Surviving Postpartum Depression
Going through pregnancy and childbirth is difficult on its own. Add in the complications of postpartum depression, and raising a brand-new child can be incredibly trying. As you may know, the difficulties do not end as soon as you have your child. For many mothers and fathers, postpartum depression is a very real and persistent part of parenthood. Whether you’ve just had your first baby or your fourth, postpartum depression can affect you. With the challenges life presents with a small child, it can be hard to feel confident in managing postpartum depression. It’s entirely possible, however, and the following information and tips will tell you how.
Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
You might already know that postpartum depression is a mental health issue that can occur after having a baby. Many people refer to it as the “baby blues” – a term describing the common sadness that affects parents of new babies. Pregnancy and childbirth are such life-altering experiences that mental health can become a concern in the aftermath. Identifying the symptoms of postpartum depression is the first step in healing.
Lack Of Interest In Activities
A lack of interest in activities is one of the manifestations of depression. For instance, a person with post-college depression or clinical depression may lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. People living with post-partum depression might also experience these symptoms, as many new parents feel uninterested in activities they once loved. Although a lot of these are simply things that new moms and dads just don’t have the time for, there is a difference in an inability to participate in activities due to the time constraints — and a complete lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. For example, perhaps before the baby, mom and dad loved spending time with college friends at a nightclub on the weekends. After they have a baby, they likely no longer have the desire or energy to go out every Friday night. This doesn’t necessarily mean that either of them has postpartum depression — they are simply new parents.
Instead, this particular postpartum depression symptom is something different. Enjoyable activities and hobbies no longer capture the attention of a parent with postpartum depression. This might mean sex, reading, or even watching sporting events. This symptom is often accompanied by others when you have baby blues. Gauging a new mother or father’s mental health requires the analysis of all symptoms of postpartum depression. If a parent is experiencing a lack of interest in beloved hobbies and activities, a counselor or doctor can help them to determine if this is a symptom of postpartum depression.
Change In Diet
An additional symptom that may occur because of postpartum depression is a change in diet. Although many mothers eat more while breastfeeding and either parent may even sometimes forget to eat as much, big diet changes can be an indicator that postpartum depression is present. If you notice that you are eating a lot more or much less than you did previously, postpartum depression may be a concern for your mental health.
What is considered a big enough change in your diet to be regarded as a postpartum depression symptom? For many people, a big diet change results in a noticeable weight fluctuation. Although a mother’s body weight may start shifting due to breastfeeding, a new lifestyle, or simply because she just had a child, weight gain or loss that fast might indicate a drastic diet change. Tracking your intake can help to determine how you are eating now compared to before the baby.
Anxiety And Fear In Parenthood
Becoming a parent to a little one can cause anxiety and fears that you never imagined. While some of these feelings are completely expected, postpartum depression can bring feelings of fear that are severe and/or consistent. Fears that come with postpartum depression often include the overall feeling of being a bad parent, consistent thoughts about the safety or health of your child, or being afraid to be alone with your baby. Many parents experience panic attacks and find their fears to be so excessive that they cannot sleep.
Insomnia, Inability To Stay Asleep, Or Sleep Problems In General
Beyond remaining awake due to fear, mothers or fathers with postpartum depression often experience a general inability to sleep or stay asleep. Of course, frequently when babies don’t sleep, parents don’t sleep. This particular symptom is for those who are unable to sleep even when the baby is sleeping. It can be dangerous to live with little to no sleep, so new parents experiencing this symptom should reach out for assistance from a counselor or medical professional as soon as they are able.
Although postpartum depression does not always reach this level, if you’re experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or your child, help should be sought out immediately. To get past postpartum depression, those living with it often require counseling, medication, or various other methods of treatment. Seeking help for this condition is often imperative. (If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24/7.)
How To Manage Postpartum Depression
Once you have identified your symptoms, finding help is necessary for moving forward. Counseling can often be arranged via your OB or family doctor. There are also several online resources, such as BetterHelp, that have mental health professionals trained in the best ways to assist those in need. Postpartum depression isn’t an issue that should be left alone — getting help as soon as possible can prevent symptoms from getting worse.
What’s Involved In Postpartum Depression Counseling?
Some people living with postpartum depression are hesitant to try psychotherapies or counseling because they imagine it to be highly uncomfortable. Spilling all of your thoughts to a stranger while sitting on a stiff armchair in an unfamiliar office can be intimidating to think about. However, many people feel that getting things off of their chest is freeing. Additionally, a therapist doesn’t simply listen. While listening to patients is a major component of therapy, counselors and therapists are also there to help find solutions.
What solutions might a therapist be looking for in counseling? Teaching patients with postpartum depression how to relax, how their thoughts might be inaccurate, how to change their thoughts into something positive, or how to best manage anxiety are common techniques in counseling. By finding the right counseling style for you or your loved one, symptoms of postpartum depression can be decreased, and healing can be made a priority.
What Does Medication Do For Postpartum Depression?
Some parents with postpartum depression are prescribed antidepressants to balance out naturally occurring chemicals in the brain. Many people wish to avoid medication due to unpleasant side effects. But avoiding side effects often simply requires trying a few different medications (based on your doctor’s recommendation) to find the best option for you. Postpartum depression can be scary if it goes untreated or if medication is stopped suddenly. If you begin taking an antidepressant, you must continue medication until your healthcare provider makes a change.
(Before beginning any medication, it’s crucial to discuss your options with your doctor to avoid any negative side effects.)
Other Ways To Manage Postpartum Depression
In addition to counseling and medicating, many new parents have found that there are a variety of other ways to improve mental health. Postpartum depression can hit suddenly or over time, so it is important to take an active role in attempting to manage it. Studies show that natural sunlight, regular exercise, and self-care are great ways to cope with depression positively.
It may be particularly helpful to practice these activities if you have a heightened risk of developing postpartum depression. Risk factors include a personal or family history of depression, financial hardship, relationship issues, and stresses, such as a loss of a job or an ill family, multiple births, or an especially difficult experience with breastfeeding. If you do have one or more of these factors, consider how natural remedies might help your depression.
Postpartum depression may not be easily solved with these remedies, but there is a chance that a walk in the sunlight can do you some good. Getting out and reminding yourself of the existence of life outside your home is necessary for a lot of new parents. Although you have another new life to care for, you must first take care of yourself.
Moving Past Postpartum Depression
When you’re in the midst of postpartum depression, you might wonder how you’ll ever find a way out. The knowledge that there is a way to make it through can be helpful. Using the tools and modern medicine available to you is the best way to get past postpartum depression. Dwelling on it and avoiding help will only serve to make it harder to manage.
If you are feeling as though you might have postpartum depression, there is no harm in seeking help before things get worse. Communicating with a counselor does not automatically mean that you have a mental illness like postpartum depression, nor does it mean that you have to continue with sessions beyond the first one. Simply giving counseling a try might help you to determine if postpartum depression is a concern for you. You can then determine if counseling is best for you and your situation.
Whether you choose counseling, medication, or another route to improving your mental health, postpartum depression can become a thing of the past for you with professional help. Do not hesitate to reach out for that help if you feel as though you may be struggling with this illness. With treatment, you may find that postpartum depression was a hurdle you had to jump to be a great parent. Allowing your mind to heal and taking care of yourself is the best way to then care for your brand-new child. Set a goal for healing and take positive steps toward achieving it!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the causes of postpartum depression?
Many physical changes happen during pregnancy and childbirth that can contribute to postpartum depression, though there is not usually a single known cause. After childbirth, a sudden drop in hormones may contribute to postpartum depression. Feelings of being overwhelmed with the care of a newborn, on top of sleep deprivation, can also be contributing factors to symptoms of depression, such as mood swings or feeling sad. Occasionally, new parents will have postpartum psychosis, a rare condition that causes confusion and extreme depression and puts both the baby and the mother or father in danger. For other health information on postpartum depression, contact your doctor or an expert in family health.
What is the postpartum period and how long does it last?
The first six weeks after giving birth are referred to as the postpartum period. However, some doctors believe the first six months after giving birth are a more accurate recovery timeline.
How can you prevent postpartum depression?
Patients with a history of depression or bipolar disorder should provide that information to their care provider, as they are at an increased risk of developing postpartum depression. The doctor can closely monitor the patient for signs of depression, postpartum depression, or postpartum psychosis. A history of depression can contribute to postpartum depression. A doctor may recommend support groups or other depression treatments during pregnancy. After giving birth, a postpartum depression screening should be administered, and new mothers and fathers should be monitored. The patient’s support system and family should also be aware of the symptoms of depression, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis. There are some patients for whom the doctor may recommend electroconvulsive therapy. For other health information on postpartum depression, contact a health services provider.
How bad is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression can vary from mild depression symptoms, lasting a day or up to a few weeks (also called the baby blues) to postpartum psychosis. A common symptom of postpartum depression is mood swings. The patient may just feel sad or have difficulty sleeping appetite changes, or difficulty completing daily tasks. The symptoms of depression can also include hopelessness, excessive crying, panic attacks, difficulty bonding with the baby, inability to care for your baby, and isolation from family and friends. These symptoms of depression can last for many months if left untreated.
What should you avoid after giving birth?
It is important to take time to properly recover after giving birth, both emotionally and physically. A good source of emotional support, such as friends and family, is vital, as is a good line of communication with your healthcare provider. As a new parent, you should take time to focus on both postpartum care and care for your baby.
How do I stay intimate after having a baby?
Most new parents are cleared for sexual activity six weeks after giving birth. However, many do not feel ready at this point. The first postpartum intimacy is often uncomfortable. Parents should listen to their bodies, communicate with their partners, and only proceed when comfortable.
Why do you have to wait 40 days after giving birth?
One of the most frequently asked questions by new parents is how long to wait for sexual intimacy. Most doctors suggest six weeks. At six weeks postpartum, the uterus has returned to its original size, bleeding has stopped, and any tearing has healed.
What are the 3 different types of lochia?
Lochia is the postpartum vaginal discharge that contains blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. Lochia rubra is the first stage. It is red due to a large amount of blood it contains and typically lasts 1-4 days. Lochia serosa is more pink or brown and lasts until about 10 days postpartum. Lochia alba is white, or yellowish-white. It can last from the 2nd week until the 3rd-6th week postpartum.
Why does lochia smell so bad?
Lochia is the postpartum vaginal discharge that contains blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. It generally smells similar to menstrual blood. If it has a strong odor or greenish color, contact your healthcare provider.
Is it normal for lochia to turn red again?
Even if Lochia has been white or whitish yellow, sometimes there will be some red or brownish discharge again. This is normal. However, if bleeding becomes heavy or painful, contact your healthcare provider.
How do you know when lochia is finished?
Lochia is the postpartum vaginal discharge that contains blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. It typically lasts 3-6 weeks after giving birth. It is over once all discharge, including yellow, or yellowish-white discharge, ceases.
How can my tummy become flat after delivery?
It takes six weeks after giving birth for the uterus to return to its normal size. Often patients will still have loose skin and separated abdominal muscles. Most doctors recommend waiting six weeks following delivery before resuming exercise. Pelvic tilts are a good way to start strengthening abdominal muscles. As always, check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program. A belly wrap as a part of postpartum care may also help support the stomach during the healing phase.
How soon can you take a bath after having a baby?
Often, care providers will suggest new parents take warm baths as a part of postpartum care. Frequently, parents also want to know if they’re able to use hot tubs. Unless the hot tub is thoroughly cleaned after every use, doctors suggest waiting six weeks for hot tub use.
How do you pee after giving birth?
After a vaginal delivery, healthcare professionals urge parents to urinate within 4-6 hours of delivery. Mothers who deliver via C-section have catheters and need to wait until the catheter is removed. Stay well hydrated to help with urination.
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