Claire Gray (BKin, CEP) 

 

You’re not alone

The first few weeks after childbirth can be tough, know that you’re not alone.  About 80% of mothers experience the “baby blues,” this typically occurs within the first few weeks of giving birth. You may have rapid mood swings, feel helpless, worried, irritable or anxious, cry for what seems like no reason and have problems sleeping.  These are normal as your body recovers from childbirth, your hormone levels are changing, your routine is being disrupted and you’re running low on sleep.

The Difference Between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

The baby blues is short-lived and naturally resolves within two weeks of onset. If your mood doesn’t improve after two weeks then you may be experiencing postpartum depression. Common symptoms are: loss of appetite, feelings of guilt and inadequacy, poor sleep, decreased motivation, and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Women often find it hard to admit to these feelings, but up to 16% of new moms experience depression in the first year after birth, and there is help out there.

How To Feel Better

Speak with your doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the best course of treatment with you and know the resources available to you in your area.  The three main areas of treatment are self-care, counseling, and medication.

Self-Care

The main components of self-care can be remembered by the word NESTS: nutrition, exercise, sleep, time to self, and support systems.

Nutrition

  • It’s common for women with depression to have a change in their appetite and either not eat enough or overeat
  • Your body needs high nutrient dense calories to recover from giving birth and to breastfeed
  • You may find that you’re reaching for crackers, cookies, or other foods high in carbohydrates for quick satisfaction but these foods can cause wide fluctuations in your blood sugar levels resulting in mood swings
  • To avoid these fluctuations try to eat at least 3 balanced meals a day and aim to include some protein in every meal and/or snack

Exercise

  • This self-care component is going to give you the most bang for your buck
  • Many studies have proven exercise to be as affective as medications in the treatment of postpartum depression
  • Exercise results in endorphin-release, gives you a sense of power and control, improves self-esteem and can double as time to self
  • Proper strength training can help with postpartum recovery, pelvic floor strength, urinary incontinence, sleep quality and prolapse

Sleep

  • Sleep is very important for your mental health and it’s going to be hard to come by for the first few months
  • You need consolidated sleep in order for it to be restorative, so even if your hours of sleep add up to 8 hours a night, it doesn’t compare to getting a 5 hour stretch
  • With feeding every few hours this is not going to happen at first so be patient and gentle with yourself
  • A lof the mood swings have to do with lack of sleep and this will get better with time
  • You can also have your partner or another support give the baby a bottle in the night to give you a longer stretch of consolidated sleep

Time To Self

  • Alone time can be hard to come by, especially if you don’t have family nearby
  • Set aside at least a few minutes each day where you can have time to yourself, 10 minutes is still better than none
  • It could be a walk while someone else looks after your baby, it could be a bath during the baby’s naptime, or just a few quiet moments to think about how you can care for yourself today such as making healthy choices for meals and snacks, talking to a friend on the phone, drinking lots of water

Support Systems

  • Reach out to family, friends, and community
  • If you don’t feel ready to speak with someone face to face, the Pacific Postpartum Support Society provides telephone support at 604-255-7999 or postpartum.org
  • Connect with other moms at your local Community Centre or Family Place, chances are they share similar feelings of being overwhelmed, sad and anxious

You’re not alone! The feelings that come with postpartum depression can be very frightening for a new mother. It’s important to recognize that it is very common and there is a lot of help out there, so please reach out. You got this!!

Resources

BC Reproductive Mental Health Program www.bcmhas.ca
1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
HealthLink BC (811) or www.healthlinkbc.ca
Pacific Postpartum Society (604-255-7999) or www.postpartum.org

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