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For new and expecting moms alike, the phrase “postpartum depression” can feel like a boogeyman. We’ve all heard the horror stories of extreme, postpartum psychosis, but what most don’t realize is that postpartum depression is much more prevalent than you think.
According to a study that surveyed 10,000 new mothers, just over 20 percent of mothers experience depression within the first year postpartum, illustrating just how prevalent a problem it is. However, the study also showed that the unfortunate stigma surrounding postpartum depression and mental health in general causes many suffering mothers to keep quiet about their issues. These results are apparent due to the fact that only 14 percent of pregnant and postpartum women sought out help or treatment for their depression –as compared to 26 percent of the general population. That’s why it’s important to highlight issues like postpartum depression to show these women that they’re not alone.
In fact, when you include the common and brief spell of depression most mothers shortly face after delivery knows as the “baby blues,” the number of mothers dealing with some form of depression or anxiety-based issue leaps to an astonishing 80 percent. Between that number and the high percentage of women dealing with full-on postpartum depression, there’s never been a better time to focus on this serious problem and give you useful tips to combat it.
But before we can fight the issue, it’s important to fully understand what postpartum depression is and how it’s different than the “baby blues.”
Postpartum Depression or Just Baby Blues?
One of the hardest questions anyone potentially dealing with any form of depression asks themselves is, “Am I really depressed, or am I just sad?” And for moms who can barely find time to eat, sleep, or shower, that question can quickly turn to, “Why did I even have a baby?” But the most important thing to remember when asking yourself either of those questions is that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed – everyone does from time-to-time.
It’s impossible to pinpoint the problem if you waste energy beating yourself up just for having emotions, and once you’ve accepted that feeling sadness, frustration, and even anger are normal, you can work on identifying the problem and finding a solution.
When it comes to differentiating baby blues from postpartum depression, there are actually medically established standards to identify each issue, so deciding which you may have is fairly simple. For the baby blues, symptoms can include bouts of anxiety, crying, insomnia, moodiness, and sadness along with feelings that you may not be capable or prepared to take care of a baby. These feelings are normal due to the massive swing in hormones that occurs in the days following delivery, where your hormone levels drop drastically, something that commonly leads to symptoms of depression. However, due to the reactionary nature of these symptoms, the baby blues typically only last for one to two weeks and disappear as your hormone levels stabilize again.
This occurrence is in contrast to postpartum depression, which, in addition to similar symptoms of moodiness and feelings of inadequacy, also includes trouble bonding with or feeling close to your baby. Symptoms of postpartum depression typically pop up within three weeks of giving birth and can last indefinitely if not addressed. Unlike baby blues, postpartum depression does not usually go away without some form of intervention, which makes finding ways to fight back crucial.
So to help you make a plan to beat postpartum depression, we’re offering six tips for dealing with the debilitating issue. And even if you don’t think you’re dealing with full-blown postpartum depression, these tips can help you get over those baby blues just as well:
1. Seek Professional Help
Too often, getting help from your general practice doctor or mental health professional is seen as the last resort – something you fall back on when you’ve tried everything else. However, the sooner you make your concerns known to a qualified professional, the quicker you can get back to feeling normal again. But it’s important to remember that going to a doctor doesn’t just mean you’ll be pumped full of pills, especially if you’re nursing or having to stay alert to take care of your newborn.
So as soon as you feel like your symptoms are getting beyond your ability to control, don’t wait to have a complete breakdown, just reach out and get help making a detailed plan to deal with your symptoms. Additionally, by making this your first step, you can run the other tips by your doctor and make sure that they each work well with your unique health situation.
Exercise is the most highly prescribed methods of dealing with depression, and it’s also one of the most effective.
Staying active has a nearly endless number of physical and mental health benefits to help you tackle the baby blues, postpartum depression, AND your New Year’s resolution, especially if you exercise outside. From a scientific perspective, exercise has been shown to enlarge the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in both regulating mood and creating new memories. Which means that not only does regular physical activity help you stay in a good mood, it can help clear up the forgetfulness and fogginess that often comes with depression as well. And that’s without even considering the age-old adage “look good, feel good.” So get moving, look good, and feel better.
These tips can help you fit in a workout as a new mom.
3. Healthy Diet
“Diet & exercise” get lumped together as often as peanut butter and jelly, but too often people think doing just one or the other will solve all their problems. As the saying goes, “You can’t outrun a bad diet,” so no matter how hard you’re working out, if you’re eating poorly, you may feel like exercise is doing nothing to help your depression.
In fact, having a healthy diet may be even more important to your mental health than we previously thought, as a recent study observed a link between gut bacteria and depression. What the study found was that the same two types of bacteria were absent in each of the subjects that reported suffering from either mild or severe depression, illustrating a possible connection that links the food we eat to the way we feel – which shouldn’t be that surprising.
Think of it this way – if you’ve got a high-powered sports car and you fill it with regular gasoline, sure it’ll run, but you’re going to have a lot more issues later down the road than if you had used premium and the same applies to your body. Avoiding low-grade fuel like sugar and heavily-processed food in favor of premium ingredients and fresh-made meals is an indispensable part of sustaining your mental health.
4. Natural Options
In addition to a healthy diet, there are supplements and other natural alternatives that can combine with diet and exercise in the pursuit of whole-body wellness.
Some of the most common sources of natural healing are essential oils, which are commonly useful for aromatherapy, which uses certain scents to elicit specific responses in the body. For example, lavender, chamomile, and bergamot oil are three of the most common, essential fragrances used to help ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression, but there’s also another type of all-natural oil that’s recently taken the nation by storm for its anxiolytic effects – CBD oil.
CBD oil has become increasingly popular for its wide-ranging effects that help people deal with things from pain to depression to lack of sleep, all without any reported side effects. The science of CBD oil can be a little complicated, but to put it simply, CBD works hand-in-hand with things like the digestive, immune, and nervous systems to keep your body well-balanced and running smoothly. However, when it comes to beginning a regimen of either essential oils or CBD oil, it’s best to talk to your doctor – especially if you’re nursing – to make sure that they are right for you.
Have you been considering try silver supplements? Check out my review of alkaline structured silver.
5. Make Time for Sleep
This tip may be the most difficult item on the list, but it’s one of the most important.
Parents, and in particular new parents, have almost no time for sleep, which means getting sleep when they can is extremely crucial. Lack of sleep can be tremendously harmful to your overall mental state and is a driving factor of depression for many people – with one study showing that people with restrictive sleep apnea—a disorder which severely impacts sleep—were five times more likely to suffer from depression. This effect is one of the driving factors behind why baby blues are so common, and it’s also largely responsible for why some cases of postpartum depression pop up or stick around despite other forms of treatment.
One of the most often repeated words of advice is to sleep when your baby sleeps, rather than trying to use that time to catch up on emails, phone calls, or housework. This sync allows you to at least get small pockets of sleep throughout the day since getting a full eight hours at night is going to be next-to-impossible.
6. Support System
Regardless of how you choose to tackle this stressful period in your life, you won’t be able to handle it on your own without having a complete and total breakdown. For this reason, having a support system is extremely important for new mothers to be able to both feel emotionally supported and receive physical help with childcare.
Research has shown that loneliness and isolation can lead to a host of negative health consequences, including high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and lack of sleep. Those consequences are precisely why finding a support network is so crucial – because no matter how much you want to be “supermom,” even superheroes need help sometimes. Even if your support system is just one or two close friends or family members, simply having someone to confide in, relate to, and depend on when things get difficult can be the difference between a bout of the baby blues and full-on postpartum depression.
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You can find Tayler’s most recent work on the cbdMD Blog where he serves as an expert content creator and writer. Before joining the cbdMD content team, he spent time in Atlanta as the editor-in-chief of a music publication, covering everyone from Future to Katy Perry to up-and-coming local rock acts. In his free time, Tayler enjoys sour beer, Thai food, and watching Arrested Development for the 18th time.