“Why do I feel sad & detached? I am so overwhelmed and anxious about everything. Isn’t this supposed to be one of the happiest times in my life? Then why don’t I feel happy? How am I supposed to take care of my baby when I don’t have the energy to even take a shower? Gosh, to be honest, I don’t even have the energy or desire to get out of bed…”
Can you relate to any of these statements? Many women right after giving birth suffer from some level of anxiety or sadness, irritability and mood swings, trouble with sleeping and low appetite and may cry easily. Statistics show as many as 80% of women experience some mood disturbances after pregnancy. It can start as soon as 24 hours after giving birth but is usually three to four days after. This is what many call this the “baby blues.” You can still be experiencing the baby blues even if this isn’t your first child and you have never had any concerns before.
What causes the baby blues?
Your body is going through so many changes now. Your hormone levels are dropping, your body is making milk for breastfeeding and you are physically (and mentally) trying to adjust to all that a mother of a newborn deals with. It’s no wonder you feel anxious and overwhelmed. The baby blues are perfectly understandable. Moms have to remember it isn’t something they can control and shouldn’t blame themselves. The baby blues are considered by many as a normal part of motherhood. For most, the baby blues last from a few days up to a little more than a week. If these feeling continue, or seem to get worse, it might be more than just the baby blues.
What is postpartum depression?
In the beginning postpartum depression can look like just the baby blues. The length and severity of the symptoms are what separates the two. About 10% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. The exact cause isn’t known, but as with the baby blues, sudden hormonal changes are believed to be part of the cause of postpartum depression. One theory is the levels of estrogen and progesterone that have increased during pregnancy drop suddenly after delivery produce chemical changes in the brain. Researchers think the big change in hormone levels is what may lead to depression in some.
Postpartum depression usually sets in soon after childbirth and develops gradually over a period of several months. It is important to note postpartum depression can come on suddenly months even after delivery and the first signs don’t appear until then. If depressive symptoms appear within six months of having a baby, postpartum depression should be considered. It is important to speak with your doctor if you feel it might be more than just the baby blues. Postpartum depression needs to be treated and won’t disappear on its own.
What are the signs of postpartum depression?
- Lack of interest in your baby
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Loss of pleasure in things that use to bring pleasure
- Negative feelings toward your baby
- Worrying about hurting yourself or your baby
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Whether it is the baby blues or depression, here are a few suggestions that can help:
Exercising – For some people exercise works as well as antidepressants and you will look better, sleep better, and hopefully less depressed. A helpful tip is to exercise with others for support.
Continuing to eat a healthy diet -build around fruits and vegetables, limit unhealthy fat and sugars, flaxseeds, nuts and dark green vegetables for a great foundation
Supplementation -B-12 & omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to ease mood changes and depression symptoms.
Healthy carbohydrates -eaten alone without protein raise the levels of serotonin –good options are baked sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta and healthy crackers.
Be careful with coffee -caffeine can make you jittery and anxious all by itself so it might be a good time to limit intake.
Get lots of sunshine & fresh air –sunlight has been shown to benefit depression.
Do something that gives you pleasure –take time to do the things you enjoy because you are worth it!
Need to rest and relax your mind –stress and anxiety can make depression symptoms worse so it can be a great time to take that yoga class or good time to learn the art of meditation.
Continue to engage with your social network as much as possible – engage with those around you on a regular basis. You have a new role as mom of a little one but it is important to keep our connections with others strong as well.
Sleep is SO important –I am sure you are asking “what is sleep.” You always hear sleep when your baby sleeps but it is so true. Getting enough rest and establishing good sleeping habits for you (and your baby) will help you feel better both mentally and physically…
Avoid Alcohol & Drugs –they can make depression and anxiety worse and can prevent recovery.
Seeking treatment when needed is very important –depression is a serious illness. Medical treatment and counseling can be a very important component to recovery and a healthy life. Make sure you talk with your doctor to help you get in touch with those in your area who are trained to help.
Call your doctor if:
- You feel so overwhelmed you can’t perform tasks you need to
- Your symptoms of depression seem to get more and more intense
- You are unable to care for yourself or your baby
- You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby