Postpartum depression is a serious mental health crisis, affecting between 6 and 15 percent of new mothers and disproportionately affecting people with pre-existing mood or anxiety disorders (with about seven times as much risk). Postpartum depression can range from mild to debilitating, leaving new parents feeling anywhere from joyless and exhausted to self-deprecating and even suicidal. However, understanding how to practice postpartum depression self-care can help those who are struggling.
Who Develops Postpartum Depression?
We do not know enough about how postpartum depression occurs or why some people have a higher predisposition toward developing symptoms of depression before and after birth. Some research points towards the sudden changes in a person’s hormone levels during and after labor – while the birth of a newborn is often one of the greatest joys a human being can experience, many also experience a horrifying emotional drop right after, as your body readjusts to post-pregnancy.
But hormones are not the only factor determining a person’s mood and depressive symptoms after giving birth. There is a confluence of risk factors – and protective factors – that can negatively and positively affect a new parent’s mental health.
Early intervention and a consistent postpartum depression self-care program can do a lot to minimize your risk of long-term postpartum depression, affect your symptoms over time, and help you cope with one of the most debilitating and common mood disorders in the world.
Knowing Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression usually refers to symptoms of depression that develop soon after giving birth. In some cases, postpartum depression stems from peripartum depression, where symptoms begin before labor.
Postpartum depression is a distinct condition from other mood disorders because it must be uniquely linked to labor and childbirth – someone who is diagnosed with untreated major depressive disorder may simply experience the same or greater symptoms after childbirth due to the stress and impact of having a newborn.
A history of depression or anxiety does not guarantee postpartum depression, however. If you’re in treatment for depression or have already recovered from a mood disorder, then chances are that you will not feel especially sadder after your child is born.
One way or the other, it’s important to note that there is no way to know for certain if you will or will not experience symptoms of postpartum depression if you are pregnant. Worrying about it if you are not currently depressed may not be productive. Even if you have a high risk, it is never 100 percent.
If you are diagnosed with postpartum depression, know that early intervention is conducive to successful treatment. Don’t wait – talk to a mental health professional as soon as you can. If you are worried that your partner or relative might be struggling with postpartum depression, talk to them about it. Many young parents are afraid of the social stigma of a mental health diagnosis and the costs of treatment. They need support and reassurance.
Four Ways to Practice Postpartum Depression Self-Care
Here are four ways you can implement postpartum depression self-care in your daily routine.
1. Keep Up Peer Support
Among most self-care techniques and tips, one of the most important for young parents is to maintain and seek out help from others, whether it’s material, emotional, or financial.
Ask friends and family to chip in for small things to help take some stress off a new birth, like a diaper supply, some baby clothes, winter clothes, and bibs.
Visit and talk to local support groups, or find online communities to exchange tips, tricks, and ideas for managing the early tasks of parenting while struggling with depressive thoughts and exhaustion. While depression can feel lonely and debilitating, it’s important to remember that you are not alone.
2. Don’t Stop Therapy
It cannot be stressed enough that the best treatment for postpartum and peripartum depression is consistent and early intervention.
Don’t stop going to therapy because you feel better. As upsetting as this might be, that feeling of contentment and that sense of balance might not last, especially if it’s the first time you’ve been feeling “normal” since beginning your treatment. It can mean that you’ve dealt with the baby blues and are improving, or it can be temporary.
Many people with mood disorders make the mistake of skipping out on therapy or quitting medication as soon as symptoms improve. It takes time for these changes to become the new normal – continue seeing a professional and take your medication as prescribed.
Eventually, you can wean off antidepressants and reduce your appointments, or just call in every now and again to schedule an appointment on an as-needed basis rather than a treatment schedule. However, trust your medical professionals to know what they’re doing and to know when you’re ready to be finished with your treatment plan.
Self-care is a powerful tool, but it is not the only tool in your arsenal. Do not be afraid to leverage professional mental healthcare whenever you need it, especially in cases of severe postpartum depression.
3. Work On Your Coping Habits
Outside of therapy, the best postpartum depression self-care plan is the one that is unique to you! That means exploring your different coping mechanisms to find the most effective and healthiest coping habits that suit your circumstances. Maybe it’s time to get back into indoor rock climbing or novel writing.
However, being the parent of a newborn usually means that both personal time and resources are pretty scarce, so consider focusing on coping habits that are easy to pick up and put back down, giving you a few minutes a day to relax, unwind, or kill some stress in between parental duties.
On the other hand, beware of maladaptive coping mechanisms – these are ways of coping that might be effective at reducing stress in the short term but will only lead to more trouble down the road – trading one problem for a whole slew of others. Maladaptive coping mechanisms include substance use, risk-heavy thrill-chasing, gambling, binge eating, emotional numbing, or negative safety behaviors (i.e., extreme risk aversion and seeking constant reassurance).
4. Include a Treat for Mom
Once you have identified positive stress management options that help you, are affordable both financially and timewise, and don’t distract you from your day-to-day tasks, it’s important to be consistent about making time for them, even if it’s just a few minutes a day.
Parents who are more likely to struggle with postpartum depression or already struggle with mood disorders are less likely to give themselves the time and attention they need to work on their mental health. Just hearing from others that you deserve to feel happy or normal might not be enough.
Postpartum Depression Treatment in Malibu
If you feel unable to make time for yourself or constantly struggle with negative thoughts that keep you from devoting yourself to healthier coping and mental recovery, consider talking to someone. It could be a counselor, a therapist, or a psychiatrist.