Becoming a mother is the best feeling in the world. However, you may feel a bit down, sad, and tired after childbirth. This is completely normal and is commonly referred to as “baby blues”. Baby blues usually begin at around two to three days after delivery and subside within two weeks. Unfortunately, sometimes mothers can have a more severe reaction and may suffer from postnatal depression. Postnatal depression, also known as postpartum depression is characterized by low mood, sadness, anxiety, poor concentration, and other mood symptoms lasting for at least two weeks after childbirth. Postpartum depression can start at any time during the first year of childbirth. In this article, you will learn about the important aspects of postnatal depression, what causes it, and what you can do to overcome it.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of postnatal depression can vary from person to person. Symptoms can also fluctuate in severity. The usual signs and symptoms include a persistent feeling of sadness, low mood, anxiety, irritability, loss of pleasure in doing your once pleasurable activities, lack of motivation, hopelessness, loneliness, difficulty to bond with your baby, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, difficulty to concentrate, lack of appetite, or excessive appetite, unexplained body aches, a feeling of losing control, a feeling of wanting to escape from everything, and frightening intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or your baby. Postnatal depression is diagnosed if a new mother presents with at least 3-4 of the clinical features mentioned above.
What Causes Postnatal Depression
Postnatal depression can be caused by multiple factors. When a woman becomes pregnant, hormonal changes occur inside her body. A pregnant woman has higher levels of estrogen and progesterone. After childbirth, the levels of estrogen and progesterone start to drop. Thyroid hormones also decline. Low levels of these important hormones trigger a state of depression. But what makes certain women more at risk than others? The answer lies in the family history, emotional health, and environment of the woman. A family history of depression or other mood disorders puts a person more at risk of depression. Stressful events occurring during pregnancy can also have a negative impact on the mental health of a woman. In addition, social factors such as a lack of emotional support and financial problems can contribute to depression.
Changes in physical appearance can also contribute to the symptoms of depression. After childbirth, very often women gain weight and suffer from bodily aches. This can trigger feelings of sadness, anger, irritability, and make a woman feel insecure about her physical appearance. Additionally, the stress of caring for a new child, the fear of not being able to parent rightly, and just the stress of the unknown can bring about a roller coaster of emotions. It is advisable to seek support as soon as possible if you feel that you might be suffering from postnatal depression. You don’t have to go through this painful experience indefinitely. There are lots of remedies you can try to help you regain control of your mental health. Most women recover completely with the right support.
How to deal with it
It is advisable to seek support as soon as possible if you feel that you might be suffering from postnatal depression. You don’t have to go through this painful experience indefinitely. There are lots of remedies you can try to help you regain control of your mental health. Most women recover completely with the right support.
The medical treatment of postpartum depression includes medications and therapy. Usually, a physician or psychiatrist will prescribe an anti-anxiety medication known as a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor or SSRI for short. Most of them also refer patients to a psychologist for psychological support through a healing strategy known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT). Studies show that medications deliver better results when combined with psychotherapy. Very rarely, some doctors will prescribe hormone replacement therapy. Hormone therapy has many risks and unpleasant side effects.
There are multiple natural remedies available that can help you overcome postnatal depression. Some of the natural remedies you can try include dieting, exercising daily, practicing self-care, and maintaining good sleep hygiene. Our diet plays a major role in providing us with the right nutrients. Certain foods provide essential components to help our brain function properly. Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA can help brain function. Good sources of omega-3 include salmon, flax seeds, sardines, and walnuts. Moreover, very often deficiencies in certain vitamins contribute to depression. You may try including eggs to your diet to help boost your vitamin levels. Another important food that can help you with depression is whole grains. You could try incorporating brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and oats. Whole grains are well-known for their ability to boost energy levels and prevent energy fluctuations. It is advisable to remove less nutritious foods like refined and heavily processed ones that contain lots of salt, sugars, fats, and preservatives.
Exercise is a natural anti-depressant. Studies show that practicing regular exercises can alleviate the symptoms of postpartum depression. Exercises that have been found effective include pram walking and deep breathing. Walking your baby in a stroller can help you relax and breathe fresh air. If you hate exercising for long hours, you may find it more realistic to exercise for only 15 minutes per day. When it comes to taming down negative emotions, your breath can be one of the best natural remedies you’ll ever encounter. Deep breathing exercises can help you divert your focus from worrying intrusive thoughts. Another very effective breathing exercise frequently used in yoga is the alternative nostril breathing technique. To do it, simply block your right nostril by pressing on the nasal cartilage. Inhale deeply through your left nostril. Block your left nostril and then exhale through the right nostril. Alternate nostril breathing provides almost instant relief from stress.
While self-care may seem simple, it is actually the most challenging part of recovering from postpartum depression. After childbirth our responsibilities double. However, you should not allow yourself to feel overwhelmed with work, chores, caretaking responsibilities, or any other kinds of stresses. The best way to deal with this is to allow someone else to shoulder the weight of these responsibilities. Ask your partner or close relatives to give you a helping hand. Take out some time to enjoy a good comedy show, go for a walk, enjoy the sunshine, and get enough sleep. Do not allow yourself to be alone when you feel like the depressive symptoms are starting to kick in. Do not allow these negative feelings to overpower you. Instead, pick up your phone and call your most trusted friend. Talking about your emotions helps elevate mood.
Getting enough sleep is not a luxury but a necessity. Depression causes insomnia. With new caretaking responsibilities, it can be hard to get enough sleep. You can start by improving your sleep hygiene. Eliminate all distractions at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Reduce screen time. Bright light emitted from phones and televisions prevents the secretion of the sleep hormone called melatonin. Melatonin secretion is triggered by darkness. Also, try to get in bed at the same time every day. This helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Avoid stimulants like coffee and nicotine before sleep. Healing plants that are commonly used to treat depression include St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, and Chamomile. The internet is flooding with positive testimonials about these healing plants. Most of these plants are also sold in the form of supplements to make them easily available and more practical to ingest. Studies show that St. John’s Wort can alleviate the symptoms of depression. Ginseng is a traditional Chinese medicine that has been used for thousands of years ago. Research suggests that ginseng could help increase energy levels. Chamomile is probably the most well-known stress-relieving plant. Studies show that chamomile can ease the symptoms of depression.
Aromatherapy can also help decrease the symptoms of postpartum depression. Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils to improve mood and overall health. Studies show that inhaling rose water and lavender oil before going to bed can significantly soothe anxiety and improve mood. Lavender is believed to act on the hippocampus which is a part of the brain that regulates mood by releasing certain ‘‘brain chemicals’’. Other great options with calming effects include bergamot, ylang-ylang, chamomile, jasmine, frankincense, sweet orange, and sage oil. You can benefit greatly from the relaxing effects of aromatherapy by preparing an essential oil concoction from 1ml of rose water with 7 drops of lavender oil and allowing it to diffuse using a humidifier while you sleep. You can also put some drops on your pillowcase or a piece of cloth and leave it beside your pillow throughout the night. We advise that you contact a trained certified Holistic Therapist they can educate you on various other alternative therapies you can explore.
Postnatal depression can progress to a more severe form of a mental condition known as postpartum psychosis. Postnatal psychosis is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and even thoughts of harming the baby. Postpartum psychosis can be dangerous and requires immediate medical assistance.