Women who suffer from postpartum depression have been historically shunned by society. Although medical advances and societal norms have shifted to recognize PPD as the legitimate medical condition that it is, being at the hands of it has become no easier for new mothers.
Every woman enters into motherhood—whether for her first, third, or sixth time—with an unfathomable fear. Will I raise this child well? Will it be healthy, happy, and live a good life? Will I be a good mother?
Remember, You Are A Good Mother
These questions are in most cases answered with an overwhelming, “Yes!” as soon as mother and child have connected.
But for an isolated group of women, the physical and emotional ordeal of bringing a baby into the world tosses them into the throes of deep, seemingly insurmountable depression.
And for many of those women, going it alone is neither an effective nor wise option.
To a degree, diet and exercise can help hedge against PPD. However, even with many great diets geared towards women, most women suffering from PPD need more than just diet and exercise alone to jerk themselves out of their postpartum doldrums.
Know your risk, and how to handle it
Just like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, depression is oftentimes genetic. If any of the women in your bloodline—maternal or paternal—suffered postpartum depression, you very well may be at risk.
And also like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, there are proactive steps you can take to stop PPD before it hits.
Maintaining a vitamin-rich, omega-3 fatty acid plentiful diet throughout your pregnancy is a must, but keeping the health up post-birth is also crucial. Many mothers relax their vigilance after they’ve delivered, and the shock of a suddenly lazy diet can be enough to push the already delicate chemical balance in your brain over the edge.
Also, throughout your pregnancy and well after you’ve delivered, enroll in gentle yoga classes. Yoga stretches and breathing are proven to improve mood and general well-being, and your postnatal body needs the muscular upkeep just as much as your pregnant body did.
Seek professional help
Maybe you had a child before and suffered through PPD, or perhaps this is your first born and you know the disease runs in your family. Or maybe you’ve just given birth and, though there’s not family history and your previous postnatal months were depression-free, you’re feeling overwhelmed.
If anything feels “off” about your postnatal life, visit the appropriate health care professional to voice your concerns. You know how precious your newborn child is, and taking every possible avenue to ensure you’re the best mother you can be is your duty to yourself and your child. If you think you may have symptoms of partpartum depression, see a doctor.
That said, some doctors will listen for thirty seconds then send you away with three new drugs to take. Don’t be afraid to seek the opinions and advice of more than one health care provider to find one that really takes the time to listen to you and explain things to you.
As with most forms of depression, talk therapy can oftentimes serve to manage PPD. If talk therapy alone doesn’t help, discussing the next step with your provider may be the next viable option.
Accept the things you cannot change
You’re going to be exhausted. You’re going to feel helpless. You’re going to wish the baby could just stop crying, wish someone else could breastfeed just this one time, wish for an extra hour, just one! of sleep.
And that’s normal. You’re human. And feeling alone, helpless and entirely overwhelmed is one of the terrible, wonderful aspects of becoming a mother—whether for the first, or fifth, time around.
Keep your family close. Let yourself rest when you’re offered a break. Allow yourself to cry when you’re frustrated.
Finally, never forget that you’re the most important, crucial thing to that little baby. No matter what you say, think, feel or do, you’re the sun, Earth and moon to someone.
Guest post by Dr. Mike Tremba.