Becoming a mother is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life. It’s filled with numerous joys and exciting challenges, but many of those joys and challenges are overshadowed by what’s commonly referred to as “the baby blues.” Getting used to life with a newborn is extremely demanding, causing some moms to miss out on precious hours of sleep, social interaction and personal time. As a result, many new mothers find themselves feeling generally anxious and unhappy.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
As normal as those feelings are, postpartum depression is something different entirely. Defined as a specialized, hormonally-driven form of despair, postpartum depression typically occurs around two or three weeks after giving birth and can last for several weeks or months. It’s important to note, however, that postpartum depression can start at any time during your baby’s first year.
Not only can postpartum mood disruptions rob you of precious moments with your little one, but it can also make you:
- Gain weight or have trouble losing pregnancy pounds
- Experience problems with the quality of your sleep
- Develop eating disorders and/or malnutrition
- Damage the stability of your relationships
- Unable to properly care for your infant
- Tempted into starting or restarting bad habits
- Attempt to hurt yourself or the baby
Battling postpartum depression isn’t always easy, but it’s also not something you have to do alone. Doctors and therapists have treated millions of mothers at this point; you don’t have to feel ashamed. Keep in mind, as well, that there are numerous holistic remedies now available, meaning you won’t necessarily have to take medication to feel better.
What Causes It?
When fighting against the disruptive symptoms of postpartum depression, knowing what causes it is key. Caused by a variety of things postpartum depression is typically indicative of an issue with one or more of the following:
Hormone levels rise significantly during gestation. After giving birth, however, those hormone levels must rebalance as quickly as possible. That rapid change can sometimes trigger a depressed state in new mothers.
Those who are already depressed when they get pregnant are more likely to experience postpartum depression as a result. Furthermore, mothers who had the baby blues with previous pregnancies are at a higher risk.
Constantly trying to survive in a high stress environment can take its toll on anybody. New mothers trying to adjust to living with a newborn often find themselves stressed out to the point of developing postpartum depression or even a temporary form of anxiety.
Younger mothers are more likely to get postpartum depression, and the same can be said about exceptionally aged mothers. Older and younger moms tend to be less prepared for the challenges that lie ahead because of their age.
The way a mother lived before having a baby doesn’t always mesh with the way she lives afterwards. For some moms, this is cause for a permanently depressed mood. In addition, lifestyle choices that are not supportive of responsible parenthood can complicate matters and make things worse.
NOTE: Postpartum depression symptoms can also develop or worsen with a poor diet, sleep deprivation, and/or isolation.
What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
Fortunately, postpartum depression isn’t hard to spot if you know what to look for. Similar to most standard depressive disorders, postpartum depression is characterized by the presence of one or more of the following symptoms (after giving birth):
- Lack or loss of desire to bond with and/or care for the baby
- Changes in appetite
- Memory problems
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Inexplicable body pains
- Mood swings
- Poor focus or concentration
- Willful isolation
- Suicidal ideations
Although postpartum depression affects each mother in a unique way, the ramifications of unchecked “baby blues” can be severe. If you feel like you may be experiencing bouts of anxiety and/or depression after giving birth, be sure to speak with a professional immediately. In most cases, a treatment plan can be developed long before postpartum depression causes problems.
What Are the Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression?
It’s crucial to understand that postpartum depression doesn’t just affect first-time moms. In fact, it’s likely more common than you think. According to countless studies, one out of every seven mothers gets depressed after giving birth, and that accounts for mothers of multiple children as well. Furthermore, moms can get postpartum depression even if they hadn’t gotten it with previous pregnancies.
Your risk of experiencing postpartum depression increases when/if:
- You have a personal and/or family history of depression or bipolar disorder
- You experienced depression throughout your pregnancy
- You suffer from alcoholism or use illicit drugs
- You’re having money or relationship problems
- You lack the support you need from friends and family
- Your pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted
- You give birth to a baby with special challenges or needs
- You’re a young mother (especially under the age of 20)
- You have difficulties breastfeeding
Because each woman and her subsequent pregnancy is vastly different, and because the symptoms of postpartum depression are so diverse, most doctors look for or ask about symptoms of depression before, during and after gestation, regardless of the mother’s risk factors. During this interview, try to always be honest with your healthcare provider.
5 Realistic Ways to Manage Postpartum Depression Naturally
It’s possible to make that postpartum depression take a back seat so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor (pun intended). Best of all, none of the following at-home remedies require over-the-counter or prescription medication to work. In reality, there are several ways to combat postpartum depression; these are the top 5:
- Go Outside
As simple as it may sound, stepping outside into the fresh air and sunlight is incredibly beneficial, especially to a new mother suffering from postpartum depression, cabin fever or isolation. Studies show that just 15 minutes of sun exposure three times per week can help moms lift their spirits, not to mention it can also supplement the body’s lacking vitamin D reserves. As research demonstrates, vitamin D plays a huge role in mood stabilization, energy generation and enabling the body to balance its hormones.
- Get Your Body Moving
There is plenty of evidence to support the fact that adequate physical activity can have dramatically positive effects on a person’s mood and overall health. As in the case of new mothers and their babies, not only is exercise good for fighting off bouts of the baby blues but it can also aid in postpartum weight loss. Combine physical activity with sun exposure for a quick pick-me-up that has lasting effects.
- Eat with a Purpose
The old saying goes, “You are what you eat.” So, if you’re constantly consuming unhealthy foods, your mind and body will show it. Processed foods and items containing large amounts of saturated fats, additives and preservatives can wreak havoc on your hormonal levels, thereby contributing to the development of postpartum depression. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet full of essential nutrients, fiber and protein during the first few months after giving birth, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
- Take Dietary Supplements
Although most of the necessary nutrients that a new mother needs can be obtained through a healthy diet, some vitamins and minerals are only available in dietary supplements and/or multivitamins. For new mothers especially, continuing to take a prenatal vitamin after having a baby can help support the many changes going on in your body. Furthermore, that nutrient boost can make postpartum depression symptoms less disruptive to your already hectic life.
FUN FACT: Prenatal vitamins are so beneficial to a woman’s hormonal levels that they are now being given to women during menopause.
- Use Essential Oils
While the efficacy of essential oils to treat or cure certain serious health problems is still up for debate, there’s one thing we can all agree on: aromatherapy can do wonders for a person’s mood. With the right combination of essential oils, postpartum depression takes a back seat to the joys of parenthood while also protecting your home and baby from airborne pathogens, pungent smells, sleep disturbances and mood swings of their own. In short, essential oils can provide the gentle, non-medical boost you need to start feeling like yourself again.
Postpartum depression is real and it’s extremely challenging regardless of the mother’s age or experience level. However, baby blues are not something you must endure without help. Not only are there numerous medical therapies available but there are also several at-home remedies that can help ease the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Safe and effective solutions are out there, but you have to know where to look and you must be willing to ask for help when it’s needed. Don’t wait until the condition gets out of hand. If you experience any of the symptoms of postpartum depression listed above, be sure to seek medical attention right away.
If you liked this article about Tips for Dealing with Postpartum Depression, then you may be interested in reading, Essential Oils for Depression and Anxiety.