One of the hardest things as a mommy is not to be able to enjoy motherhood. Without a doubt, it is devastating to be clouded by feelings of sadness after waiting for a miraculous life-changing experience for nine months. Although there is no specific way to avoid this change of emotions, there are many ways that you can lower your chances.
Here are healthy habits that you can adopt before or shortly after your baby’s arrival to protect yourself from postpartum depression.
Table of Contents
- When Pregnant
- After Delivery
- a) Get Plenty of Household Help in the Postpartum Period
- b) Get Plenty of Refreshing Sleep
- c) Avoid Making Significant Life Changes Just Before or Right after Your Delivery
- d) Speak about Your Feelings
- e) Stay Active
- f) Do Not Expect Perfection
- g) Eat Your Way Out of Depression
- h) Join A Motherhood Support Group
- In Conclusion
a) Prepare Yourself with Adequate Knowledge
If you know the risk factors of postpartum depression, you will put in the preventative measures and will be less likely to be hit by it unexpectedly. Again, if you know how to identify the signs of postnatal depressions, it will enable you to get help quickly. Therefore, learn everything that you can. The first place to get reliable and easy to comprehend postpartum depression information is from your healthcare provider. During your antenatal or postnatal care visits, talk about your depression concerns. Your doctor will give you brochures on the condition, for you to enlighten yourself. It can also be helpful to read out on books, blogs and to seek objective help from other mothers.
b) Identify Your Risk Factors and Talk about Them
Warning signs begin from predisposing factors. If you have a personal or family history of any form of depression (not limited to postpartum depression), anxiety, obsessive qualities, alcohol and drug abuse or you have increased fear of giving birth, then you are at risk of postpartum depression. If you have these risk factors, make sure that your mental health care provider knows about it. They will help you mitigate the risk factors that are within your control. If the factors cannot be controlled, then, your doctor will come up with a plan ahead of time.
c) Recognize the Warning Signs
Research studies have shown that women who develop postpartum depression, show the warning signs during pregnancy. Therefore, you can save yourself from plummeting into depression if you catch those signs early enough. If you find yourself persistently worrying about being a good mom, you cry for no reason, have trouble making decisions, sadness consumes your thoughts, you get ideas to harm yourself, or you lose interest in people and things that you enjoy, then talk about these things to your doctor.
d) Prenatal Screening
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other bodies recommend that one should be screened for depression and anxiety at least once during the pregnancy period. There are several validated screening tools that your doctor can use to identify whether you are at a higher risk. If you are at a high risk, you will need to be followed up closely throughout the pregnancy.
If you developed postpartum depression in your previous birth, you do not have to wait for the next delivery. Your doctor will screen you during your antenatal period, and in some cases, they may decide to put you on low doses of antidepressants or psychotherapy in the last trimester or right after delivery. Remember that once you have had PPD, you have 50% chances of getting it again.
a) Get Plenty of Household Help in the Postpartum Period
Fatigue and burn out are one of the key reasons why some moms feel that their parenting is inadequate. You will have to accept that immediately after delivery, you are in no good condition to do everything by yourself. For the first few days, let your chief chore be to breastfeed the baby. Of course, you will not be required to be in bed all day. For other major tasks, get a household help to come to your rescue. A partner, friend or relative will be in handy till you are back on your feet. If none of them is available, you can hire help outside.
b) Get Plenty of Refreshing Sleep
Getting adequate sleep may sound impossible with a newborn, but it goes a long way in staving off postpartum depression. Sleep deprivation is one of the key factors in the onset of postnatal depression. It robs you of your energy, liveliness, appetite, and vitality. So, getting enough sleep cannot be emphasized enough. Aim for getting at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep. Always ask for help around the house. Most newborns feed within two hours. Before sleeping, express breastmilk that will cover the baby the period that you will be asleep. Let your partner or helper take turns in feeding.
When your baby falls asleep, try to sleep too. It is very tempting to embark on other chores or leisure activities like catching your favorite TV shows or making calls. Keep an eye on the ultimate prize- rest. These short naps will revive you and moreover, will help you adapt to your baby’s sleeping cycle.
If your sleep is not refreshing, you find it difficult to fall or to stay asleep, then you need to see a professional as there could be other underlying problems. Do not wait until sleep deprivation causes you harm.
c) Avoid Making Significant Life Changes Just Before or Right after Your Delivery
Some external stressors like the loss of a loved one are unpredictable and cannot be avoided. However, there are some factors like moving and changing jobs that you can put on hold. Do your best to avoid these stressors around the time of your delivery and shortly after. Postpone these changes until you have settled into your new role of a mother. Keeping life after birth as simple as possible will make your adaptation process easier and faster.
d) Speak about Your Feelings
Feeling down after childbirth is not something to be ashamed of, so do not tuck away your feelings. More than three-quarters of women get baby blues, so you are not alone. However, there is a line between the blues and depression. Talking to someone close will help you know when the blues are deviating from normal.
If you do not feel comfortable talking to the people that know you, there is an option of joining a support group. Some groups have peer support workers that can even visit you at home. Your doctor or healthcare provider is another alternative. Nevertheless, you should not entirely depend on outsiders. With time, you should feel comfortable sharing with your spouse, family, and friends- they are a vital pillar in your new mummy status.
e) Stay Active
The benefits of exercise in prevention and treatment of postpartum depression are always undermined yet it is a powerful way of elevating feel-good hormones. So, we cannot get enough of mentioning physical activity in our postnatal depression series. Exercise is not always about getting your pre-pregnancy physical image back or enhancing your aerobic capacity. In mental health, it is much more than that. It gives you an enormous sense of wellbeing. You will feel energetic throughout the day, sleep better, feel more relaxed and positive about your baby and yourself.
Staying active should begin few hours after birth. You do not need a complicated fitness routine. Begin with walking with assistance. It may be a bit painful, but it will help hugely in healing and improving your blood supply to all body organs. After a week or two, you can begin walking around your neighborhood. When you feel comfortable, and your practitioner gives you the go ahead, you can switch to modified relaxation exercises like yoga. In your exercise schedule, you can also include meditation and deep relaxation techniques. Helping around the house with some simple chores also counts as physical activity.
Note that your postpartum bleeding should not worsen after exercise. If you notice bright red blood, you feel excessive pain or any other negative signs, you should stop. It could be an indicator that you are too hard on yourself.
f) Do Not Expect Perfection
Motherhood is not always about faultlessness. Do not feel inadequate as a result of you not meeting all expectations. It will only add pressure to an already demanding mommy situation. Understand that things will not always go as expected. Even if other mums look perfect, they inevitably make mistakes- lots of them actually. Your goal should not be to fulfill your ‘imaginary ideal parent’ idea, but to be a happy parent and have a joyful little one.
g) Eat Your Way Out of Depression
Sticking to a well-balanced diet is a big boost for your mental health. By eating a healthful diet, you will be promoting your brain and emotional health. First, macronutrients like complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats prevent your blood sugar levels from crashing. When your sugars are low, you get lethargic and fatigued, making you more prone to depressive symptoms. Second, micronutrients like B vitamins, trace minerals (zinc, iron, and selenium), vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids are essential for general brain well-being.
You can obtain all these nutrients from your diet, and you do not necessarily have to use nutritional supplements. Focus on getting five meals spread throughout the day. Three are main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) while two are healthy snacks. This may sound so cliché, but if you keep on skipping your meals or indulging in unhealthy foods, you will not have the energy to take care of your baby. It will then turn to feelings of inadequacy.
h) Join A Motherhood Support Group
Knowing that other moms experience a mix of happiness and frustration is one way of calming your nerves and putting your mind at ease. They understand what you are going through and can give non-judgmental support. You will also get to learn about so many baby-related issues. You may have read a lot about solutions to problems that mums face, but the best practical scoops come from mothers who have undergone the real thing.
If you do not know where to start from, you can go through our resource list to find a support group near you. Your healthcare provider can also give you suggestions of a support network.
Finally, there is no guarantee that the ways that we have discussed above will absolutely make you not develop postnatal depression. However, being proactive will significantly lower your chances of slipping into it. The prevention starts from when you are pregnant and continues until when you have comfortably adapted to your newborn. Apply these practices and if you recognize any of the symptoms that we discussed in part one, do not hesitate to reach out for professional help.