After you've delivered your bundle of joy, you might be dismayed to discover that the "joy" part of the equation seems to be lacking. Postpartum depression (PPD) affects 9–16% of mothers. With a one in ten chance of developing this severe case of the blues, you've got to be on your guard. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help reduce your risk of depression after the birth of your child.
Stay Healthy During And After Pregnancy
Even though you won't be able to work out for the first 6–8 weeks after delivery, you can still make healthy choices during your recovery period. As soon as you feel up to it:
- get out of the house. Leave the baby at home with a friend or spouse, and go for a walk around the neighborhood. The sunlight and fresh air can help improve your health and your mood, as sunlight is a source of vitamin D.
- choose healthy foods. Everything you eat has an effect on your overall health. If you fall ill or are plagued with aches and pains, the chances of contracting depression increase. By making healthy choices during and after your pregnancy, you reduce your risk of complications, like gestational diabetes and hemorrhaging.
- exercise. Exercise improves health and helps your body to deal with stress more effectively. Exercise also helps release endorphins, "feel good" hormones, which can help battle the depressive state.
Sleep Is Sacred
Every new mom knows that sleep can be hard to come by with the new baby in the house. Newborns have small stomachs, which means they need fed frequently. They also aren't born with a set circadian rhythm, which mean the first few weeks may include a wakeful period during the night.
However, sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, and can trigger symptoms of depression. In order to protect yourself and your family, try to:
- take a nap during the day. Your newborn will sleep a lot, and you can use some of that time to catch up on your own Z's.
- alternate feedings at night. If you have a partner, consider preparing a few bottles of formula or breast milk ahead of time so that they can take a few shots at the night shift, allowing you some extra uninterrupted hours.
- go to bed early. The earlier you go to bed, the more restful your sleep will be. Plus, another family member can feed and bathe the baby if you take an early night, allowing you some extra time asleep.
Give Yourself Some Baby Time
It's strange, but often, more contact with your child can help you to fend off feelings of hopelessness. In the early days, when you baby is still young, spend a lot of time having skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Strip the baby down to their diaper, and allow him or her to lay on your bare chest. One study showed that women and babies who had skin-to-skin contact had lower levels of stress hormones, thus having reduced feelings of anxiety.
If you find that you still have feelings of PPD, talk with a counsellor like Jayne Weatherbe about more ways you can treat it.