Recognizing and Overcoming Postpartum Depression
Welcoming a new child into your family is one of the most exciting experiences as a parent. However, in some cases the joy of childbirth can be overshadowed by overwhelming feelings of sadness, irritability, self-doubt, inadequacy and exhaustion as you face the challenges of being a mother or father. If these feelings intensify and persist for more than two weeks after the birth of your child and interfere with your ability to function and properly care for your baby, then you may be experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, PPD is the most common, and most under-diagnosed, obstetrical complication in the United States. In fact, one in five mothers and one in ten fathers experience PPD.
Common signs of PPD include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Appetite changes
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, anxiety, irritability, inadequacy as a parent and a lack of connection with your baby
- Obsessive thoughts about your baby’s safety
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Difficulty concentrating
If you think you are experiencing PPD:
- Call your obstetrician or another health care provider (i.e., marriage and family therapist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker or occupational therapist).
- Ask about local support groups for PPD.
- Call the anonymous Postpartum Support International warmline at 1-800-944-4773.
- Visit www.maternalmentalhealthla.org, www.postpartum.net, and www.2020mom.org for more resources.
In addition, you can also follow these tips:
- Ask for help, or accept help when it is offered. When you are feeling overwhelmed and tired, do not try to deal with the stress alone.
- Sleep whenever you can. Sleep deprivation increases symptoms of PPD. Therefore, try to take naps, and ask your spouse or family members to help with night feedings.
- Eat a balanced diet. Nutrients are essential for proper body and brain function. If you are able, try healthy meal planning, purchase easy-to-prepare whole foods, or ask friends and family to prepare nutritious meals for you.
- Connect with other people. Talking about your feelings with others can help reduce depressive symptoms.
- Be kind to yourself. Welcoming a new addition to the family is a huge life change that affects each person in a different way. During this time of transition and change, don’t do too much and/or compare yourself to others, since doing so can increase feelings of inadequacy. Simply do whatever works for you and your family.
- Get gentle exercise. Exercise increases endorphins that send “feel-good” signals to your brain. Taking the baby out for a walk or wearing your baby while taking a stroll are great ways to be active, breathe fresh air, and soothe not only yourself, but also your baby.
Raising a happy and healthy baby starts with happy and healthy parents. If you, your spouse, or someone you know is experiencing the effects of PPD, health care providers are here to help. With proper support, it is possible to manage and overcome PPD so that both parent and child can bond and flourish.