Giving birth is a beautiful thing, but the experience can cause moms a variety of contradicting emotions, including excitement, joy, fear, anxiety — and even depression. Some call it the "baby blues," a period that includes mood swings, crying spells, and difficulty sleeping, but it usually only lasts for up to two weeks. However, many mothers experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression called postpartum depression (PPD).
PPD is a serious mental health issue that involves symptoms like excessive crying, feeling disconnected from your baby, feeling incompetent as a mother, overwhelming loss of energy, and severe anxiety and panic attacks. PPD is experienced by millions of women across the world, and the pandemic has made things worse given the isolation everyone is subjected to. Many new mothers are experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety, fear, and sadness right now.
The good news is that there are ways to cope. It can be particularly challenging to tackle PPD given the situation, but there are steps you can take to deal with it.
Focus on self-care
Taking good care of yourself is perhaps one of the best things you can do for your baby. As we mentioned in our 'Postpartum Care: Caring for Your Body After Giving Birth' post, you will only be able to give your baby the best care possible if you're in a positive state. Most of your attention will be focused on your new baby, and it can feel like you're constantly tired, both emotionally and physically, but you also have to prioritize self-care because it shapes the way you balance your baby's care with your own. Taking care of yourself will allow you to be the best mother you can be.
For starters, you should stay nourished. Eat when you're hungry, and ensure that you're consuming healthy meals that are good for the body. You can always ask your family to help you prep meals if you're unable or opt for meal delivery if your budget allows. It's also essential to get lots of rest. It can be challenging given how you're pouring most of your time and energy on the baby, but try your best to relax at any opportunity you can find.
Seek professional help
When deep into postpartum depression, women often find it difficult to enlist the help of a professional, as the fear of being judged keeps them silent. Some might not even know that there is something going on with them. Screening for postpartum depression typically occurs at the standard four to six-week postpartum visit, but according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as many as 40% of women fail to attend a single one.
The good news is that today’s nurses in this field are fully equipped to deal with such issues. The Online Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Maryville University shows how nurses in this field of expertise specialize in both pediatric and mental health. And coupled with the rise of telemedicine technology mothers can access these nurses without the need to leave their homes. Alongside nurses, Time Magazine reports that apps like the Maven Clinic allow for easy access to a whole team of care specialists and mental health professionals, and moms can work together with them to flag and solve issues. This way, you no longer have to worry about scheduling an appointment, as help is quite literally right at your fingertips.
Reach out to friends and family for social support
Having a support network to rely on from time to time is important. The New York Times' piece on postpartum depression suggests that if you have the option, you should ask friends and family to lend a helping hand, or ask your partner to take on additional responsibilities. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reveals that a lack of social support from others only increases the risk of PPD.
When you have people to fall back on, you'll have extra time to take care of yourself. You'll have the luxury of exercising, have time with friends away from the baby, and get the much-needed sleep to recharge your body and mind.
Article exclusively written for bellybandit.com
By Alicia Marcus