How to deal with Postpartum anxiety and depression

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15 min read

Postpartum Depression and anxiety are very common and nothing to be scared of; not all birth is the same. Despite what social media, movies or influencers would have you believe, having a baby is exceptionally stressful! No matter how much you’ve looked forward to meeting your new bundle of joy, no matter how many you have, or how much you love them, the months post-birth are very turbulent for your body and your emotions. Physically your body hasn’t just run a marathon, it’s basically just done the most intense endurance test of its life! 

During your pregnancy, you went through a lot of significant hormone changes which at the time contributed to feelings of morning sickness, tiredness, and irritability. Now baby’s here, but, your body hasn’t finished; all those pesky hormones are still in flux, returning to their pre-pregnancy state. Add lack of sleep, new responsibilities, a lack of time and sore body parts to your routine. And it is no surprise that new mothers can struggle with anxiety and depression. In fact, it’s so common that it has its own name – the baby blues. But when does baby blues become Postpartum Depression and what’s the difference between Depression and Anxiety?

Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

In the first week or so after the birth of a child it is very common to experience low mood. Symptoms of Baby Blues can include feeling emotionally overwhelmed or crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable or feeling anxious and restless. Importantly, when experiencing baby blues these feelings normally only last a few days and should not continue beyond two weeks of giving birth. 

In comparison, Postnatal Depression usually occurs 2 to 8 weeks after birth and can sometimes last up to a year after the baby is born. Whilst it is very distressing, it is still quite common and generally affects 1 in 10 women. 

Signs and Symptoms of postpartum depression 

Symptoms vary from person. Some people identify with an overwhelming feeling of sadness whereas other people may experience more worry and anxiety about the baby and their ability to cope, as opposed to feelings of melancholy. 

The postpartum depression symptoms can include loss of interest in baby, a prolonged or increasing feeling of hopelessness, feelings of not being able to cope that become progressively worse, not being able to enjoy anything or excessive anxiety about your baby.

It is entirely possible to experience more anxiety symptoms then depressive ones. Or a new mother can experience both at once. In some countries doctors may provide a separate diagnosis of Postpartum Anxiety, however, in many countries, both conditions are diagnosed under the term Postpartum Depression or PPD. 

Where to go for help when experiencing postpartum depression

It’s important to remember that you do not have to struggle alone, talking to someone is the first place to start.

Feelings of low mood and anxiety do not mean you are a bad parent, or unable to cope. Postnatal depression is an illness that needs treatment, just like how you need treatment during fever.

The first step is often talking to someone you trust, who can support you with the next steps. Partners, friends, and parents are often a good starting point. Admitting to feelings of low mood or anxiety after birth can be an intensely distressing experience however it is more common then you think and you will likely be met with a listening ear and a kind cuddle. If you feel that you’re unable to talk to a loved one then try speaking with your health visitor. Health Visitors have been trained to spot the signs of Postnatal depression and may well ask you about your experience. Do not worry, or feel offended, they are not judging you or your ability as a parent, they are simply giving you the opportunity to explore how you feel and offer help if it’s needed. 

They can support you to make a GP appointment and might even attend with you to ensure you get the support you need and deserve. 

You can also talk to Wysa to help manage any anxiety or depression that you may be experiencing.

Treatment for postpartum depression

Treatment for Postpartum Depression changes from person to person depending on how severe their symptoms are, their medical history and the facilities in your local area. Treatment can include:

  • Counseling with a health visitor or therapist 
  • GP might recommend you join local support and postnatal groups:  here you can spend time with other mothers who share your experience. 
  • In more severe cases antidepressants might be required to help bring some balance to your feelings and there are specialist teams, called peri-natal services, who can offer specialist support if needed. This can include regular check in’s, group therapy and individual therapy as needed. 

Tips to deal with postpartum depression

Taking the time to talk to someone you trust is the most important part of dealing with postpartum depression however there are some steps you can take towards improving your mood and symptoms:

Create time for yourself

Having a child can become all-consuming and lack of time for self-care can be a big influence on mood. Try and make time for yourself and not get consumed in baby and house chores. So the next time when the baby is napping or well-wishers have come to coo, try taking five minutes to have a cup of tea in peace, soak in the bath or paint your nails. Whatever ‘Me time’ means to you. 

Resist isolation

There is a difference between making time for yourself and self-isolating. Being alone too much can cause an increase in ruminating thoughts and feelings of despair. If you find yourself alone with the baby most of the time, try looking for local groups you can join, family members you can visit or invite over a neighbor for a cup of tea. It doesn’t have to fill your day but the adult company is important to. 

Get moving

Gentle exercise and fresh air are excellent for supporting your mood. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous, try bundling baby up in the buggy and going for a walk around the local park, taking time to enjoy the sounds of nature and the sights around you. 

Get playful

Bonding with baby can sometimes feel overwhelming like there is an exam we have to pass to be the right person to care for this little one. Play is a great way to build a bond with the baby before they are even born. Check out our blog on playful bonding for more ideas

What can I do to help someone I love?

Postnatal depression can be a very distressing time for both the person experiencing it and those around them who just want to help. There are many things you can do to support a loved one experiencing postnatal depression:

Listen

The most important thing you can do at this point in time is to listen. When new parents feel overwhelmed – asking for help and sharing their feelings can be the hardest part, so be sure to let then know you are there, whenever they might need you.

Support the bond

Building attachment is a key part of tackling postnatal depression and you can support this. Praise new parents for the effort they are making and for all the positives you see. Encourage regular interaction with baby using silly rhymes or funny songs or something parents enjoyed before the baby came along – like listening to their favorite music together and singing along. 

Practical Support

There is a lot to be said for a good night’s sleep and a clean kitchen. A new baby is a huge upheaval and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the jobs that need doing on minimal sleep. Offer to do the dishes while they have a lie-down or pop round some pre-cooked meals. You’d be surprised how much these little things can help soothe the soul. Try out Wysa’s “sleep stories” and other self-help tools to get a good night’s sleep!

Conclusion

Becoming a parent is an adventure, and like all adventures, there are some amazing bits and some downright terrifying parts. The important thing to remember during postpartum depression is to seek help. Please understand, this is not a reflection on your capacity as a parent and is nothing to be ashamed of. The professionals and the loved ones are around supporting you and they want you to feel like the best version of yourself.  And always remember you’ve already set an amazing example to your new child by showing them it’s perfectly okay to not be okay. We’ve got you covered – here’s a guide to bond with your baby during and post-pregnancy. Remember, Wysa is always there if you want to talk.

FAQ


What’s postpartum depression?


This is the type of depression you get after the birth of your child. Postnatal Depression usually occurs 2 to 8 weeks after birth and can sometimes last up to a year after the baby is born. Whilst it is very distressing, it is still quite common and generally affects 1 in 10 women. 

How Long does postpartum depression last?


Postpartum depression usually occurs 2 to 8 weeks after birth and can sometimes last up to a year after the baby is born. 

What causes postpartum depression?


Hormonal changes: During your pregnancy, you went through a lot of significant hormone changes which at the time contributed to feelings of morning sickness, tiredness, and irritability. Now baby’s here, but, your body hasn’t finished; all those pesky hormones are still in flux, returning to their pre-pregnancy state. 

Stress: Lack of sleep, new responsibilities, lack of time and sore body parts can add a lot of stress and pressure to your state of mind.

Past history of depression: If there has been a family history or if you have had experienced depression before, there are chances that you might experience postpartum depression.

How to treat postpartum depression


Counseling with a health visitor or therapist 

GP might recommend you join local support and postnatal groups:  here you can spend time with other mothers who share your experience. 

In more severe cases antidepressants might be required to help bring some balance to your feelings and there are specialist teams, called peri-natal services, who can offer specialist support if needed. This can include regular check in’s, group therapy and individual therapy as needed.

How common is postpartum depression?


Whilst postnatal depression can be very distressing, it is still quite common and generally affects 1 in 10 women.

How to cope with postpartum depression?

The birth of a child can change a woman’s life in many ways and not all of those changes are positive. Post partum depression or baby blues can set in between two to ten weeks of pregnancy and can persist for over a year. Dealing with postpartum depression is a slow process. Depending on the nature of the delivery, women can undergo severe mood changes which catalyses the onset of depression after surgery. The best way to overcome after surgery depression is through seeking professional help. Many therapists specialize in the area of imparting post partum depression help and counselling.
Additionally, building a support system of caregivers and other fellow mothers is also a good way to beat the blues and overcome depression.

How can I help my spouse in dealing with depression?

It’s never easy to watch a loved one go through pain. Dealing with depression of a spouse is one of the most heartbreaking experiences one can ever go through because no matter how much you love them you can’t partake in their sorrow. As a concerned partner, here are tips for dealing with depression can help you in your relationship:
1. Understand Depression
Take the time to understand what your partner is going through. Not all forms of depression are equally severe; some forms of depression are seasonal and short-lived. Observe the symptoms they display and understand their triggers before you offer help.
2. Be Present
Being there for your partner is the best depression help you can offer. There will be times when they can’t elaborate what they’re going through or why they feel the way they do. Just be there to hold their hand, give them a hug and a shoulder to cry on when they are feeling blue. Try to ask them objectively what you can do to help with depression.
3. Suggest a change of environment
A small holiday with your spouse can help them break the cycle of despair. Attempt to disrupt their downward spiral by involving them in an activity they enjoy. Many retreats for depression offer programs tailored to help mental health patients rejuvenate and recover.
4. Normalize depression
Many people who suffer from mental health problems do so in silence from the fear of stigma and marginalization. Normalize depression in your household and help other around you understand your spouse is going through. Break the circle of shame and help your partner accept their condition fully without skirting the issue.
5. Suggest professional help
A quick search on Google for ‘depression counselors near me’ generally yields detailed patient reviews for reliable mental health counselors. Find one you trust and seek professional advice on your spouse’s condition. Share your concern with your partner in a constructive way and encourage them to get the right treatment as soon as possible.

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