Recognizing Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is very different from the “baby blues,” a heightened emotional state that can hit 80% or more of new moms in the first days after the baby is born. Baby blues usually ebbs within a couple of weeks.
True postpartum depression is actually part of a constellation of conditions that experts call “perinatal mood disorders.” These mood disorders involve more than just feeling depressed, and they can occur during pregnancy as well as afterward.
How can you tell if you have a perinatal mood disorder? Here are six signs:
- Eating and sleeping disturbances: You haven’t eaten in two days because you’re just not hungry, or you can’t stop eating. You sleep all the time, or you can’t sleep even when you have the chance.
- Anxiety: Your mind races with fears and worries and you just can’t shut it off.
- Feelings of guilt and shame: You have the sense that you’re “not doing this right,” that you’re a bad mother.Anger and irritability.
- Uncontrollable thoughts of harm coming to the baby.
- Just not feeling “like yourself.”
These symptoms usually appear within the first three months after the baby is born, and peak around the four-month mark. But, as with Tina Merritt, they can go on for years if undiagnosed and untreated.
Overwhelming Anxiety and Stress in a Relationship
The mother-baby relationship isn’t the only relationship affected by perinatal mood disorders. Merritt and her husband were lucky — their marriage survived the strain of her withdrawal, until an emergency brought them into counseling when Graham was 2 1/2. But many couples don’t survive a bout with perinatal mood disorders.
“There’s a very high rate of divorce in the first year after having a baby,” says Birdie Gunyon Meyer, RN, coordinator of the Perinatal Mood Disorders Program at Clarian Health in Indianapolis, Ind., and the president of Postpartum Support International.
“Even when there is no mood disorder, having a baby is very stressful on a relationship. Then, if she gets postpartum depression and anxiety, it’s that much worse,” Gunyon tells WebMD. “Men say things like, ‘I was disappointed. I was doing my part and she wasn’t pulling her weight. She was very depressed and anxious, and I had to take care of a new baby and my wife.’”
Postpartum Depression Is a Family Illness
Men can also get postpartum depression, Meyer says, noting that an estimated 10% of new fathers experience the condition.
PPD is a family illness, says Karen Kleiman, MSW, LSW, director of the Postpartum Stress Center, which has locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. And, it can affect your relationship for years to come.
“It is so isolating and self-absorbing for moms, that we often forget that dad is a big player here. I see a lot of couples who struggle with this and get through it, but at the other end, they are still angry and unforgiving,” Kleiman says. “I know women who 10 years later have said ‘I will never forgive you for not being there for me,’ and the husband replies, ‘I didn’t know what to do, you were shut down and wouldn’t talk to me and weren’t treating me well.’”
Treating Perinatal Mood Disorders
If you think you have a perinatal mood disorder, one of the most important things you can do when seeking treatment is to involve your partner.
“As soon as I’m seeing someone, I want to get the husband and baby in as well, to see what impact it’s having on the family, and to give him the opportunity to talk about his frustrations and show him how he can support her,” Kleinman says.
Talk Things Out
Depression usually has a mix of physical, emotional, and mental causes. Studies show that the most effective way to treat depression is a combination of medicine and therapy. Options range from counseling, like cognitive therapy, to meeting with a support group. Learning to cope with the conflicts, traumas, losses, or stresses that trigger your illness can help keep you well.
Get Your Body Moving
Work on your physical as well as emotional strength. Exercise can ease depression symptoms, especially when you do things that get your heart rate up. In fact, exercise can sometimes work as well as antidepressants for people with mild to moderate depression. It helps to ease stress and gives you a sense of well-being. Exercise helps you feel better right away. And when you stick with it, those feelings last.
Choose a Healthy Diet
Eating the right foods helps your body work at its best. And when your body is in good shape, your treatment works well. Not getting enough of some vitamins and minerals can make depression worse. And research shows that foods that are bad for your heart — like saturated fats — may even increase your risk for developing depression. Also, avoid alcohol, which makes depression.
Get Your Sleep
Getting enough sleep boosts your mood and helps you cope with stress. In fact, most people with depression have sleep problems. To sleep better, exercise, have a regular meal and bedtime schedule, limit caffeine and alcohol, get outside during daylight, and have a relaxing bedtime routine.
Think Outside the Box
Nontraditional or alternative treatments may relieve some symptoms, help you relax, and ease problems like physical pain or anxiety that make depression worse.
- Reflexology (applying pressure to nerves in your feet or hands; practitioners believe this stimulates healing)
Vitamins and Other Nutrients
People who are low on vitamin D seem more likely to get depressed, but taking extra D doesn’t always help them feel better. Some studies show that EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), found in fish oil, may help treat depression. A new prescription form of folate — technically called L-methylfolate (Deplin) — shows promise for boosting the benefits of antidepressants. Talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.
Exercise and Depression
Research suggests that a regular exercise program not only keeps you fit, but also releases chemicals in your brain that may make you feel good, improve your mood, and reduce your sensitivity to pain. Although exercise alone won’t cure depression, it can help reduce depression over the long term. Keep in mind that if you’re depressed, it can be hard to get the energy to keep exercising. But know that exercise can improve energy, ease fatigue, and help you sleep better.
Regular exercise has been proven to:
- Reduce stress
- Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
- Boost self-esteem
- Improve sleep
Exercise also has these added health benefits:
- It strengthens your heart.
- It increases energy levels.
- It lowers blood pressure.
- It improves muscle tone and strength.
- It strengthens and builds bones.
- It helps reduce body fat.
- It makes you look fit and healthy.
Source; Web MD