It is common for women to feel a bit down, tearful in the first week after giving birth. You may even feel tearful and anxious. Remember, the body has gone through so many changes and challenges in such a short period. Many call it the 'baby blues'. These feelings usually pass after a couple of weeks. If it lasts longer it could be postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression can develop gradually and it can be hard to spot. Some parents may avoid talking to family and friends about how they’re feeling. They worry about what they will think of them for not feeling happy about their baby.
Someone suffering from postnatal depression may experience excessive crying episodes. They may try to withdraw from friends and family situations. They may even have thoughts of harming them self or their baby.
What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?
These are the common signs of postpartum depression:
These symptoms will affect your day-to-day life and your relationships with your baby, family and friends.
If you think you have post natal depression seek help. You can talk to family and friends. You may also want to consider talking to your GP or health visitor. They can help you access support.
Postnatal depression can linger for months, even years, if it isn't dealt with. Don't struggle alone.
Postnatal depression in birth partners
The changes a baby brings are huge for the birth partners too. Fathers and partners can also become depressed after the birth of a baby. They should seek professional help too.
How is postpartum depression typically treated?
Antidepressants are often used to treat postnatal depression. Your doctor will advise you of what they recommend for you.
Are there natural remedies to treat post natal depression?
If you prefer not to take antidepressants, be clear when speaking to your GP. GPs tend not to recommend holistic therapy as the primary choice of treatment; so you may need to seek advice elsewhere.
Omega-3 fatty acids levels get depleted during pregnancy and the postnatal period. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that low dietary intake of omega-3s is associated with developing this type of depression.
Increase your intake of foods such as:
Riboflavin, or vitamin B-2, may also help decrease your risk of developing PPD.
What else can you try?
Several lifestyle changes may relieve your symptoms:
Be kind to yourself in the early weeks
We would do well to follow other traditions and cultures. They allow new mums to rest and spend time with her baby in those early weeks. These cultures give the mum time to recuperate from birth and allow her hormones to re-balance. Their support network will take care of the home and the meals.
In the UK this is rarely the case. Paternity leave is a short few weeks, and media has us believe that we should spring back into action.
The dishes and toys on the floor can wait. Don’t expect too much from yourself.
Take care of yourself
You have to put yourself first and your baby second, as without a happy and healthy mum, your baby is going to suffer. As suggested above, your diet is important. Try to eat whole foods, such as meat, fish and vegetables and avoid processed foods.
Take long walks with your baby. The fresh air will do you good and the energy you use up will enable you to sleep better too.
Talk about it
Avoid keeping your feelings to yourself. Talk with your partner, a close friend, or a family member. If you don’t feel comfortable, consider your doctor or join online groups - there are specific ones for PPD too.
Take some time for yourself
Once your baby is a little older, they are less dependent on you. With planning, you should start to make time for yourself. Go visit a friend or go out for a few hours without your baby. Maybe you want to go back to the gym or classes that you used to attend. It is important to create space for yourself.
What about therapy, could that help with postnatal depression?
Yes, any therapy that gives you the chance to talk openly can help you. It's an opportunity to sort out your thoughts with a trained professionals. Your therapist can help you find ways to tackle the issues that are bothering you the most.
How long does recovery from PPD take?
The first step is reaching out for help and admitting how you are feeling. If you start treatment, PPD may go away within six-months. When you start treatment, don’t stop until well after you feel better. If you don’t get treatment or if you stop treatment too soon, the condition may return or worsen.
Here are some useful links for PPD groups:
Mothers for Mothers
The Association for Postnatal Illness
Action on Postpartum Psychosis