Smart Ways to Deal with PPD

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Mom playing and cuddling with her child in her arms.

As a new mom, you’re likely to experience a broad range of emotions in those first few months after giving birth. Before giving birth, you probably heard non-stop comments about how much you’re going to love your new baby and how amazing it is to be a mom, but not many talk about the more difficult feelings that come along with the experience.

You may feel exhausted, overwhelmed and possibly depressed. Becoming a mom for the first time or adding to your family is a major adjustment, and it can feel like you’re losing yourself. Postpartum depression affects up to 1 in 7 moms and can diminish your quality of life and joy in your newborn. If you’ve been diagnosed with PPD or think you may have it, these tips can help you improve your symptoms.

1.    Talk to a Professional

Talking about your symptoms with your doctor or mental health professional is an essential first line of defense. It can be hard to open up about how you’re feeling, but the help they can give you is priceless. Your doctor can work with you to find an anti-depressant that works well for you.

Even if you don’t want to use medication, you can see a therapist. Cognitive behavior therapy is typically quite effective in treating PPD. However, if you and your doctor determine you’re experiencing severe symptoms of depression, they may recommend using medication and therapy together, which is shown to have the best outcomes for moms.

2.   Lean On Your Support System

Talking to a therapist can drastically improve your symptoms, but they can’t help you outside the office. For continued support, lean on your support system of trusted friends and family. Open up about how you’re feeling and ask for help. They could bring you meals, get you out of the house and help with child care. Also, ask someone close to you to be your accountability partner to check in on you and your mental health.

One of the most challenging aspects of PPD is feeling alone. To combat those feelings, look for a support group near you of other moms going through the same thing. If you don’t have an in-person support group, head online — the internet is full of supportive and helpful mom groups who can offer you the solidarity you’re looking for. You might even be able to gather more tips on coping with PPD.

3.   Sleep When You Can

Sleep deprivation from nighttime feedings and changings can worsen your PPD symptoms, so sneaking in sleep when you can is extremely important. You’ve probably heard countless times to sleep when the baby is sleeping, but if you haven’t tried it yet, you really should give it a go. Any household chores or errands can wait. Use that quiet time to get some rest yourself.

If you pump or bottle feed entirely, you could try switching who’s responsible for the baby each night. Whoever is off-duty should sleep in a different room without a monitor so that they can get a full night of quality sleep. However, if you don’t want to be alone, you could just trade off who wakes up with the baby each time.

4.   Focus On Your Nutrition

Pregnancy can severely deplete your levels of certain nutrients, which may be a trigger for your  PPD, but it’s never too late to turn things around. You can use your diet to help combat your symptoms. You shouldn’t try to restrict your calories or any particular food groups, especially for women who are breastfeeding.

Instead, you’ll want to focus on adding nutrient-dense foods — specifically, foods with B-vitamins, essential fatty acids, protein, iron and vitamin D. These macro and micronutrients will help restore your gut, hormone, immune and mental health. If you struggle to come up with ways to integrate new foods or create balanced meals, consulting with a nutritionist might be worth your time. 

5.   Ease Into Movement

Take the first week after coming home to heal and adjust to your new family member. After that, as long as you had a healthy pregnancy and delivered without complications, you can begin adding movement back into your routine. If you had a c-section or difficult delivery, check with your doctor for recommendations.

Walking is the best way to get back into an active routine. It’s a low-impact and restorative exercise with loads of benefits. Researchers found even just 15 minutes a day could improve your PPD symptoms. Go for a walk alone with your favorite music if you need some “me” time, or add extra weight to your walk and bond with your baby by taking them in the stroller. You could both benefit from the fresh air and sunshine.

6.   Take Some Time for Yourself

When you add a baby to your family, the whole dynamic shifts, whether it’s your first child or your fifth. You’ll also naturally end up with more responsibilities and less time for yourself. However, trying to push through your feelings of depression ultimately won’t serve you or your family well. Talk with your loved ones and ask for support in carving out some free time where you can be alone or get out with friends.

This Isn’t Forever

Just like the newborn stage, your PPD won’t last forever. By seeking treatment and making some lifestyle changes, you’ll be well on your way to recovery. Medication can take a few weeks to begin working properly, so in the meantime, keep up with your activity, sleeping arrangements and nutrition. Many moms feel better after 3-6 months, and most have moved past their symptoms by the end of three years. It’s important to remember that PPD is a serious condition, but multi-faceted treatment can help you feel like yourself again.

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