Though having a new baby is a joyous experience, the reality is also sometimes difficult. The physical and emotional strain of pregnancy and birth can sometimes take a toll on a woman's mental health, leading to postpartum depression. This condition can harm new mother's quality of life, but identifying and coping with it, can help women take proper care of themselves and their baby.
Surmising The Symptoms
The key to successfully treating postpartum depression is to identify the symptoms. Victims often experience changes in:
- Sleep Patterns: Victims of postpartum depression often experience insomnia or sleep excessively.
- Mood: Feelings of sadness, irritability, anger, shame, inadequacy and anxiety are all symptoms of postpartum depression. Severe mood swings are also common and can involve any number of these feelings.
- Appetite: Those who have postpartum depression often do not eat enough, or they eat excessively.
- Energy: Postpartum depression leads to fatigue, especially when the victim also has insomnia. Victims may also have trouble concentrating, making decisions, or connecting with their baby, family and friends.
- Hope: Those who suffer from this condition often report thoughts of suicide. They may also contemplate harming or killing their babies.
It is important to distinguish postpartum depression from “baby blues,” a less severe condition involving milder versions of these symptoms. Baby blues rarely lasts longer than the first few weeks after giving birth. By contrast, postpartum depression often persists for months and severely increases a woman’s risk of suicide and self-harm. Women who have postpartum depression often mistake it for baby blues and fail to seek psychological care, making it harder to recover.
Although any woman who gives birth can experience postpartum depression, they women are especially likely to suffer from it if she or others in her family have a history of mood disorders. Stressful experiences during the year leading up to the birth, a rocky relationship with a partner, having a baby with severe health problems and difficulty breastfeeding also increase the risk of this disorder. If a woman has experienced postpartum depression after previous pregnancies, they are likely to experience it again.
Dealing With Depression
As with many psychological issues, changes in lifestyle reduce the risk of postpartum depression and make it easier to deal with.
The most effective strategies are:
- Exercise: Regular exercise always helps, but is especially important for recovering from the physical and emotional strain of pregnancy.
- Diet: Eating enough, minimizing alcohol, opting for nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water are all very important.
- Social Engagement: Spending time with a partner, friends and family.
- Realistic Expectations: Don’t try to do too much after giving birth. Focus on yourself and your baby and don’t be scared to ask for help.
These steps are not alternatives to counseling and treatment. Postpartum depression is a serious psychological condition and requires the attention of a qualified professional. Nonetheless, these coping methods can complement professional treatment, further improving your mood and your lifestyle.