A Three Part Series by Christy Medeiros
Postpartum Mood Disorders encompass a spectrum of conditions, ranging from the mild Baby Blues all the way to Postpartum Psychosis. Effects of these conditions, if not treated and resolved, can include disruption to family relationships, risks to the partner’s mental health, and disruptions to mother-baby attachment, which can have an effect on the baby’s long-term development.
I’m here to give you some tips that could help get through the baby blues, and hopefully prevent them from developing into something more serious.
Knowledge is power. Being familiar with risk factors and symptoms, and prevalence of these disorders can help you understand the importance of prevention, and what to do if you experience them. If you take a look at your handout, you will realize that it may be impossible to avoid mood disorders entirely. Why? Because of those lovely chemicals in our body called hormones. Hormonal changes in our bodies after delivery cause mild baby blues in about 85% of new mothers. So we really have no guarantee that we will be able to avoid these challenges at all. But knowing that baby blues are common can go a long way in helping you to get through it. Knowing that what you are going through is quite normal, can ease some of the anxiety and lessen the effects.
One key factor in fighting mood disorders, is sleep. Proper sleep can make all the difference when it comes to prevention, and lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms. Work with your partner to develop a plan for how to maximize your ability to sleep. Lean on family members and close friends, and accept help when offered.
Self-care is also vital. Relax a little on your expectations for housework. Make eating well a priority. Healthy food will affect your mood, and is important for producing breast milk.
Exercise can be as effective as medication in dealing with depression, so when you’re ready, ease back into it. A simple walk can be a good start, and the fresh air and sunshine will do you good.
Put aside regular time for yourself, read a book, take a bath, or whatever it might be that refreshes you and brings you peace.
Investing in relationships with others is also important. Positive social contact can do a lot to ease the potential isolation and loneliness of being at home with baby. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with those you can trust and who will be supportive of you. Reach out to other couples who may be in the same situation.
Visit your local Early Years Centre, join a baby group, or a mommy and me fitness class, for example. Lean on your support network of family and close friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Finally, I would encourage you to consider hiring a postpartum doula. A doula can help you learn to care for and integrate with your baby. She offers both emotional and practical support, including breastfeeding support and help with light housework. She can hold a fussy baby while you shower, or care for siblings so you can have uninterrupted time with baby. A postpartum doula is also a convenient source for community information and resources.
In the event that you, or your partner, experience more than just the baby blues, it is important to seek help. Contact your care provider and follow through on their suggestions. Any signs of Postpartum Psychosis are considered an emergency and must be followed up immediately. But following these tips should help minimize the effects of the baby blues, and hopefully prevent them developing into anything more serious.