For most women, bringing their new baby home is the beginning of one of the happiest periods of their lives. For some women, though, it is the start of a very difficult period that is often met with misunderstanding and judgement. Postpartum depression is frequently misdiagnosed due to all the expected hormonal changes. However, it is very much real and should be taken seriously. So, if you’ve been struggling with PPD, or if you know somebody who is, here’s what you should know about it.
What is it?
Postpartum depression is often confused with “baby blues” because they both have similar symptoms. It usually feels like an agitated depression characterized by extreme fatigue, difficulty focusing, and appetite changes. You might also experience mood swings and difficulty falling asleep. These are all normal during the first two-three weeks. However, if the symptoms persist, or if you feel like they are more intense than they should be – if you start having scary thoughts and feelings of hopelessness and despair – then you might be dealing with postpartum depression.
What causes it?
There isn’t one definite reason why this happens, but there are many factors that could lead to PPD. First, there are hormonal changes that can lead to depression, mood swings, changes in blood pressure and metabolism, etc. Next, there are the expected physical changes. After all, you know that your body will never be quite the same, which can make you feel insecure and even depressed. Finally, as wonderful as becoming a parent is, it’s also very stressful. You will be sleep deprived, overwhelmed, worried, and all these things can take its toll on your health, especially if it’s your first child.
How to survive it?
First things first, you need to realize that as scary as it might sound, PPD is nothing unusual or “bad”. It’s okay to feel lost and have no idea what to do. It happens, and when it does, it’s important not to ignore it. There are many ways to overcome it, but only if you accept that you have PPD and actively work on overcoming it.
Make time for yourself
You might feel like your whole identity has boiled down to being a mother. Perhaps you’re exhausted by all the new responsibilities and you don’t see yourself having “me time” ever again. The best way to deal with such feelings is to prove yourself wrong by actually making time for yourself. Let your other family members take care of the baby for a bit, and spend some time relaxing, socializing with your friends, taking that long needed nap, etc. Even if it’s just once or twice a week, it will help you decompress and feel more like yourself.
Once you get into the routine of taking care of your baby, your days may start blending together since you’ll need to do the same things over and over. This can make you feel lonely and isolated, which is why you should try to socialize with other people as much as you can. Talk to your friends about your feelings, invite them over for a cup of coffee, and talk to other, more experienced mothers. This is also where a professional online therapist might be able to help you. There are many experienced therapists who know what kind of support you need and how to make you feel better. In short, emotional support is extremely important during this period, so try to spend as much time as you can with other people.
Maintaining a healthy diet can’t cure your PPD, but it can make you feel stronger and a bit better overall. It can give you more energy, which you will definitely need, and it can help you get back in shape. Prepare food in advance, including healthy snacks. And don’t skip meals; some moms forget to eat due to all the new responsibilities. Don’t let that happen, as it can benefit neither you nor the baby.
Make time for your partner
All the stress will probably leave you exhausted, and since you can’t take it out on the baby, your next victim would most likely be your partner. However, it’s important to remember that you’re in this together. So, instead of taking out your frustrations on your significant other, try to find some time for sharing your feelings, talking about your expectations, doing things together, and strengthening your bond. Everything is easier when you don’t have to do it alone, so don’t forget that you do have somebody who is always there for you.
No matter how much you’ve looked forward to having a child, taking care of a newborn can be extremely stressful. Taking into account all the new responsibilities, lack of time for your own needs, and sleep deprivation, it’s not a surprise that many new moms feel like they are losing control of their lives. However, if your symptoms don’t go away after a few weeks – or if they worsen – don’t ignore it. There are things you can do that can help you cope with PPD. So, take care of yourself, and you’ll be enjoying your motherhood in no time.