Postpartum Depression

Having a baby is one of the most exciting and stressful times in life.  Even if you’ve been looking forward to this moment for years, feeling overwhelmed is completely normal.  Mild depression and mood swings are a common occurrence for new mothers. 

Although many women experience the baby blues, one in eight women will deal with postpartum depression.  The feelings of sadness, anxiety, exhaustion and hopelessness make it challenging to enjoy a new baby, but postpartum is treatable.

The symptoms of postpartum depression vary, but they can include:

*Losing interest in activities that usually bring joy

*Anger, rage, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, moodiness

*Crying for no reason or often

*Persistent doubts in caring for the baby

*Physical aches and pains including stomach issues, muscle pain and headaches

*Oversleeping or being unable to sleep, even when the baby is napping

*Not being able to concentrate, remember details or make decisions

*Avoiding or withdrawing from friends or family

*Difficulty bonding with the baby

*Thoughts of self-harm or harming others

Not everyone feels comfortable talking about this subject, even as they’re going through it, due to the perceived stigma that postpartum can carry.  Some women experience shame, guilt or embarrassment and stay quiet for fear of being labeled as a bad mother.  This is not the case. Anyone can go through postpartum depression.  Speaking to a doctor right away is the first step to getting relief.  There are options to help like therapy, antidepressants and hormone therapy, so don’t suffer in silence.

After speaking to a medical professional, there are day to day strategies for coping, including:

*Create a secure attachment with your baby:  Attachment, or the emotional bonding process between mother and baby, is essential.  This bonding impacts how the child will interact, communicate and form relationships throughout his or her life. Postpartum can be a roadblock in this bonding process.  Learning to bond with the baby is good for many reasons, including an endorphin release that will make you feel happy and boost your confidence as a new mother.

*Practice self-care:  With a newborn, eight hours of sleep a night seems unattainable, but sleep deprivation can exacerbate depression.  Take family and friends up on offers to watch the baby while you catch naps.  Exercise helps mentally and physically, so the faster you can get back to moving your body, the better. A brisk walk with the baby in a stroller or some stretching or yoga will make you feel more like yourself. 
Get out in the sunshine as it is a natural mood lifter.  Don’t forget to eat, since your diet plays a role in your mood and the quality of your breast milk. Take housework off your list of things to worry about and focus on taking good care of yourself and your baby.  Everything else will get done.

*Ask for support:  Being a new mom can feel isolating as you spend time at home with your new baby. 
Make your relationships a priority and give yourself permission to feel vulnerable with those you trust.  Let your loved ones know what you need from them and what support would help you.  The emotional outlet of talking to people you feel has your back is a soft place to fall without judgment. Use it! Seek out online or neighborhood support groups. Hearing the worries of other moms is reassuring.  

Rest assured that postpartum is common, but there is no reason to suffer.  There is help.  Call us at (631) 587-2500 if you are dealing with postpartum depression.

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