Postpartum depression is a serious matter that deserves to receive just as much attention as any other physical or mental health issue, to assure moms all around the world that they are not alone. Yes, maternal mental health is important! The general public needs to have enough information about it to know how to help someone with postpartum depression when they find themselves in a position to help.
Maternal mental health awareness month is celebrated every year in May to educate people about what millions of women go through and to spread awareness about the importance of identifying and overcoming postpartum depression early on.
In honor of the month, we, at Mooditude, are doing our part for the awareness campaign to educate the general public about postpartum depression and the challenges of motherhood along with a brief guide on how you can support the new mothers in your family going through tough times.
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
The birth of a child can evoke a range of emotions in a mother, from happiness, joy, and delight to anxiety and fear of not being able to adjust to her new role. A rather unexpected response to a child’s birth that arises amongst a great number of women during pregnancy and after childbirth is depression, specifically known as perinatal depression and postpartum depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression impacts around every 1 in 8 women; the number of women that report symptoms of PPD varies depending upon several factors including age, race, ethnicity, environment, and more.
Postpartum depression is not a trivial matter to be brushed under the rug, rather, it is a serious issue that requires immediate attention to ensure the safety of both, the mother and the child. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a condition that only affects new moms, it can also occur in mothers that didn’t have it with their older children.
Maternal mental health awareness campaigns are crucial, therefore, to ensure that the people surrounding mothers during pregnancy and childbirth have enough knowledge to know how to help someone with postpartum depression, may they be partners, friends, or family members.
Mild cases of peripartum or perinatal depression begin during pregnancy, leaving women vulnerable to develop ‘baby blues’ or postpartum depression up to one year after childbirth. During that time, women are especially in need of moral, emotional, and physical support in order to deal with postpartum symptoms while taking care of the baby.
This is an illness thattakes away a woman’s ability to access joy… right at the time she needs it the most.— Dr. Katherine Wisner
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a severe form of ‘baby blues’ which is why symptoms can often be mistaken for the latter. Major symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Excessive crying and extreme sadness.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Changes in eating habits and appetite.
- Severe mood swings.
- Indifference and detachment.
- Extreme anxiety and stress.
- Increased physical and mental fatigue.
- Stressing over being a bad mother.
- Fear of harming one’s baby.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Lack of interest, and loss of energy.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Nervousness, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness.
Tips For Overcoming Postpartum Depression
Most of the time, to overcome postpartum depression or PPD the mothers can be treated at home with simple lifestyle alterations and relaxing techniques. Other times, severe cases of PPD can require professional help and therapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), postpartum depression support groups, and medications such as antidepressants.
There are much simpler strategies and tips for overcoming postpartum depression without medication as well, that can be included in your daily routine for relief in PPD symptoms. Here are 5 tips for overcoming postpartum depression at home:
Be Mindful of Your Diet
Diet plays a huge role in regulating hormones and mood. Perinatal and postpartum depression is characterized by mood alterations and excessive sadness. Research indicates a connection between diet and perinatal depression. It is suggested that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can prevent the development of postpartum depression. Generally, it is good to consume a nutrient-dense diet that includes proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates for better mental health.
Gradually Include Exercise in Your Routine
According to Reuters, physical activity during pregnancy and post-childbirth can prevent the onset of postpartum depression, PPD. If you’re someone who isn’t used to exercising a lot, gradually introducing low-intensity workouts into your routine can be helpful in overcoming postpartum depression. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown workout, rather, it could be a stroll in the park with the newborn to bond with, or it could be yoga, aerobics, or stretching.
Indulge in Self-Care
Granted, mom duties take up a lot of time and are quite overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time mom, but self-care is just as important because your child deserves a mother who is fit and healthy, not only physically but also mentally. It’s understandable to not want to let the baby out of sight, but for the sake of your mental health, it’s a good idea to let your partner or family member take over while you take some time off indulging in relaxing activities like napping, reading a book, taking a bubble bath, or watching a movie.
Breastfeed the Baby
According to research, breastfeeding is linked to lower susceptibility to developing postpartum depression and can aid in reducing symptoms of PPD, along with regulating the mother’s mood and reducing negative emotions. Alternatively, some research suggests that there’s a condition called Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER), that can have the opposite effect and prompt negative emotions right before milk release. However, there is very little research to be sure of its cause. Generally, breastfeeding seems to be a good bonding session for the mother and the baby and is more likely to evoke positive feelings.
Surround Yourself With Supportive People
Support is the single, most important thing someone can need during tough times. For women suffering from PPD, it can feel like they’re alone with no one to help them through their dark time, and as we have established before, isolation and depression do not mix well together. A group of people that you can call your ‘support system’, who are there for you when you need them, doing their best to understand your predicament are the ones you need to surround yourself with to make sure the loneliness doesn’t make you do something reckless.
How to Help Someone With Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can increase the risk of women developing chronic depression as well as other physical, mental, and behavioral issues. As a friend, family member, or partner, it is your responsibility to look out for them and to ensure their mental health doesn’t deteriorate. Here is how you can be of help to take care of maternal mental health:
Identify the Signs
It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of PPD if you’re going to be there for your partner or friend, which is one of the reasons why maternal mental health awareness is so important. Once you identify the signs, you can figure out ways to help them.
After childbirth, women tend to neglect their mental and physical health to provide care to the baby. During this time, you, as a partner or friend, can offer to care for the baby, allowing the mother some personal self-care time to focus on herself.
With being the primary caretaker of the baby, house chores only add to the anxiety and stress of the mother. The obvious thing to do — and I suppose every understanding partner does it — is to offer to do the house chores, like laundry, cleaning, and washing the dishes.
Encourage Seeking Professional Help
As an observer, if you realize your partner or your friend’s symptoms seem to worsen with time instead of getting better, encouraging them to get professional medical help is the right thing to do.
Overcoming postpartum depression requires effort on the part of both partners as well as family members. Maternal mental health awareness month can not only help women feel validated, but it can also help them feel secure knowing there are people who understand them and know how to help someone with postpartum depression, especially for mothers who have no one to ask for help.
Mooditude offers Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a multitude of relaxing activities like journaling, mood tracking, and online forum chats to certified psychologists that can assist you or your loved one through PPD.