4 Medical-Approved Steps to Cope with Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a psychological disorder that is treatable. A health service provider can support you to manage the symptoms effectively until you feel better.
The notion of becoming a parent produces a mix of emotions that takes time to adjust to. In ante-natal classes, expectant mothers are coached on how to manage these emotions, while the OBGYN would assuage your fears with the promise that ‘baby blues’ are common. There is, however, a different feeling that can manifest after your baby arrives. Knowing how to identify changes in your well-being, seeking a diagnosis and coping with postpartum depression is essential.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
There is no ascertained cause for postpartum depression. What is certain is that it can affect anyone. However, a person’s environment and genetic factors may influence the condition, including, but not limited to a family history of depression, hormonal fluctuation, the physical and emotional stress of a difficult delivery, trouble with breastfeeding or sleeping, feeling overwhelmed with childcare, or going through with an unwanted pregnancy without support from family and friends. The medical condition presents symptoms that arise within one month to a year of childbirth. It is advisable to seek support and a medical consult if you go through these symptoms post-delivery:
● A persistent sad mood and disinterest in activities;
● Irritability and difficulty focusing;
● Difficulty in bonding with your baby; and
● Frequent and long bouts of crying.
The Adverse Effects of Postpartum Depression
55% of new mothers experience mood swings, yet, 15% of them progress into severe depression1 when the symptoms are ignored and left untreated. Postpartum depression can cause people to think about harming themselves or their baby as they struggle with feelings of isolation, guilt and shame.
If you are at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting someone, or you know someone who is at risk, call the following helplines:
- National Emergency Hotline 112
- Lagos Emergency Hotline 767
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline 08092106493
1Bruce, D. F. (2020, August 4). Postpartum depression: Symptoms, causes, risks, types, tests, professional and self-care.
Feeling depressed does not make you a bad parent. Postpartum depression is a psychological disorder that is treatable. A health service provider can support you to manage the symptoms effectively until you feel better
4 Steps to Cope with Postpartum Depression
- Self-care and attention are essential relief and practice to prevent postpartum depression. This includes taking advantage of time to sleep when your baby does, eating foods that are rich in omega-3, and getting trusted help to mind your baby while you get some ‘me-time’, to do the little things you enjoy. Increasing your quality of sleep and pampering yourself can significantly improve your mood and lower the risk of postpartum depression.
- Gradually reigniting physical activities is an effective way to boost psychological well-being. Your body releases chemicals called endorphins when you exercise. Endorphins trigger a positive and refreshing feeling, proven as an effective treatment for clinical depression. Boost your mood daily with simple 20-minute, outdoor exercises like walking, jogging, cycling or swimming. Intentional playtime activities with your baby can make you feel caring and sensitive due to the release of oxytocin-the love hormone.
- Join a support group where you can interact with others emotionally. It may feel strange initially, but being in the company of people who understand and share what you are experiencing can ease the loneliness and overwhelming feeling of your new role. Whether you are in a physical group with new mothers just like you, or a virtual community, the social and emotional support you receive can increase your confidence towards coping independently with anxiety and stress.
- Talking to a psychotherapist about how you feel helps you with articulating your challenges. Your counselor or therapist would support you in setting realistic and achievable goals that help you learn how to label your struggles and respond actively to them as they arise. Seek help from a professional when there is no improvement in your well-being after making lifestyle changes. Your doctor may recommend psychotherapy and medication after your first diagnosis, based on the severity of your depression.
Postpartum depression is misunderstood because people are not aware of what it is. Misunderstanding causes judgement and abandonment, which only aggravate the condition. It is important to remember that this medical condition is not your fault and it is treatable. Getting help and support with managing your depression sooner ensures that you can safely be your best self for you and your baby.