By Susan Eleeson, PhD
Sanford Clinic Women’s Health
Two out of ten women experience a postpartum reaction after having their baby. They feel upset, alone, afraid or unloving toward their baby and guilt for having these feelings. If you feel like you might be experiencing postpartum depression, you are not alone. Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression which can affect women after childbirth.
There are three groups of postpartum reactions:
Postpartum depression is characterized by anxiety, irritability and fatigue. Women will always say “I don’t feel like myself” and “Something is not right.” Like sadness, postpartum depression can start in the first few days after childbirth and peak at six to eight weeks.
The most important thing women who believe they are experiencing postpartum depression can do is call their healthcare provider and be evaluated by a professional. The most effective treatments include medication and counseling which will create a better quality of life and decrease a woman’s likelihood of relapsing. With treatment, symptoms improve more quickly. Antidepressant medication and counseling have proven to be equally effective, and most medications are proven to be safe to use while pregnant, during breastfeeding and postpartum.
Helpful home treatment measures:
- Schedule outings and visits with friends and family. Isolation feeds depression, especially when combined with the stress of caring for a newborn and lack of sleep.
- Get as much sunlight as possible. Keep your shades and curtains open, and get outside as much as you can.
- Eat a balanced diet. If you have little appetite, eat small snacks throughout the day. Nutritional supplement shakes are also useful for keeping up your energy.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Get regular daily exercise, such as outdoor stroller walks. Exercise helps improve mood.
- Get as much rest and sleep as possible. Fatigue can increase depression.
- Play stimulating music throughout your day and soothing music at night.
- Join a support group of moms with new babies. An infant massage class is another great way of getting out and spending time with others whose daily lives are like yours, while learning new ways to bond with your baby.
Talk to your health professional about your postpartum depression symptoms and what type of treatment is best for you.