doctor’s approval, both during and after pregnancy. While it’s unclear whether exercise has a direct effect on your risk for postpartum depression, it may positively affect other aspects of your life, and in turn, improve your mental health.
The Department of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine did a study on how omega-3 fatty acids correlate with PPD and couldn’t find evidence that it helps prevent PPD. On the other hand, The Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona College of Medicine found possible evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate the symptoms of PPD. More research needs to be done before any conclusions can be drawn, but omega-3 fatty acids are generally good for you. It may help to take more foods such as:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Other oily fish
Vitamin B-2 or riboflavin has also shown to possibly decrease the risk of PPD. Experts recommend a moderate intake for the best results.
Please note, this article is not a replacement for official medical advice. The advice here is ased upon my personal experience and research. If you’re displaying postpartum depression symptoms, you should talk to your doctor immediately.
If you want some words of encouragement, check out my 4th-trimester tips that every mom should know!