American actress, Hayden Panettiere, recently announced that she had been dealing with postpartum depression 10 months after giving birth to her first child.
Hayden Panettiere is not alone. Many women struggle with postpartum depression every day in this country.
Statistics show nine to 16 percent of postpartum women will experience postpartum depression.
Furthermore, for women who have already experienced postpartum depression in a previous pregnancy, the estimates increases to 41 percent.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is defined as a serious mental health problem characterized by a prolonged period of emotional disturbance, which occurs at a time of major life change as well as increased responsibilities in the care of a newborn infant.
PPD can have significant consequences for both the new mother and family.
Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
People dealing with PPD experience symptoms of depression such as:
- A low or sad mood.
- Loss of interest in fun activities.
- Changes in eating, sleep, and energy.
- Difficulty in thinking, concentrating, and making decisions.
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt.
- Thoughts that life is not worth living.
However, in addition to the symptoms of depression, women dealing with postpartum depression also show:
- Trouble sleeping when your baby sleeps (more than the usual lack of sleep new moms get).
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
- Having scary or negative thoughts about the baby, like thinking someone will take your baby away or hurt your baby.
- Worrying you will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom, or ashamed you cannot care for your baby.
The Causes of Postpartum Depression
The causes of postpartum depression are not quite clear but research suggests the following factors may contribute to the onset of PPD:
Hormonal changes: A woman experiences the greatest hormonal fluctuation levels after giving birth. Intense hormone fluctuations, such as decreased serotonin levels, occur after delivery and may play a role in the development of postpartum depression.
Situational risks: Big changes in life such as childbirth can cause a great deal of stress which can result in depression. If a major event coincides with childbirth, a mother may be even more susceptible to postpartum depression.
Life Stresses: Ongoing stressful circumstances can compound the pressures of having a new baby and may trigger postpartum depression. For example, a stressful job in addition to the new responsibilities of motherhood can cause emotional strain which could lead to postpartum depression. A mother’s personal relationship with the baby’s father or any unresolved feelings about the pregnancy might also affect a mother’s risk of getting postpartum depression.
Ways To Take Care Of Yourself When Dealing With Postpartum Depression
There are several ways to take care of yourself when you are dealing with postpartum depression.
- Get enough sleep: A full eight hours may seem almost impossible with a newborn but poor sleep makes depression worse. Don’t hesitate to ask your spouse or your family for help with the baby so you catch up on your sleep.
- Set aside quality time for yourself: Find small ways to take a break from your mom duties to relax. For example, take a bubble bath or enjoy a nice cup of hot tea alone.
- Eat properly: People tend to eat poorly when they are depressed. What you eat has an affect on your mood as well as the quality of your breast milk, so you should make sure to have healthy eating habits.
- Get outside: Sunlight can lift your mood, so try to get out in the sun for at least 10 to 15 minutes per day.
- Exercise: Studies show exercise may be just as effective as medication when it comes to treating depression. Make exercise, even if it’s a 30 minute walk each day, a priority.
- Lean on family and friends for support: When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it’s important to stay connected with family and friends even if you feel like you’d rather be alone. Don’t keep your feelings to yourself, but instead let your loved ones know what you need so they can help you.
- Join a support group: Even if you have supportive friends and family, you may want to consider seeking out other people who are dealing with postpartum depression. It can be reassuring to hear you are not alone and others share the same worries, insecurities, and feelings. You can find a list of support groups for people dealing with postpartum depression here.
Professional Treatment For People Dealing With Postpartum Depression
If you’ve tried all of the above ways to help yourself but are still struggling with postpartum depression, you should consider seeking professional treatment.
People dealing with postpartum depression can avail the following types of professional treatment:
Individual therapy: A good psychiatrist or therapist can help you successfully deal with the adjustments of motherhood. If you are experiencing martial difficulties or are feeling unsupported at home, marriage counseling can also be extremely beneficial.
Hormone therapy: Estrogen replacement therapy can help with postpartum depression. Estrogen is often used in combination with an antidepressant. However, there are risks associated with hormone therapy, so make sure to talk to your doctor first about what is best for you.
Antidepressants: For people dealing with severe symptoms of postpartum depression, where you’re unable to care for yourself or your baby, antidepressants may be an option. Any medication should be prescribed as well as monitored closely by a physician.
If you’re dealing with postpartum depression, it’s important to remember that you are not alone and you have many options to get help. Following the above mentioned ways to take care of yourself as well as getting professional treatment if you need it, can help you successfully deal with your symptoms of postpartum depression.