The birth experience is a dramatic, joyous event, but people rarely talk about the adjustment period after the baby comes home. Or, if they do, it’s just that—an adjustment period. If you start feeling as though something’s a little off, you might dismiss it as nothing. It’s just you adjusting, right?
The terms “baby blues” and “postpartum depression” are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually different conditions. Eighty percent of new moms experience baby blues in those overwhelming few weeks after the baby arrives. The American Pregnancy Association cites hormones, sleep deprivation, and the emotional experience of the baby’s arrival as potential causes, and talking it out is an effective way to cope.
If you’re surprised by the intensity of the blues, or if those feelings don’t go away after the first couple of weeks, you may have postpartum depression (PPD). And you’re not alone; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 10 to 15 percent of new moms experience PPD annually.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
PPD is different for each woman. Here are some of its symptoms:
- You know something is wrong, but you can’t snap out of it.
- You can’t concentrate on simple things, such as getting dressed.
- You’re exhausted but can’t sleep. Or, you can do nothing but sleep.
- You feel hopeless, like the situation will never improve.
- You project a bad mood on your baby or partner. You may even feel bursts of frustration that are out of your control.
- You and your baby aren’t feeling that bond or connection you expected.
- You’re particularly irritable. You cry or chafe at things that are normally minor.
- You feel guilt and shame over some of your negativity.
Any one of these can warrant a call to your doctor. If you prefer natural treatment, tell your doctor; he or she should honor your preference while suggesting the most effective remedy. Remember that the medical community is on your side.
Help Is on the Way
Once you’ve spoken with your doctor, it’s time to be proactive. Here are a few natural mood-boosters that, with your doctor’s green light, can help clear the fog and get you back to being you:
Get a massage. Dr. Tiffany Field, author of Touch, says that although four of your five senses can be used in isolation, touch is the one sense that involves someone or something else. For me, feelings of isolation in early motherhood weren’t relieved by talking, but by simply being with another adult. Regular back-rubs provided just that, keeping me in the game on days when I wanted to quit.
Prioritize vitamins and minerals. Mental health depends on a balance of vitamins and minerals, and your wellness is more important to your baby now than ever before.
Go outside. A study from 2007 found that women with PPD showed “significant improvement” when exposed to bright or dim light every day for six weeks.
Exercise. Results from another study determined that women with PPD who exercise are less likely to stay depressed. Be sure to talk to your doctor about types of physical activity to try.
Reduce the crying. A screaming baby can do a number on anyone’s nerves. Carrying your baby in a sling or wrap can significantly cut down on crying, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Practice a few hours of skin-to-skin contact each day, as well, which can also appease an uncomfortable infant.
Eat fats. Nix the bad fats, but make sure to include the good ones in your diet. Omega-3s are at the top of every specialty doctor’s treatment list for mood disorders. Fats from animals raised in confinement or from genetically engineered crops? No, thank you!
Try essential oils. Aromatherapy doesn’t just help soothe you; it can relax your baby, too. I avoid subscribing to only one manufacturer, instead taking each treatment on a case-by-case basis. For anxiety, I called a friend who knows a lot about essential oils. For muscle aches, I called someone who suggested a blend that helped me immensely. Employing oils reduced my postpartum unhappiness significantly, and I’m not the only one. Ask anyone who’s tried it (not many clinical trials have been run yet), and you’ll be on your way.
Nonetheless, I called my doctor before trying any of these methods, and you should do the same. Exposing my feelings to a professional was so cathartic, and I was pleasantly surprised to be treated as though I had simply reported the common cold. No one was shocked when I reached out, and that alone lifted my spirits.
How about you? How have you planned to pull yourself out of this often-misunderstood condition?
Image sources: Bethany Johnson
“This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.”