Understanding PPD Diagnosis and Dealing with the Challenges of Motherhood
Becoming a new parent can be an overwhelmingly joyous and exciting experience, however it can also be incredibly isolating and stressful at times. For some women, this stress can result in postpartum depression.
Despite acknowledging their mental state to be less than ideal, many mothers afflicted with postpartum depression struggle to seek help due to feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty coping with the transition into motherhood.
It's important for women experiencing postpartum depression to reach out for professional help. But until they can do so, here are 10 tips they can consider in order to cope better with their depression symptoms.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a form of clinical depression that affects women after giving birth. It's more than just the occasional blue mood; it is marked by extreme fatigue, sadness, low motivation, significant appetite changes and more.
Women may also experience an inability to bond with the newborn or enjoy activities that were previously pleasurable. PPD often occurs in the first year or two following childbirth, although it can also arise later. Statistics show that one in seven women develop PPD after childbirth. However, nearly half of women with PPD go undiagnosed because of social stigma surrounding motherhood depression.
CAUSES OF PPD
Childbirth is a physically traumatic process that affects women both physically and mentally. Pregnancy can dramatically interrupt a female's hormone levels which lead to physical, psychological, and emotional changes. These changes along with lifestyle changes that inevitably occur in a woman's personal life and relationships can be hard on new mothers.
It's normal for most women to experience bouts of sadness or stress during the first two weeks post-delivery, this is known as the "baby blues." Postpartum depression lasts longer than a few weeks and tends to be more severe. Depression after birth can impact a new mother’s life more significantly and can negatively affect her relationship with her newborn baby.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS?
Postpartum psychosis is a mental illness that can occur after pregnancy and childbirth. It is a rare and serious disorder but can be effectively treated with psychiatric care. Symptoms may include hallucinations, delusional thinking, paranoia, aggression, rapid mood swings, and suicidal thoughts.
This condition can significantly impair an individual’s ability to function well or complete daily tasks. If left untreated or undiagnosed, postpartum psychosis can become very severe and could lead to harm of oneself or others. Because of the potential risks associated with this disorder, it is important for individuals to seek help as soon as possible.
Postpartum psychosis usually occurs after the onset of postpartum depression. If you notice any signs of psychosis, it's important to reach out and get help immediately.
Who Can Have Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression affects women who have given birth to a child, but new fathers and other family members may be affected also. A new baby brings about many new changes and challenges in a mother's life as well as her partner and family members in her household. It's not uncommon for spouses and other family members to experience symptoms of PPD.
According to statistics, about 75% of people experience sadness after the birth of a baby and up to 15% will develop PPD. Unfortunately, maternal mental health is often overlooked as the birth of a newborn is generally seen as a joyous event. This can make seeking help for postpartum psychiatric disorders more difficult.
What Are Some of the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
Everyone experiences postpartum depression differently, but often there are feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, and loss of interest in activities. Additionally, physical health disturbances such as difficulty sleeping or changes to appetite can be present.
Other symptoms of PPD can include:
- Worrying excessively or feeling on edge.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or things you once enjoyed.
- Loss of energy and motivation.
- Trouble sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time.
- Crying for no reason or excessively.
- Difficulty thinking or focusing.
- Thoughts of suicide or wishing you were dead.
- Lack of interest in taking care of your baby or feeling bothered by your baby.
- Intrusive thoughts of hurting your baby or feeling like your baby was a mistake.
Postpartum depression may make new mothers more likely to withdraw from their friends and family or from their new baby. Newborn babies and other children in the household may also suffer from their mother's PPD as it can interfere with her ability to care for them. Mothers should take care to recognize the symptoms of PPD so they can seek help and be treated appropriately.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A DOCTOR?
You should seek treatment for postpartum depression if your symptoms don't go away after a couple of weeks, if your symptoms get worse, you can't care for yourself of your baby, or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. PPD is a serious psychiatric condition that can interfere with your daily life and relationships if not treated or taken seriously.
Postpartum depression may be more likely and severe if you have a history of mental health illness or depression. Mothers and people experiencing PPD should seek treatment from a professional sooner rather than later.
How Is Postpartum Depression Treated?
Postpartum depression is typically treated with psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, or group therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is goal-oriented, looking at thoughts and behaviors that need to be changed. Interpersonal therapy emphasizes improving relationships with those around you, while group sessions may provide mutual support.
Medication such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can also be prescribed by a doctor, and their use should always be supervised by a healthcare professional. Other treatments such as mindfulness training, alternative medicines, and lifestyle changes such as exercise may also help in managing postpartum depression symptoms.
Are There Risk Factors for Who Develops Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression can happen to anyone but there are several things that can increase your risk.
Factors that may increase your likelihood include:
- Depression experienced during the past or a past experience with postpartum depression.
- There is a family history of depression or mental illness.
- A traumatic event during pregnancy, such as a death in the family, can influence the mother.
- Substance abuse.
- Complications during labor and infant health concerns.
- Having mixed feelings about the pregnancy.
- Insufficient support system.
It is advisable to inform a doctor of any risk factors for postpartum depression prior to conception or during the early stages of pregnancy. If the baby has been born, the doctor may be able to assist in treatment for postpartum depression.
10 Helpful Tips For Dealing With Postpartum Depression
Whether you are experiencing PPD yourself or are helping a new mother, these 10 tips for dealing with postpartum depression can help you on your way to recovery.
1. FIND SOMEONE TO CONFIDE IN
Having a person to confide in is an important part of life. It's someone who you can trust to listen, understand, and support you. They don't judge; rather they provide empathy and kindness. A confidant may be a friend or family member, or even a professional therapist or counselor.
Many women experiencing postpartum depression feel isolated from their friends and family. They may feel insecure or guilty about opening up about their feelings, which can make PPD symptoms worse. Having a confidant is an important step towards PPD recovery.
When looking for someone to confide in, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and safe with them. Having a confidant allows you to express your thoughts and feelings and get them off your chest. Opening up about your struggles with postpartum depression is an important first step for recovery.
2. JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP FOR NEW MOMS
Joining a support group for new parents is a great way to connect with other parents who may be going through similar experiences. It can provide an opportunity to share stories, advice, and tips to help each other out. It can also be a great way to make friends and build relationships with people who understand what you’re going through as a parent.
The best way to join a support group is to ask your doctor or midwife for a referral. You can also search online for support groups in your area or look into local motherhood programs. Talking to other mothers or parents who are struggling with PPD can be helpful for understanding that you're not alone.
3. PRACTICE SELF CARE
Self-care can be defined as anything that improves your physical and mental health. Self-care can be anything from going to the spa, listening to your favorite music, finding time to watch your favorite television show, or meditation. Self-care is especially important for new mothers who regularly sacrifice their own needs for their children's.
Mothers experiencing PPD may suffer from a loss of identity as they struggle to take care of their own needs while adjusting to motherhood. By proactively making effort to practice self-care, new mothers can regain some of their identity and sanity. Self-care will also help mothers relieve stress and improve their mood.
4. EAT HEALTHY & EXERCISE
Eating healthy and exercising are essential components of living a healthy lifestyle. By eating nutritious foods and getting regular exercise, you can maintain your body weight, strengthen your immune system, reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, boost energy levels, and improve mental health and mood.
Eating healthy and exercising can improve symptoms of PPD by improving your overall quality of life. Exercise can also be meditative. It is one part of your day where you focus solely on the exercise you are performing to the exclusion of all other thoughts. It also releases endorphins, or the feel-good chemicals in your brain that improve your mood. A healthy meal plan and exercise routine is an important part of any postpartum depression recovery plan.
5. PRIORITIZE REST
Rest is an essential part of life and should be prioritized to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Getting enough quality sleep every night is key to feeling rested and energized during the day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can negatively affect mental health, lower your immune system, and make it more difficult to participate in day-to-day activities.
New mothers and fathers are most at risk for sleep deprivation. If you're suffering from PPD, getting more sleep may help reduce your symptoms. Try getting more sleep by switching off caretaking duties between you and your spouse or seek help from family and friends who can watch your baby while you get some much-needed rest.
6. TALK TO OTHER MOMS
It is easy to get into a routine of isolation, especially when you are a new parent. Doing the same thing, day after day, can be draining and depressing. That’s why it’s important to make an effort to reach out and communicate with others who are going through similar experiences.
A study published by the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry provides evidence that social interaction with peers can help reduce feelings of depression. The research found that new mothers found relief and comfort in talking with other experienced moms who had suffered from postpartum depression.
After having regular conversations for four weeks and then eight weeks after delivery, the moms reported lower levels of depression. People who are suffering from PPD should regularly reach out to other mothers who may share similar experiences. You don’t even have to leave your house—try connecting with fellow parents or friends via video or phone calls for support.
7. GO EASY ON YOURSELF
When you’re struggling with postpartum depression, it can be hard to give yourself grace. You may feel like a failure as a parent and feel guilty for not meeting the expectations of motherhood. It's easy to be too hard on yourself as your adjusting to the new changes and expectations of being a first-time parent. Postpartum depression is a common struggle and nothing to be ashamed of.
It takes time to recover from PPD with treatment and ample support available. Knowing that you're not alone in this struggle and taking the time to practice self-care are both very important steps in the healing process. Above all else, understanding that the experience of postpartum depression is valid should be your top priority — so go easy on yourself when you need to most.
8. ASK FOR HELP
Asking for help is often seen as a sign of weakness, but it can actually be empowering. The sense of strength that comes with admitting that you need assistance from others and going out of your way to find it is invaluable. Learning how to turn to reliable sources for comfort and advice can dealing with postpartum depression much more manageable.
The first step in asking for help is being honest about what you're going through. Reach out to those you trust, whether family, friends, or coworkers, and tell them what’s going on in your life. Your support group will likely be more than willing to help you in any way possible whether that's by lending an ear, being a shoulder to cry on, or helping you with day-to-day tasks that make new motherhood easier.
There is no shame in asking for help when you are struggling. Asking for help can make your life easier and being a new parent more enjoyable.
9. FIND TIME TO GET AWAY
Going outside or completing an errand, regardless of how small, can provide a much-needed break during the overwhelming process of caring for a newborn. For example, running to the grocery store by yourself. Physically leaving your house and venturing out into the world will not only help relieve feelings of loneliness but also provide some welcomed distractions from the routine that can accompany taking care of an infant.
It’s important though to remember that it’s okay to be mindful about how many tasks you can manage in each day. Overloading yourself with errands when you should be taking care of yourself might actually make you feel more anxious or overwhelmed. This may mean skipping some errands altogether or setting aside a few hours here and there throughout the week to complete them so that it doesn't become too much in one day.
Finding what works best for you will ensure that you’re successfully taking steps each day as a means of self-care while still able to fully focus on caring for your newborn.
10. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
Seeking help for your mental health is an important part of self-care and should be considered if you are suffering from severe symptoms of PPD. PPD is a major depressive disorder that may require professional help or medication. Licensed counselors and psychiatrists can recommend treatment plans and medicinal prescriptions to help relieve symptoms of PPD and help you recover more quickly.
Mothers who are breastfeeding may worry about medication passing through breast milk and potentially harming the baby. Fortunately, there are various antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications available that are safe to use while breastfeeding.
It's always best to consult your doctor first before taking any medication as they will be able to advise if it's suitable or not. Taking medication alongside therapy allows one to tackle both treatments simultaneously, giving a greater chance for faster results in improving mental health.
Other Ways to Find Support for Postpartum Depression
TAKE TO SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media can be a great way to connect with people, including new mothers, from the comfort of your own home. If you're looking for support with PPD, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have online forums and pages that allows other new mothers a place to connect with one another. You can read about experiences of other new moms or share your own experiences.
Just take care for how much you share online. While social media can be a positive and helpful tool, it can also open you up to online harassment and potential conflict in real life. Be sure to only share details of your life you don't mind making public and never tell anyone online personal information like your home address.
TALK TO MOMS AT THE PLAYGROUND
All moms are going through much of the same experiences and many of them are open and willing to connect with other moms they have things in common with. Take the opportunity to make new friends and meet new moms in places you frequent, such as the playground or your children's sports practice. It's a great way to socialize while also finding support from other mothers who understand what you are going through.
TALK TO A TRUSTED RELIGIOUS LEADER
If you are religious or belong to a local religious organization, consider talking to your religious leader, such as a priest or rabbi. Religious leaders are often people of good faith whom you can trust and confide in. If you're suffering from depression, they may be able to offer kind words of encouragement and hope. They may also be able to connect you with other church members who may have the resources to offer you help for your situation.
TAKE TIME TO PROCESS YOUR EMOTIONS
When you are a busy new mom, it can be hard to slow down and make time for yourself. Caring for a baby is exhausting and can push your own needs and emotions to the wayside in favor of caring for the little one. Unfortunately, this can also lead to an increase in the symptoms of postpartum depression. In order to process these feelings, however, you must allow yourself time to actually “Feel The Feels“.
Carving out moments throughout your day where you consciously sit down, close your eyes and just let yourself feel is essential to managing those unpredictable emotions that come with motherhood. Deep breathing can help bring some clarity in those intense moments.
Writing down your feelings or sharing them with someone you trust can also have a calming effect on your emotions, allowing you the space to recognize what is going on within and move through them more clearly. Allowing yourself time each day to process these emotions will be well worth it in the long run.
UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN LIMITS
Many expecting moms hope to have the perfect little family and the perfect life when they bring home their newest addition. This can lead to intense pressure and expectations that can be hard to live up to, especially when postpartum depression kicks in. It is important for moms in this situation to understand their limits and remember that it is okay not to be "perfect." Recognizing these limits will help them put aside unrealistic expectations and help keep their mental health in check.
The reality of having a baby is that it will take care, attention, and time away from other areas of life like keeping a tidy home or writing thank you notes for baby gifts. It helps if moms in this situation prioritize their mental health above all else and remind themselves that this season will pass eventually. Taking breaks for self-care, getting some help with household tasks, sleep when you can, and don't hesitate to reach out for professional help if needed are all ways to recognize your limits during this challenging time.
What Ways Can You Prevent Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that affects many new mothers. It can have a negative effect on both the mother and her baby, so it's important to take steps to prevent it from happening. Fortunately, there are several ways that you can help reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF DURING & AFTER PREGNANCY
One of the most important things you can do is make sure to take care of yourself both during and after your pregnancy. This means getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and taking some time for yourself. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally will make the task of parenthood less arduous. It's easier to navigate postpartum depression when you are starting with a healthy mind and body.
BUILD A STRONG SUPPORT SYSTEM
Building a strong support system before and during your pregnancy will be helpful to you in times of need. Knowing you have people to rely on when you need them can be helpful in reducing your stress and workload. Make sure to keep your friends and family close during this period of your life and don't be afraid to reach out to them for help.
TALK TO A THERAPIST NOW
If you believe you are at risk for postpartum depression, talk to a therapist or licensed mental health professional now. They may be able to help you understand what to expect and how to cope with your symptoms of PPD. Establishing a relationship with a professional now will make it easier for you to find help when and if you are diagnosed with postpartum depression.
Unique Gifts For New Mothers
Supporting a new mother through postpartum depression is one of the best gifts you can give to your friend or loved one. During this transitional time, much of the attention is focused on the new baby. New mothers and their needs are sometimes overlooked. If you feel that your friend or loved one could use some extra love, a gift can be a thoughtful gesture to brighten their day. Below are some ideas for unique gifts for new mothers.
PHOTO ENGRAVED KEYCHAIN
Many new mothers are constantly on the go whether they are out and about running errands for their household or working moms. A photo engraved keychain with the image of their new baby makes a thoughtful and useful gift.
Photo engraved keychains come in multiple styles and metals and include the option for letter engraving. A keychain is a unique way for a new mother to keep a photo of her beloved newborn with her when she is on the go.
PICTURE JEWELRY TO CELEBRATE A NEW BABY
Picture jewelry is a beautiful way to celebrate a new baby. Color photo engraved jewelry allows you to laser engrave a newborn's picture onto a beautiful jewelry pendant that a new mother can wear close to her heart always. Color photo engraved new baby jewelry is realistic rendering of a photograph onto a metal pendant.
New mothers can wear their picture jewelry to keep their baby close to them when they return to work to help them cope with missing their baby. It can be a source of comfort for mothers who can't always be near their baby.
PHOTO ENGRAVED JEWELRY WITH BIRTHSTONE
Photo engraved jewelry with birthstones is a beautiful and meaningful way to commemorate special occasions or honor loved ones. The process involves etching a high-resolution image onto a piece of jewelry, usually gold or silver. It’s then enhanced with the addition of a birthstone, adding an extra layer of personalization.
This type of jewelry is perfect for marking important milestones such as the birth of a new baby. Photo engraved jewelry with birthstones are beautiful gifts for new mothers who want to commemorate the birth of their baby. You can personalize the jewelry pendant with your favorite photo of the mother and baby, the baby's birthstone, and a special engraved message.
POSTPARTUM GIFT BOX
A postpartum gift box is a collection of items designed to support new mothers throughout their postpartum recovery. They are typically filled with items such as candles, tea, snacks, skincare products, and relaxation tools. The purpose of a postpartum gift box is to provide reassurance for difficulties associated with such an emotional time in a woman's life.
It is intended to give the mother an opportunity to take time for herself and ease into the transition from pregnancy to motherhood with confidence. You can choose the items for a postpartum gift box and put it together yourself, or by one pre-made. Retail websites like Etsy offer postpartum gift boxes with unique items.
MEAL DELIVERY SUBSCRIPTION
A meal service delivery subscription can be very useful for new mothers who are juggling household chores such as caring for other children. Cooking meals is a laborious and time-consuming task that new mothers often struggle with. A meal delivery service means one less task a new mother is burdened with. It ensures that she and her family can continue to eat healthy, balanced meals with minimal prep and cook time.
Gifting a new mother therapy sessions may not be super common, but they can be incredibly useful. Many people are resistant to seeking out help for their mental health, even if they need it. Gifting a new mom therapy sessions may make her more likely to pursue help for her mental health, especially if she suffers from postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Frequently Asked Questions
How can I help someone with postpartum depression?
One of the best ways to help someone with postpartum depression is by listening and offering emotional support. Let them know that you are willing to listen without judgment and provide reassurance that this is a common experience for people in similar situations.
Encourage the person suffering from postpartum depression to seek professional help, as this can help them address root causes of their feelings. Furthermore, providing tangible help such as running errands or helping with childcare can take some of the burden off the individual and give them a break from the stresses of parenting.
How long does postpartum depression last?
Postpartum depression can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months or even longer. It is important for someone suffering from postpartum depression to seek professional help from their health care provider or mental health specialist. Common treatments for postpartum depression include talking therapy, support groups and antidepressant medication.
Additionally, lifestyle changes such as getting enough rest, exercise and good nutrition can help reduce symptoms of postpartum depression. Each person's recovery timeline will look different, but the best way to ensure the quickest possible recovery is through seeking professional help early on.
Can I take medications for postpartum depression if I am breastfeeding?
Yes, women can take medications for postpartum depression while breastfeeding. However, it's important to consult a doctor before taking any medication, as some medicines can pass through breastmilk and potentially have an adverse effect on the baby. Your doctor will be able to advise you on suitable medications that are compatible with breastfeeding.
Additionally, make sure to regularly monitor your supply of breastmilk and your baby's development if you do decide to take medication for postpartum depression while breastfeeding.
What is the outlook for someone with postpartum depression?
Someone with postpartum depression can have a good outlook with proper treatment. Postpartum depression is treatable, and while the symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, many medications and therapies are available to help those suffering from it.
Depending on the severity, someone with postpartum depression may need one or several treatments such as psychotherapy, medication management, lifestyle changes, or a combination of these therapies. With appropriate intervention and support, people with postpartum depression can manage their condition and get back on track to enjoying life and parenting once again.
Can postpartum depression be prevented?
Postpartum depression can potentially be prevented with education and early intervention. Developing a postpartum plan prior to the baby's arrival that includes managing stressors in the home, accessing support networks, and scheduling regular appointments with a healthcare professional are all strategies that could help prevent postpartum depression.
Additionally, educating expecting mothers about signs of postpartum depression and providing them with reliable resources may aid in the prevention of this mental health disorder.
What's the difference between perinatal depression and postpartum depression?
Perinatal depression is a type of depression which includes the entire gestational period, from the first trimester of pregnancy all the way up to delivery. Postpartum depression is a type of depression experienced by new mothers that starts anytime within a month after giving birth and can continue through the first year postpartum.
Whereas perinatal depression affects women during pregnancy and post-delivery, postpartum depression affects women only after they deliver their baby. Symptoms are also typically different with one or two symptoms overlapping between them, with perinatal being more severe in its presentation.
Can dads get postpartum depression?
Yes, dads can get postpartum depression. Although PPD is most often linked to mothers, it can also occur in fathers. It is important for fathers to recognize their own risk for postpartum depression and look for the signs, as it can affect relationships and parenting in a negative way.
Just like mothers, dads who experience postpartum depression may feel anxious or overwhelmed; have difficulty bonding with the baby; loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed; fatigue or sleep problems; decreased libido; irritability, guilt, and sadness. Fathers need to talk about their feelings with those that they trust, such as family members or mental health professionals, so that appropriate treatments can be found for them.
Can postpartum depression affect my baby?
Yes, postpartum depression can affect your baby’s development in many ways. Research suggests that mothers who suffer from postpartum depression are more likely to have difficulty parenting their children. This can interfere with bonding and attachment communication patterns between parent and child as well as the quality of discipline.
It may also affect a baby’s ability to achieve developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, and speaking. Lastly, studies show that babies whose mothers suffer from postpartum depression are more likely to experience delays in cognitive development.
Finding Your Happy After Having A Baby
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that can have a huge impact on the lives of new mothers. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, and to seek help if needed. Taking steps to reduce stress, eating healthy and exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and seeking support from family and friends can all help to prevent or manage postpartum depression.
March 22, 2023 by Jeri K. Augustus