Understanding Postpartum Depression
Start your journey to wholeness with these simple steps.
by Kathryn Cox
Postpartum depression is nothing to be ashamed of. After a woman gives birth, changes in her hormone levels can spark a host of rollercoaster emotions. According to the National Women’s Health Information Center (www.4woman.gov/FAQ/postpartum.htm — one of many helpful Web sites devoted to aiding women suffering with this condition), postpartum depression may be caused by several things besides fluctuating hormones:
- worries about properly caring for the newborn
- extreme fatigue, especially from a difficult delivery
- feelings of losing identity
- lack of encouragement or assistance from spouse
- too much time indoors and less time to spend with family and friends
- stress from an upheaval of comfortable schedules or routines
One may be tempted to write off postpartum depression as simply the “baby blues,” but they normally disappear within a few days to a week after delivery. Postpartum depression affects a woman at a deeper level and keeps her from functioning for a longer time.
WebMD (www.webmd.com), another informative resource with vast amounts of information on depression, says that the following symptoms after delivery that last longer than two weeks are red flags for postpartum depression:
- feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- loss of interest in daily activities, especially a lack of happiness or fulfillment when doing things you normally enjoy
- excessive crying
- overwhelming feelings of sadness and loss of hope
- trouble with decision-making and loss of focus
- shying away from supportive family and friends
- feelings of anxiety or restlessness
- changes in appetite that cause overeating or not eating enough
- headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations (the heart beating fast and feeling as if it’s skipping beats), or hyperventilation (fast and shallow breathing)
- thoughts of suicide
If you have symptoms of postpartum depression, don’t ignore them; take action. The National Women’s Health Information Center and WebMD offer the following steps to help lift your spirits (www.4woman.gov/FAQ/postpartum.htm and www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/postpartum-depression-prevention):
- Ask family and friends for help with household tasks. If possible, hire someone part-time to clean and tidy the house while you focus on caring and bonding with your baby.
- Talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
- Make an effort to exercise daily, even if it’s simply taking a quick walk around the block.
- Take advantage of baby’s nap schedule and rest if you’re tired. Don’t fuss with chores; curl up on the couch and relax!
- Refrain from making any major life changes that can cause unwanted extra stress.
- Get outdoors and soak up a few sunrays.
- Schedule time to socialize with others. Long periods alone with baby will enable feelings of depression.
- Spend time alone with your husband.
- Connect with other moms who understand the erratic feelings of postpartum depression, and learn from their experiences.
- Avoid large amounts of caffeine, and refrain from alcohol.
- Follow a healthy diet. It will go a long way to improve mental and physical health. Try drinking nutritional shakes to boost energy if needed.
Step of courage
Untreated postpartum depression is harmful not only for mom but also for baby and family. Have the courage to call your doctor if necessary. The most common treatments are talk therapy (talking to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker) and medicine prescribed by your doctor to help relieve the symptoms of depression.
The only bad treatment decision is to simply suffer without asking for help.
For additional information, contact
Postpartum Support International
National Women’s Health Information Center