Hey mama, the first few weeks after birth can be tough, but you’re not alone.
About 80% of mothers experience the “baby blues,” this typically occurs within the first few weeks of giving birth. You may have rapid mood swings, feel helpless, worried, irritable or anxious, cry for what seems like no reason and have problems sleeping. These feelings are normal as your body recovers from childbirth, your hormone levels are changing, your routine is being disrupted and you’re running low on sleep.
How do you know if it’s postpartum depression or the baby blues?
The baby blues is short-lived and naturally resolves within two weeks of onset. If your mood doesn’t improve after two weeks then you may be experiencing postpartum depression. Common symptoms are loss of appetite, feelings of guilt and inadequacy, poor sleep, decreased motivation, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Women often find it hard to admit to these feelings, but up to 16% of new moms experience depression in the first year after birth, and there is help out there.
What can I do to feel better?
Speak with your doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to determine the best course of treatment with you and know the resources available to you in your area. The three main areas of treatment routes are self-care, counselling, and medications. The facets of self-care can be remembered by the word “NESTS”: Nutrition; Exercise; Sleep; Time to Self; and Supports.
Nutrition – It’s common for women with depression to have a change in their appetite and either not eat enough or overeat. Your body needs those calories to recover from giving birth and to breastfeed. You may find that you’re reaching for crackers, cookies, or other foods high in carbohydrates; these foods can cause wide fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, from high spikes to low levels (hypoglycemia) resulting in mood swings. To avoid this try to eat at least three balanced meals a day and aim to include some protein in every meal and snack (eggs, nuts, cheese, yogurt, lean meats).
Exercise – BIGGEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK. Many studies have proven exercise to be as effective as medications in the treatment of postpartum depression. Exercise results in endorphin-release, gives you a sense of power and control, improves self-esteem, and can double as ‘time to self’. Proper strength training can help with postpartum recovery, pelvic floor strength, urinary incontinence, sleep quality and prolapses. Exercise doesn’t have to be a 60 minute sweat in the gym, you can start by putting your baby in the stroller and going for a walk.
Support – There is a lot of support out there – we encourage you to reach out. Talk to your partner, family doctor, midwife, public health nurse or a registered psychologist. If you don’t feel ready to speak with someone face to face, the Pacific Postpartum Support Society provides telephone support at 604-255-7999 or www.postpartum.org. Connect with other moms at your local Community Center or Family Place, chances are they share similar feelings of being overwhelmed, sad and anxious.
Time to Self – Set aside at least a few minutes each day where you can have time to yourself. It could be a walk while someone else looks after your baby, it could be a bath during baby’s naptime, or just a few quite moments to think about how you can care for yourself today.
Sleep – Sleep is very important for your mental health and it’s going to be hard to come by for the first few months. You need consolidated sleep in order for it to be restorative, so even if your hours of sleep add up to 8 hours a night, it doesn’t compare to getting a 5-hour stretch! With feeding every few hours this is not going to happen at first so be patient and gentle with yourself. A lot of the mood swings have to do with lack of sleep, and this will get better with time. You can also have your partner or another support give the baby a bottle in the night to give you a few extra hours of consolidated sleep.
Moms, you’re not alone!
The feelings that accompany postpartum depression can be very frightening for a new mother. It’s important to recognize that you are not alone and there is help out there.
BC Reproductive Mental Health Program www.bcmhas.ca
HealthLink BC (811) or www.healthlinkbc.ca
Pacific Postpartum Society (604-255-7999) or www.postpartum.org