As a new mom, you will likely find yourself making several adjustments to your everyday life to accommodate the needs of your newborn. In the first few weeks after you give birth, you may feel exhausted from all the sleepless nights, and the hours you spend tending to your baby’s needs. If you are nursing, you might also feel breast pain and experience flu-like symptoms. In addition to these physical changes, a high percentage of women also experience baby blues, which is a period of feeling sad and moody that can last from a few days up to a few weeks. It is normal for new moms to have baby blues because of the changes in hormones after you give birth. However, if you continue to experience difficulty in sleeping and in bonding with your baby a few months after you gave birth, then you may have postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a long-lasting form of major depression that can cause anxiety, irritability, and reduced concentration, among others. These symptoms typically start within the first few weeks after giving birth, though they may also develop six months to one year after delivery.
Postpartum depression and baby blues can cause similar symptoms that you may see as a normal part of the adjustment period to being a new mom. However, postpartum depression is different from the normal feeling of sadness that a woman feels a few days after delivery, as the symptoms of this form of depression are more severe, and can interfere with functioning.
According to Terri Bowman, CEO of Brain Wellness Spa signs and symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- appetite changes
- feelings of anxiety, depression, and lack of interest in your newborn
- trouble concentrating
- thoughts of harming yourself or your newborn
- feeling hopeless and worthless
- feeling incompetent to address the needs of your baby
- loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed doing
If you’re feeling hopeless, and are having suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor who can evaluate your symptoms, and design a treatment plan to help you recover from this type of depression. You may find relief from postpartum depression through physiotherapy, antidepressants, or a combination of both.
There are also things you can do everyday to cope with PND and manage your symptoms:
Take care of your personal needs
It’s easy to feel stuck on nursing your newborn and attending to the baby’s needs when you spend a majority of your time changing diapers and rocking your baby to sleep. Before you know it, you are feeling overwhelmed with motherhood and the responsibilities that inevitably comes with it.
Instead of taking on these tasks by yourself, consider calling in reinforcements. If your mother-in-law offers to babysit, allow her to do it, or ask your husband to look after the baby for an hour or two, while you have some much-needed “me time”. Even if it is only for a few hours a week, you can benefit from these breaks as you get the opportunity to do some meditation, go for a quick walk, or catch up on sleep.
Perform daily exercises
Exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and help make you feel better. When you engage in any form of physical activity, your brain releases endorphins which in turn trigger positive feelings and help enhance your sense of well-being. Regular exercise can also help you gain confidence as you observe positive changes in your body and on your overall appearance.
When you go jogging outside, for example, you will have an opportunity to get more social interaction, which will give you a sense of belonging and will help take your mind off your concerns at home.
Many new moms with PND report feeling relaxed and being able to sleep better because of exercise, which is why it is recommended by therapists for symptoms alleviation.
If you are too busy to exercise in the early mornings, do it after lunch when your baby is ready to sleep, and you need a change of scenery.
Take time to rest
When your baby sleeps, take the opportunity to rest and get some sleep as well. A 2009 study found that women who get the least sleep are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. When you don’t get enough sleep, you feel more exhausted, and might feel stuck with this cycle. Your doctor may prescribe medications to allow you to have uninterrupted nighttime sleep, which is essential to alleviating your depressive symptoms. If you are worried about not being able to feed your baby when you are asleep, consider pumping your breast milk, so your husband can take over this task while you get some quality sleep.