Overcoming postpartum depression
Ok, let’s start with the basics. Postpartum or postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. You might hear it being referred to as the baby blues, and it’s so common that it's actually considered normal (and given an annoyingly twee nickname). But like anyone who has experienced it will tell you, it feels far from normal. While it's a common problem, affecting 1 in every 7 women within a year of giving birth, 1 in 5 of those don’t speak up about it, so lots of parents are left feeling alone and isolated. And although it’s most common in moms, it can also affect fathers and partners. The more parents speak up about postpartum depression, the easier it will get for other sufferers to seek support, so we’re opening up the conversation at Elvie. We want moms and dads to feel informed, educated, and supported, so remember, you’re not alone.
The signs to look out for
Whether it’s you, your partner, or a friend you’re worried about, there are some signs you can look out for if you think you or they might be suffering. The symptoms of postpartum depression are often similar to other forms of depression, from low mood to wanting to isolate from loved ones, but you might also feel a disconnect with your baby or be having difficulty bonding with them.
If you’ve just given birth in the last week or so and are feeling teary and emotional, bear in mind that this is completely normal. While your hormones regulate you will probably find yourself more sensitive than usual. If this lasts for more than 2 weeks though, don’t disregard it. It could be the beginning of postpartum depression and should be treated seriously. Here are a few key things that the NHS recommends looking out for that might indicate the beginnings of postpartum depression.
- A persistent feeling of sadness.
- Lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world.
- Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time.
- Trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day.
- Difficulty bonding with your baby.
- Withdrawing from contact with other people.
- Problems concentrating and making decisions.
- Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby.
Treatment for postpartum depression
Once you’ve identified postpartum depression, it’s important to open up to those around you and let them know what you’re going through. Depending on the severity of your depression, you may require psychological treatment or medication, but there are also some ways you can try and help yourself.
- Take time to a secure bond with your baby – while seeing friends and family is also important, make sure you carve out quality time for yourself and your little one. Don’t rush to ‘get back to normal’ or make too many plans. Take time with your baby to simply bond.
- Take care of yourself – it might be as simple as taking a long shower, or maybe booking yourself in for a haircut, but make sure you look after yourself. After giving birth, moms can lose their sense of identity, and taking some time to put on a moisturizer might seem like a pointless task when you have so much else to worry about, but it can really help.
- Slowly reintroduce exercise – we will never condone ‘bouncing back’ at Elvie, but we will encourage exercising for your own mental wellbeing. Whether that’s a walk in the park with your baby or a gentle swim at the local pool, getting moving can be so beneficial.
- Build a support network – tell your friends and family what you’re going through, or reach out to other moms from pregnancy and baby classes who might be going through the same thing. Speaking to people will always help.
If you have tried all of the above and you’re still not feeling any better, contact your doctor and let them know how you’re feeling. At this stage you’ll likely be offered psychological therapy which might include anything from seeing a counselor, joining a group therapy session, or doing CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
After trying this approach, your doctor might then prescribe you medication which would usually be some form of antidepressant. Don’t be put off by the idea of medication. If you have a headache you take a tablet, and this is no different. Suffering from postpartum depression can develop into a serious illness, so listen to the advice of experts, and don’t be afraid to speak up about how you’re feeling.
Because postpartum depression is so common, there are thankfully, lots of resources online that can help. Here are a few that might help with your recovery or if you’re supporting someone who is suffering.
- Association for Post Natal Illness (APNI)
- Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS)
- Baby Buddy / Best Beginnings
- The Birth Trauma Association
- The Samaritans
This too shall pass
Remember, however terrible you’re feeling now, it’s only temporary. Seek support and advice, speak to your doctor, rely on your loved ones, and remember, you’re never alone mama.