A former client of mine – a mother of two preschoolers and an infant – once told me that being a mom was the source of her greatest joys and sincerest woes. We talked extensively about what her inner world had been like during the first six months of her oldest child’s life, and it became apparent that she had been suffering from postpartum depression throughout that period.
While many women experiencing postpartum depression don’t begin to recognize the symptoms until their baby is 6-12 months old, PPD can develop immediately after delivery, or even as early as the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, in which case it is referred to as peripartum depression. Following is symptoms check for PPD and information about home and lifestyle changes you can make to help you begin feeling better.
Symptoms of PPD
If the following are true, then you might be experiencing PPD:
(A) You experienced five or more of the following symptoms over a 14-day period; (B) these symptoms have been getting in the way of work, school, relationships, self-care, ability to care for your baby, or general life responsibilities; and (C) the symptoms began during pregnancy or within 12 months of delivery:
1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things
2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
3. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
4. Feeling tired or having no energy
5. Poor appetite or overeating
6. Feeling guilty, ashamed, or bad about yourself, or that you are a failure or have let your family down
7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading this article or watching Netflix
8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed; or the opposite – being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual
9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way
Treatment for PPD
It is important to note that this article is not intended as a substitute for seeking professional help. If you think you might be experiencing peri- or postpartum depression, verify this with a therapist or obstetrician. Here are some things you can do between therapy sessions and/or doctor's visits to help you recover:
Create a Healthy Lifestyle. Make it a point to include healthy eating, exercise, and rest in your daily schedule. Have a balanced meal. Walk with your baby to storytime at the local library. Sleep when your baby sleeps.
Increase Your Natural Supports. Support systems that occur in “real life” such as friends (if you’ve got them) and family members (if they are more help than hindrance to your mental health recovery) can help you maintain perspective on your life during episodes of depression.
If you don’t have these natural supports in place, try building relationships in online communities as a first step to becoming more connected with other people. Support groups for new and soon-to-be mothers can also help you connect with women whose experiences are similar to yours.
Make Time For Self-Care. This is especially helpful in treating symptoms #1, 2, and 6 above. If your self-esteem has taken a dive, or you can’t quite seem to find anything interesting to do, then take a warm bath, put on clean clothes, and leave the house. The mother I spoke about at the beginning of this article found it helpful to have her mother babysit her children for a couple hours while she got a coffee and ran errands.