Most people have heard of postpartum depression (PPD). Some people hear of an acquaintance suffering through it, others read about it at a prenatal appointment—but no matter where they learn about it, most people fail to realize just how real and awful PPD truly is. Many women brush it off as something that will never happen to them. Therefore, very few bother to research what kinds of symptoms they should be watching for or how they can treat PPD, and they end up going into the postpartum period ill-equipped to deal with depression, should it strike.
Something simply must be done about this. Women should be educated on this all-too-common condition and offered healing methods that are easy to access without feeling shame or weakness. The stigma associated with postpartum depression is one that needs to be wiped away in order to provide all beautiful mothers the healthcare they need and deserve.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
After a new mama gives birth, the levels of hormones in her body (specifically estrogen and progesterone) quickly plummet. This can cause mood swings, sadness, and irritability, all of which typically begin a day or two after baby arrives and tend to last a week or so. This is generally referred to as “the baby blues” and is very mild—comparable to the symptoms of PMS, in fact.
However, occasionally this dip in hormones can cause far more severe symptoms. This, in addition to the lack of sleep that so often accompanies early motherhood, or any guilt a mother may be feeling, along with a variety of other factors, can cause the new mama to fall into a deep and long-lasting depression that requires treatment. This is true postpartum depression, and should never be ignored or brushed off.
If left untreated, PPD can have a negative effect on mother-child bonding and can lead to increasingly worse mental health problems in the mother. Additionally, children of women who suffer from untreated postpartum depression are more likely to develop emotional and behavioral problems as they mature. For these reasons and more, it is highly important that mothers who believe they may be suffering from PPD find ways to treat the condition and improve their quality of life as soon as possible.
Who Can Get Postpartum Depression?
Anyone. There is no magical formula that leads to postpartum depression, and absolutely any new mother could find herself suffering. This is never, ever the fault of the mother and should never lead to any sort of guilt or anger at oneself.
At least 15% of women who give birth suffer from PPD. This means about 600,000 people find themselves living through the pain of postpartum depression each and every year in the United States. What’s more, this number is only an estimate based on women who gave birth to a live baby—miscarriages and still births are not included—and reported having symptoms of depression. Knowing this, we can only assume there are many, many more cases of PPD that are never even reported, making this an incredibly common condition.
How Can I Treat Postpartum Depression?
If you have any reason at all to believe you are suffering from this condition, you will want to begin treatment right away. Thankfully, unless things progress quickly and uncontrollably, you will not have to go to any medical extremes to treat your postpartum depression.
Here are some things you can do to help your body have a better chance of regulating your hormone production, which might relieve symptoms of PPD or the "baby blues".
Encapsulate your placenta. This can be the first line of action for aiding postnatal hormonal imbalances. Generally, it is a good idea to have your placenta encapsulated whether or not you experience depression. The feedback from clients is that the resulting little pills are amazing at helping new mothers through the early stages of motherhood. Contact us in Oklahoma City at Spirited Birth Services for more information on this service.
Eat well. Eating a balanced diet with nutrient-rich foods can help your body regulate hormones more easily. Additionally, by eating good wholesome foods in small quantities throughout the day, you will also help keep your blood sugar at the proper level. This is important because plummeting blood sugar levels can add to any anger or sadness you may be experiencing.
Take a supplemental vitamin. In addition to the balanced diet mentioned above, it is important that nursing mothers continue to take their prenatal vitamin in order to ensure they are getting enough nutrients for both themselves and their baby. Breast milk production requires a lot of nutrients, and a lack of proper supplements may leave mama’s body starving for nutrients and unable to fight off depression.
Get exercise. Exercise is always important, but this is especially true for anyone suffering from depression. Exercising releases "feel-good" chemicals in the brain that help battle the symptoms of depression. The exercise does not have to be intense, it can simply be a leisurely stroll around the block or a short yoga session on the living room floor.
Get some sunshine. There is a proven link between depression and low levels of vitamin D. This leads us to believe that getting outside in the sunshine as often as possible can help reduce the symptoms of depression. Besides, who doesn’t like to get outside now and then? Also, consider supplemental D3 in pill form as well.
Practice self-care. Taking care of yourself in the postpartum period is highly important. Sometimes this is difficult to do, considering the new baby who requires so much attention. If you can, enlist a babysitter from time to time in order to give yourself a chance to spend time reflecting. Other ways to practice self-care include daily deliberate relaxation (such as yoga, meditation, or reflection), stress reduction, and of course, long, hot bubble baths.
Diffuse oils. Aromatherapy is a powerful thing. When combined with the methods listed above, essential oils can be a game changer. Purchase some high-quality oils and experiment until you find the combination that lifts your spirits. I love the joy blend by Young Living.
If the methods above fail to work, or if you can feel your symptoms worsening, be sure to see a care provider right away. They will be able to provide you with the treatment you need in order to get some relief.
Local Oklahoma Metro Therapists:
Nicole Menzter, LCSW, Counselor
Thrive Mama Collective
Phone: (405) 696-3522
Tara Fritsch, MAMFT, LMFT
New Leaf Counseling
Phone: (405) 623-8899
Hormonal or Rx Therapy:
Balance Women's Health
Phone: (405) 378-2727