Each year, more women will experience postpartum depression than there are new cases of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy combined—for both men and women.
That means a little more than 1 in 7 women will suffer from postpartum depression. In lower socio-economic areas, the numbers are even higher, with 1 in 4 women suffering.
At a time when women are anticipating a blissful bonding experience with a tiny, perfect newborn, the feelings that postpartum depression elicits in their place can be devastating.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is linked to the host of chemical, physical, social, and psychological changes that take place after giving birth.
Because many of its symptoms are the same as those normally experienced after childbirth—fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood changes, change in appetite, and decreased libido—many women initially brush off their concerns.
It is those symptoms, in fact, that commonly make up what is called the “baby blues.” The baby blues occur in up to 80 percent of all new mothers and typically last 3 days to a couple of weeks.
When the symptoms last more than 2 weeks, however, and begin to include some of the following, it is more likely that a mother is experiencing postpartum depression than the baby blues:
• Feeling shame and/or guilt or believing you are a failure
• Feeling panicky and scared most of the time
• Feeling hopeless and/or worthless
• Experiencing thoughts of death or hurting yourself
• Feeling numb or disconnected to your baby
• Having trouble bonding with your baby
• Having scary or negative thoughts about your baby
• Having trouble sleeping when baby sleeps (lack of sleep beyond what is normal for new moms)
What Do You Do If You’re Experiencing Symptoms?
If you are experiencing symptoms like this, it’s likely that you’re also scared and feeling somewhat isolated.
Women in the United States have it particularly tough because of cultural expectations that “women can do it all” and because of a decrease over recent decades in outside maternal support. In many countries, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and neighbors all take part in caring for a new mom once baby arrives.
In some Latin American countries, for example, communities practice la cuarentena. During la cuarentena, which lasts around 40 days to six weeks, a new mom is expected to do only two things: take care of herself and take care of the baby.
Others in the family and community take over caring for older children, cleaning the home, running errands, and preparing meals. In some Asian countries, women participate in a similar custom called “doing the month.”
Recently, on the Emotions Mentor podcast, I spoke with expert doula and life schooling advocate Farrah Collver about helping new mothers who are experiencing postpartum depression.
Here are seven more things new moms can do to battle postpartum depression.
1. Go to your six-week post-delivery appointment.
A surprising number of women skip the follow-up appointment with their OBGYN or midwife after giving birth. This appointment, however, can be vital to a woman’s well-being, especially if the doctor or midwife uses proven screening tools.
A visit with a professional can alert them to any problems you’re having and help you get on track to feeling better.
2. Bump up your nutrition.
Money women are so tired in the days and weeks after giving birth that they forget to eat or simply grab the first thing they see in the cupboard.
Don’t forget to eat. And eat well. Get enough essential fatty acids. Eat a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables. Continue taking a prenatal vitamin, and drink lots of water.
3. Find time to rest.
With the first baby, it’s possible to nap when the baby naps. But with subsequent children, this isn’t usually feasible. That’s why it’s important to have a network and to accept help from others. If a neighbor volunteers to come hold the baby while you nap, say yes.
Ask your mom or husband to help. Let the dishes or the dusting slide when you’re exhausted and have the chance to nap.
Those things can always be done later and have no impact on your baby’s well-being; but your well-being—and ability to function—is crucial to your baby’s welfare.
4. Remember that there is no one right way to mother.
The most important element of mothering is to love your children.
5. Go on a walk.
Sometimes, just getting out of the house and out in the sun can make a world of difference.
Bundle up baby and push the stroller around the block a few times. Or ask a trusted friend or family member to watch the baby while you walk through the park. After you get clearance from your doctor, begin exercising.
But don’t expect to start where you left off. Your body has been through a lot. Start slowly and build your way back up to where you were before baby.
6. Talk to friends, a sister, or mother.
Talking with another mother can be a valuable lifeline. As you talk, you’ll likely discover that you are not the only one who experiences doubt, fear, and misgivings about motherhood.
7. Try essential oils.
Essential oils can be powerful, natural medicine and have the ability to quickly calm the mood and lift the spirit. Always use pure, quality essential oils, such as doTerra, which are certified pure and therapeutic.
Essential Oil Tips for New Moms
To bring on a sense of calm—diffuse equal parts geranium, lavender, and ylang ylang.
To help you focus and feel connected—combine 4 or 5 drops each Douglas fir, frankincense, rose, and blue tansy in a 10 mL roller bottle. Top off with fractionated coconut oil. Roll over your wrists and the bottoms of your feet several times a day.
To curb sadness—mix 1 cup Epsom salts with 3 drops each lavender, patchouli, frankincense, and clary sage. Dissolve salts in a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes.
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