For Mental Health Awareness Week: Tips for Postpartum Depression

Mental Illness Awareness Week is Oct 4-11th this year. That's a big topic, so we decided to focus on postpartum depression or PPD.

In keeping with this theme, we even asked a terrific PPD blogger named Kimberly to review our guided imagery for depression. You can find her conclusions here.

PPD can show up any time within the first couple of months after giving birth, and the CDC estimates that it hits about 15% of the population. And unlike the "baby blues", which can last a month or so, PPD goes deeper and sticks around longer.

It's related to the drop in hormone levels after delivery, and it seems to run in families.

Of course, it's a double whammy for a new mother, because, not only does she have depression, which is tough enough with all its attendant symptoms of hopelessness, fatigue, sadness, irritability, guilt, loss of enjoyment (anhedonia), anxiety, sleep deficiency, trouble concentrating and general disinterest in life.

But now she's got this baby to take care of.

And, because she's depressed, she doesn't much feel like taking care of anything, let alone a helpless, needy, demanding, little 7-pounder. (And because of the anhedonia, she's certainly not getting much of the fun stuff babies have to offer – the way they look, feel, smell, nuzzle, cuddle and melt your heart.) That leads to an extra dose of guilt, over and above the standard amount she's been socked with from the depression, because she's not feeling like much of a mother.

Yep, PPD is no day at the beach.

So we put together some general tips to help manage it. Check them out and pass them along to someone you suspect could use them.

  • Take care of yourself. Sleep and eat well when you can, and try not to feel guilty. None of this means you're a bad mother or don't love your baby. This is PPD, and this too shall pass.

  • Share your feelings. Let your more reliable, trustworthy friends, family and/or support system know how you feel, and that you need extra kindness, encouragement, understanding and actual physical help. But do be smart about picking the right people, and don't try to get blood from a stone.

  • Then accept the help! Let family and friends bring tasty meals! Go to the park with a good pal who knows how to listen. Get a foot massage from your partner. Let your mother clean the house or fold the laundry.

  • Take care of your physical self – it can lift your spirits to put on make-up, go shopping for a post-partum outfit, get a pedicure or a good haircut.

  • Let your OBGYN or general practitioner know when you're under water and – don't be proud - get some referrals. You may need a counselor, a support group or maybe an online community for sharing your feelings. There are plenty of great resources out there.

  • Reduce your intake of carbs - especially sugar - while upping the protein. Again, it feels counter-intuitive, because if you're depressed, you're going to crave the quick charge of energy that sugar and simple carbs deliver. But that very same jolt of sugar floods the bloodstream, spikes, and then causes a crash, leaving you more depressed than ever. The same is true for alcohol (which becomes sugar). Do yourself a favor and keep away from the stuff. Drink plenty of water and healthy fluids.

  • Structure a piece of your day or week if possible. Having a new baby throws a monkey wrench into any routine, but try to impose some structure on yourself. Once a day, go for a walk outside. Wash your hair and brush your teeth in the morning, no matter what. Get the kid from down the block to come in after school every day for an hour or two, whether you have plans or not, just to have some baby-free time you can count on.

  • Try holistic approaches to self-carebreathwork, meditation, guided imagery that targets mood or sleep, acupuncture or a local massage therapist who works with new mothers.

  • Enjoy feeling better, and trust that you will. Because you will.

Take care and be well.

All best,

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