Postpartum depression itself is nothing new but the culture of support surrounding women who suffer from this disorder is. Until recently, many women didn’t feel comfortable opening up about their struggles with postpartum depression because it was often seen as a sign of weakness in a new mother. Now that more women are discussing the disorder and communication in the media has increased, awareness has also increased, which has done much to dispel the misconception that postpartum depression isn’t real or that, if it’s real, it’s a rare disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Postpartum Depression (PPD) affects 10%-15% of mothers within the first year of giving birth and up to 80% of women experience a less severe form of the disorder often called the “baby blues.”
Educate yourself about the risk factors, symptoms and treatments with the following facts and tips to make your transition into motherhood a joyous one.
Postpartum mood disorders are caused by hormonal changes, fatigue and disrupted sleep patterns. While many of these issues can’t be avoided, you can better protect yourself by knowing if you have risk factors that could increase the severity of these issues.
Risk factors for postpartum depression:
- Previous episodes of depression or postpartum depression
- A family history of or current mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder
- Other stressful life events at the same time as pregnancy or immediately following birth
- A lack of support from partner, family and friends
Symptoms of postpartum mood disorder:
- Frequent crying spells
- Mood swings
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Sadness about your baby
- Confusion, irritability and inability to concentrate
- Overwhelming emotions
- Noticeable weight gain or loss
- Loss of appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness or anxiety
Many symptoms may disappear on their own with time. If they don’t or if they become more severe, there are treatment options available, such as antidepressants, psychotherapy and hormone therapy. Here are some tips that you can do yourself to alleviate many of the symptoms of postpartum depression.
- Remain social. Stay in touch with your loved ones and friends. Isolation makes depression much worse. Schedule activities, visits, lunches or play dates that get you out of the house and talking to other people.
- Get plenty of sunshine. Don’t shut yourself away or stay in the dark. Open the windows and throw back the curtains to let sunshine in. If you can, get outside at least two times a day.
- Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet. If your appetite is low, try to eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day to boost your energy level. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine, if you find yourself using them as a way to feel better.
- Stay active. Regular exercise boosts endorphins and helps you feel both physically and mentally healthier. Incorporate your baby into your exercise routine by going on stroller walks around the neighborhood.
- Listen to music. Stimulating music will help energize you during the day and soothing music can help you relax at night. It will do the same for your baby.
- Get plenty of rest. If your baby is up during the night, try to sleep when he/she sleeps during the day. Fatigue and lack of sleep can increase depression.
- Join a support group for new moms in your area. These groups are a great way to spend more time with your baby outside of the home where you can learn about motherhood and connect with people who are going through the same experiences as you.
- Ask for help. If your family and friends are offering to help, don’t say no. Loved ones can help alleviate some of the stresses of everyday tasks.
Postpartum Psychosis is an extremely rare yet serious postpartum mood disorder. If you experience hallucinations, irrational speech or thoughts of harming your child or yourself, you should contact your doctor or call emergency services immediately.
There are many free, confidential, 24-hour hotlines available for anyone that is experiencing even the smallest issues. These hotlines can help you get the help you need, whether through a support group, emergency services or therapy. Remember that you are not alone and should not be ashamed to get postpartum depression treatment if you are experiencing postpartum mood disorders or any issues regarding your maternal health.
Post written by NorthShore University HealthSystem – visit for more information on postpartum depression treatment.