How to cope with postpartum depression

The period after you have your baby can be filled with countless emotions. You may feel anything from joy to fear to sadness.

If your feelings of sadness become severe and start to interfere with your everyday life, you may be experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).

Symptoms usually start within a few weeks of delivery, though they may develop up to six months afterward. They may include mood swings, trouble bonding with your baby, and difficulty thinking or making decisions.

If you feel like you may be depressed, you aren’t alone. The most effective way to diagnose and treat PPD is by visiting your doctor.

They can evaluate your symptoms and devise the best treatment plan for you. You may benefit from psychotherapy, antidepressants, or some combination of both.

There are also things you can do at home to help cope with everyday life. Keep reading for more on how to deal with PPD.

1. Exercise when you can

Researchers in Australia explain that exercise may have an antidepressant effect for women with PPD. In particular, walking with baby in a stroller might be an easy way to get in some steps and breathe fresh air. In a study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, walking was found to be a statistically significant way to ease depression.

Can’t fit in a long exercise session? Try working out for 10 minutes a few times during the day. Fitness Blender is a good resource for short, simple workouts that you can do without any equipment.

2. Maintain a healthy diet

Healthy eating alone won’t cure PPD. Still, getting into the habit of eating nutritious foods can help you feel better and give your body the nutrients you need. Try planning the week’s meals on the weekend and even preparing healthy snacks ahead of time. Think whole foods, such as chopped carrots and cubed cheese or apple slices and peanut butter, that are easy to grab on the go.

3. Create time for yourself

You may feel stuck on the couch breast-feeding. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed by work, household responsibilities, or your older children. Instead of dealing with these stresses alone, reach out for help. Take up your mother-in-law on her offer of free babysitting. Let your partner or another trusted adult take the baby for an hour or two.

Go on a walk, take a nap, go to a movie, or do some yoga and meditation.

4. Make time to rest

You’ve probably been told to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” This advice may get annoying after a while, but it’s rooted in science. A 2009 report details how women who got the least sleep also experienced the most depressive symptoms.
In particular, this applied to women who clocked fewer than four hours of sleep between midnight and 6 a.m. or fewer than 60 minutes of napping throughout the day.

5. Focus on fish oils

Now is also a good time to beef up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA. According to an article published by the Journal of Affective Disorders, women who have low levels of DHA have higher rates of postpartum depression.

Seafood is an excellent dietary source of DHA. If you’re a vegetarian, flaxseed oil is another great source. You can also find supplements at your local grocery store.

6. Examine your breast-feeding

A 2012 study suggests that breast-feeding may reduce your risk of developing PPD. This supposed protection may extend all the way to the fourth month after delivery. If nursing is something you enjoy, keep at it.

That being said, there are some cases where women develop depression symptoms while breast-feeding. This condition is called Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER. With D-MER, you might experience sudden feelings of sadness, agitation, or anger that last several minutes after your milk lets down. In the end, choose the feeding method that feels right to you.

7. Resist isolation

The days may blend together, making you feel isolated at times. A study published by the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry shows that talking about your feelings with others can help shift your mood. Researchers discovered that new mothers had lower levels of depression after regularly speaking with experienced mothers who had previously experienced PPD. These results extended to four weeks and then eight weeks after delivery.

Try your best to get out or at least chat with other adults and moms for support.

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