- The Depression New Mums Go Through After Childbirth
The 6 Stages of Postpartum Depression are as folows:
This must be what new motherhood is like. I’ll be alright. It can’t be postpartum depression, because I’m not mentally ill. I’m sure it will wear off soon. I just need more sleep.
Nobody understands what I’m going through. Why me?! This is supposed to be a time of joy. I don’t deserve this. I don’t want to have to take medication. I don’t want to go to therapy. I shouldn’t have to call a doctor. This is not fair.
If I just exercise more and eat better I’ll be fine. If I take vitamins. If I could just get to the point where the baby sleeps through the night, I’ll be okay. If I get closer to God and pray more, this will surely go away. I just need to work harder.
I should just leave my family. I’m bringing everyone down. They all would be better off without me. My poor baby doesn’t deserve a mother like this. I’ll never get better so there’s no point in going on.
What’s happening to me isn’t normal and I can’t ignore it anymore. It’s not my fault. It is okay for me to talk to a doctor. It’s okay for me to ask for help. I can take medication or go to therapy or do whatever is necessary for my health and that of my family. Postpartum depression and anxiety are temporary and treatable with professional help.
So, what is this all about and what can be done in the moment to alleviate some of the fear that comes along with these symptoms? So often moms want an answer, understandably to “Why is this happening to me? What is causing this?” As always, this is a question that does not necessarily come with one quick answer as each woman has a unique set of circumstances that might be playing a part. However, there is a good idea of what may be at issue here and there are certainly a number of strategies that are known to work well and alleviating some of the symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
The treatment for PPD is the same as the treatment for depression that happens before or during pregnancy. If you have mild symptoms, your doctor may recommend watchful regular check-ins. If your symptoms are more severe, your provider may recommend talk therapy, antidepressant medication, or both.
(1) BRAIN CHEMISTRY IMBALANCE
High-level anxiety (including postpartum OCD) is often caused by imbalances in the “feel good” chemicals in our brains. Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are the neurotransmitters that are responsible for emotional balance, and sudden drops in hormones postpartum are believed to have a direct impact on the functioning of these important systems of the brain. Antidepressant medication such as SSRI’s (including but not limited to Zoloft) have been shown to effectively work at reducing symptoms of anxiety in the postpartum period (usually a woman will notice a reduction in symptoms after 2-3 weeks of starting a medication).
(2) Many of these medications have been shown to be safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Benzodiazepines (including but not limited to Xanax) have been shown to effectively work at reducing symptoms associated with panic attacks and high-level anxiety (often in conjunction with an SSRI). While it is recommended that women not cease using a benzodiazepine during pregnancy or breastfeeding if her symptoms are severe and/or if she has benefited from them prior to her pregnancy, some of these medications have a small risk to infants and so careful monitoring by a physician is important. For women whose anxiety is severe, the recommended treatment is medication along with psychotherapy.
(3) NEGATIVE THOUGHT PATTERNS
Oh, the many changes that occur when a baby is born! Women who are worriers, perfectionists, have high and often unrealistic expectations for themselves, and who have a tendency toward negative thinking prior to becoming pregnant are at risk of developing more severe postpartum anxiety once a baby is born. For these women, the new lack of control, many responsibilities of parenting and reality of caring for a newborn all contribute to racing thoughts and heightened worry. Psychotherapy is an important part of the treatment for these women. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and stress reduction strategies, work around identity shifting, and early trauma history processing (if it exists) have all been effectively supported through psychotherapeutic work with a trained professional.
(4) NUTRIENT DEPLETION
Numerous studies have linked nutrient depletion during pregnancy and postpartum to depression and anxiety in many mothers. The role of healthy eating and monitored vitamin supplements if/when necessary cannot be underestimated in moms’ health and wellness. Even women who think that they are eating a balanced diet may not be replenishing themselves after childbirth and breastfeeding enough to facilitate the production of serotonin and the balance of blood sugar. Often, symptoms such as agitation, shakiness, foggy-headedness and nervousness can be linked to hunger and poor eating habits in many women.
(5) SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Yes, I know: Having a newborn drastically limits the time that all moms spend asleep. Frequent night waking, breastfeeding, and high anxiety make it difficult for most moms to get the rest that they need for optimum health. But here is the thing: Moms who are moderately or severely anxious are usually also moms who report less than four hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. When these moms increase their sleep time through medication, strategy building, and/or relaxation techniques, their anxiety symptoms often decrease.
Some studies have suggested that dehydration contributes to anxiety symptoms including jumpiness and agitation. Moms, especially those who are breastfeeding, are often not drinking adequate amounts of water (at least eight 8 oz glasses of water a day or more). Proper water consumption is required for efficient transportation of the hormones and neurotransmitters required for balanced emotion.
(7) PREGNANCY RELATED PHYSICAL AILMENTS AND INSUFFICIENT BREATHING
Most women who feel anxious will notice that their breathing is shallow. Whether this is because a mom’s diaphragm is being squished by her growing baby or because she is simply not focused on the length and quality of her breath, lacking oxygen to a brain leads to dizziness, further shortness of breath, light headedness, and elevated heart rate. Often, focused and mindful breath work will noticeably reduce these symptoms.
ASK FOR SUPPORT
Part of being a good mother is knowing when to ask for help, so don’t be afraid to ask for it during this difficult time. Let your partner know about different ways to help, whether it’s taking care of the baby, handling chores, or going with you to doctor appointments. Relatives or close friends may be able to help as well. Share your feelings by keeping the lines of communication open with your partner and talk about what’s going on. Call a sympathetic friend.
Taking care of your physical self can sometimes help you feel better inside. Have your partner or a friend watch your baby, so you can take a shower or a relaxing bath. Put on makeup if you usually wear it. Go on a shopping trip just for yourself and buy something new for your post-baby wardrobe. Wear a favorite outfit on especially difficult days to give yourself a boost.
Put your baby in a stroller and take a walk around your neighborhood or meet a friend at a nearby restaurant. The fresh air, sunshine, and conversation will do you and your baby a world of good. If even a brief excursion is too much for you right now, then just go outside, close your eyes and take a deep breath, or sit in the sunshine for a few minutes.
These are some of the helpful guide that may help you get through this problem. You will probably know the one that you need by your side if and when you begin to notice the early signs of anxiety and/or panic emerge.