Tips to Manage Postpartum Depression and Stress

August 7, 2019
Postpartum depression affects more than 15% of women. Therefore, it's vital to follow some basic self-care guidelines during and after your pregnancy in order to prevent and treat it.

Postpartum depression is the most common psychological condition among new mothers.

However, it isn’t always correctly diagnosed and few people know how to help prevent it. That’s why it’s important to know what brings it about along with its symptoms. That way, you’ll be able to recognize it and take action if it comes lurking around.

What’s Postpartum Depression?

Causes

The exact causes that trigger the symptoms of postpartum depression are still unknown. However, there are many circumstances during pregnancy that may affect the emotional state of the mother-to-be during the baby’s first months of life:

  • Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy (a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels).
  • Labor leave and changes in personal relationships.
  • Changes in the body after childbirth. Some women’s self-esteem after drops considerably after giving birth. This is due to the natural changes a body undergoes during pregnancy and after childbirth.
  • Lack of free time.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Self-doubt when the new mother doesn’t think she has what it takes to care for and raise a child.

Risk Factors

A doctor checks up on a pregnant woman
Complications during pregnancy or after childbirth may psychologically affect the new mother.

Some women are more likely to experience postpartum depression. The ones who do may have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • A history of depression or postpartum stress.
  • Bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety just before pregnancy.
  • Psychological disorders in the family.
  • Having suffered a traumatic event during pregnancy.
  • Medical complications in pregnancy or childbirth. For example, a congenital disease in the baby or a complicated delivery or premature or anything that led to an emergency cesarean section, etc.
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
  • Financial problems.
  • Lack of support from her closest people, be it her lover or family.
  • Consumption of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco during pregnancy.

Read more: Reasons to Nurse Your Baby

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

The symptoms of postpartum depression can interfere with a new mother’s ability to take care of her baby and herself. The first signs commonly appear during the first weeks after birth. However, they may begin up to one year after birth.

The most common are:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and sadness.
  • Sudden mood swings.
  • A feeling of extreme anxiety and worry.
  • Inability to sleep or oversleeping.
  • Lack of emotional bond with her baby and perhaps even rejection.
  • Loss of interest in activities she used to enjoy.
  • Headache and generalized fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Thoughts of harming the baby or herself.

Read more: The Three Leading Causes of Depression

Prevention and Improvement of Postpartum Depression

By following certain self-care guidelines, you can reduce the chances of experiencing postpartum depression.

If you believe that you or someone close to you is afflicted by this condition then consult your doctor. They should be able to refer you to the appropriate professional for treatment.

Sleep Deprivation

A sleeping baby on a woman's arms.
Taking advantage of the time the baby sleeps to rest will ease up this new stage.

During and after pregnancy, it’s important that you rest as much as possible. You should also take advantage of the time when your baby is asleep or when someone is watching them for you. Learn to take advantage of these moments in order to do other things or just to catch up with their rest.

Fatigue isn’t a new mother’s best friend, nor a baby’s.

Thus, being emotionally stable and relaxed will keep the baby calm and they’ll sleep longer. Then, the new mother can also rest throughout that time.

It’s important they use all of their free time to rest instead of using it to complete less important tasks.

Chores and Free Time

That said, the distribution of tasks within a family is essential. This is not only for a mother’s physical health but also for her psychological wellbeing.

It’s very necessary to distribute and schedule tasks required for taking care of the baby. This is the time for her partner or family to step up and help out a lot. Thus, in a loving relationship, both can still enjoy free time to take care of their needs.

Exercise

A pregnant woman stretching to prevent postpartum depression
Doing exercise before and after childbirth will help you prevent postpartum depression.

Exercising during and after pregnancy helps new mothers promote a more stable mood.

It also reduces their chances of postpartum depression. This is because exercise releases endorphins, therefore helping mitigate stress and anxiety.

  • Begin with easy and controlled exercises, then increase the intensity as you go.

Tone Down Your Self-Demands

A high percentage of women suffering from postpartum depression are perfectionists and don’t make room for failure. You must keep in mind that no one is born knowing how to be a good parent. Practice is the basis for improvement, not only to be a mother but for everything.

Don’t compare yourself to the stereotype of a perfect mother. In most cases, this will only lead to frustration and guilt. This stereotype is extremely unrealistic and places an impossibly heavy demand upon women.

Finally, consider that, after delivery, you must be a lot more organized to make the most out of your time with your baby.

Make sure to notify your doctor of any physical or emotional changes you may experience so they can diagnose and treat it in time.