The “baby blues” is a widespread occurrence for mothers who have just given birth. Psychology and biology play a role in the sadness and lethargy felt during the first few weeks after carrying a child. However, roughly one in ten mothers develop a more severe condition called postpartum depression, which can be enough to affect their daily activities significantly. Postpartum depression can strike anyone who recently had a child, and it is something everyone should take seriously. However, it can be managed and treated. Knowing what it is and how to defend against it will go a lot towards easing your transition from pregnancy to child-rearing. Origins Of Postpartum Depression Many factors influence the chances of becoming significantly depressed after giving birth. One main reason is biological, involving fluctuating hormone levels that occur within the first few days after childbirth. The amount of progesterone and estrogen circulating in the body increases during pregnancy, however, these levels drastically drop after birth, and experts believe that this can cause severe mood disturbances that contribute to depression.
Psychological factors also play a role. Mothers exposed to other stressors, such as being financially challenged, are more likely to develop the condition. A family history of depression or anxiety can also increase the risk. “Some factors that may place women at a higher risk for postpartum depression include low social support, history of depression or anxiety, and pregnancy or birth complications,” explains Lindsay Henderson, PsyD.
Finally, the act of caring for a newborn can be a significant factor. A newborn needs almost constant care and supervision, even during nighttime. Caring for such a young infant can take its toll on the parents, as they are forced to sacrifice their time to take care of their child. Mothers typically lose a lot of sleep during the first few weeks after giving birth, which can reduce their ability to resist the adverse effects of stress.
Symptoms And Effects The symptoms of postpartum depression are the combined effects of depression and general fatigue as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. Some of the more common symptoms are the following:
- mood swings
- lack of appetite
- consistent feelings of uselessness
- withdrawal from loved ones
- overwhelming feelings of sadness and anxiety
- frequent panic attacks
- thoughts of self-harm and suicide
If left untreated, postpartum depression can progress to postpartum psychosis, a severe condition where the patient loses touch with reality. This complication can endanger the lives of both the patient and other people around them.
Properly Dealing With Postpartum Depression Postpartum depression can be dangerous for mothers. Fortunately, there are many available methods to prevent or manage this mental condition. One of the most important steps is to get enough rest. Taking care of a newborn is exhausting, which is why you need as much rest as possible. Stress-induced by lack of rest only adds to your mental burdens. A well-balanced diet is also vital to supply enough nutrients to keep your mind and body at top condition. You may also have to avoid certain foods, such as drinks that have alcohol and caffeine. These psychoactive substances can drastically alter your mood, making you more emotionally unstable.
Exercise is another way to stave off depressive tendencies. Physical activity raises levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that elevates mood. Any form of movement, even something as simple as household chores, will help maintain physical and mental health. “I recommend starting light exercises like yoga early in postpartum period and to leave the house once a day for fresh air,” says Susan Park, MD.
You should also take the opportunity to bond closer with your spouse and your child. Social bonding also serves to lift your mood. Having someone to rely on also helps you cultivate a social support network, which is another defense against mental health disorders. “It doesn’t just affect moms. It’s a familial disease,” says Christina Hibbert, PsyD.
Depending on where you are comfortable, you might want to limit your social interactions to people who are close to you. This method may be useful in reducing social anxiety, which can aggravate your condition. However, feel free to contact your friends and loved ones, as well as to ask for their support. There might be days when you feel alright, as well as days when you feel awful. You should understand that this is normal, as postpartum depression does not manifest equally on all days. Some mothers think that this is a bad sign, and their worry contributes further to their high-stress levels. Avoid unnecessary fear by acknowledging that your condition will continuously change throughout the days.
Finally, do not hesitate and be afraid to ask for help. Postpartum depression does not go away on its own, and you will need professional health services to conquer this disease. You may be required to take medication and asked to attend counseling sessions. As long as you stick to your treatment plan, you will be able to prevent this condition from wreaking havoc on your life.