Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

I have been shocked at the number of women I have talked to that have dealt with postpartum depression. During my own experience with it with my first baby, I thought I was all alone and that there was no one that could relate. I was very wrong. Twelve to fifteen percent of women deal with postpartum depression, not to be confused with the baby blues which up to eighty percent of women deal with (http://www.depressioncenter.org/). So what is the difference and how do you know if you are dealing with one or the other?

Baby blues are characterized by moodiness and sensitivity. The blues generally set in about four days after giving birth and are resolved around two weeks after the birth without using medication or other treatment. Postpartum depression, however, is much longer lived. It can set in at the same time as or later than baby blues, but can last up to several months. It is characterized by the following: frequent crying, sadness, irritability, less energy and motivation, sleeping problems, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt, and showing little interest in your baby (http://familydoctor.org/).
With my own experience, I felt extreme amounts of guilt. In fact, I kept it a secret from everyone for a long time because I felt so ashamed. The best thing I did was to finally confide in my husband and to get help. The most important thing I think that women can remember when facing this challenge is that it is not your fault and that it is crucial that you get the help you need. Talk to your doctor. There are many medications available to help mothers even if you are breastfeeding. Aside from getting medical help, there are other ways you can help yourself get better (www.depressioncenter.org):
  • Exercise. Exercising releases mood-elevating compounds that can help fight off depression. Be sure to exercise for 20-30 minutes at least three days a week. Even 10 minutes a day can help.
  • Support. Do not feel like you have to do everything by yourself. Enlist your spouse, family members, and friends in helping you with the challenges of a new baby.
  • Stress Management. Identify the greatest causes of stress and how to best cope with these. Identify priorities and what you can relax on.
  • Promote Sleep. Getting adequate sleep is difficult with a newborn. Think about possibly having husband take over a nighttime feeding. If breastfeeding, pump so that a bottle is available.
  • Spend time with others. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others, but talking to others can help, especially when you find others who can relate with what you are going through. If you do not have friends you feel comfortable talking to, then join a support group.
  • Make time to relax and enjoy hobbies. It may be difficult to think of anything that sounds enjoyable, but try to give yourself time to do hobbies that you enjoyed before you had the baby. It may take some time, but you will be able to enjoy yourself and your life again.

If you are dealing with postpartum depression, recognize that you are not alone and that there is help available. Please get the help you need. This is not a problem you should try to work through all by yourself. And remember that life can and will be good again.

If this is a problem you have dealt with, how were you able to overcome it? What do you think are the most important steps in overcoming this disease?

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