Why it occurs is harder to understand. The dramatic hormonal changes that happen during and after labour can often play a role, and other issues that can contribute include:
- A traumatic labour
- Other health problems (for mother or baby)
- Motherhood’s physical demands (breast feeding, sleep deprivation)
- Emotional adjustments (isolation, financial or relationship challenges)
While postnatal depression is now a well-recognised health issue, the symptoms can vary significantly. When it’s bad, postnatal depression can be debilitating, so if you’re overwhelmed it’s important to realise that there are lots of people who can help you. Reach out for profession help: often your GP is the best place to start.
These five tips are designed to help you improve your mental health as you recover from postnatal depression.
- Open up about what’s happening
Family and friends can provide really valuable support through these times. Whether it’s a mother in law, friend or workmate, have a think about who you might feel comfortable talking to. And don’t forget, one in eight women has experienced postnatal depression, so you might be surprised at how many people can understand and want to help.
Parent’s groups can also be a good starting point, as can a support group. You’ll be able discuss how you’ve been feeling and hear from other people in similar situations. This can be really useful in helping you to understand what you’re going through, and to realise that you’re not alone.
- Daily light exercise
A little physical exercise each day will provide many immediate and lasting benefits to both your physical health and your mental health. Don’t feel like you have to join a gym or start doing boot camp, just going for a light walk or jog around the neighbourhood can be really beneficial.
- Don’t forget to care for yourself
During any illness it can be really challenging to find energy to do the things that will make you feel better. But investing time and energy into your own self-care will help you along the road to feeling better. So think about what would help you feel positive. Taking a shower, reading a positive book, making time for a nap, or preparing yourself a meal can be really beneficial. Or maybe for you it’s just the chance to watch a favourite show, listen to some music or go for a walk. And if it feels difficult to invest time in yourself remember that if it helps you it will help your family, baby included.
- A holistic approach:
There is now more and more scientific evidence to support the idea that holistic practices and alternative medicines can offer great relief from the symptoms of depression. Therapies like massage, acupuncture, meditation and naturopathy can bring on relaxation and help you to deal with your depression with more clarity and peace of mind.
- Make time for adult interaction
Parenting can be overwhelming at the best of times and making time for other adults is a really good way to combat this. So set up coffee dates with old friends or go shopping with family. If you have a partner, make time to reconnect with them. Even ten minutes a day to have a conversation can help. And when you’re feeling up to it, schedule in a date night so that you can have some down-time away from the usual distractions of baby and parenting.
Adjusting to a new baby is a time of incredible upheaval. New practical responsibilities collide with physical demands as you experience it for the first time. Adding postnatal depression to the situation means that it’s really important to look after yourself, set up good supports, and ask for help when you need it. And remember, postnatal depression is so common now that there are many professionals who can help you on your road to recovery.