Having a baby is a joyful and precious gift of life. But, when you find yourself incapable of enjoying your baby or when your life takes a turn for the worse, when you know you should be happy but you’re not, postpartum depression might be to blame.
Unlike the common ‘baby blues’ that last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks after childbirth, postpartum depression will usually not go away on its own if left untreated. They both have very similar symptoms, but depression will go far beyond the normal emotional overload of sudden hormonal changes; it is a medical illness that needs to be treated early.
Trust your instinct. If you feel that things are not as they should be, chances are they aren’t. Here are some common symptoms of postpartum depression and ways to handle them.
1. Overwhelming fatigue
Exhaustion is part of motherhood; those sweet little beings have the tendency to keep us up all night, and demand all of our attention and energy. With postpartum depression, even a good night's sleep will not make you feel better and you might lose interest in your baby and other important aspects of your life.
To prevent this lethargy from consuming you, take every opportunity your baby gives you to rest. You also need to stay active. Go for a walk* with your baby and get some fresh air; it will rejuvenate you.
2. Loss of appetite
Depression can affect your interest in your most basic needs, such as eating. Instead of skipping meals altogether, push yourself to take very small meals throughout the day. Eat as healthy as you can in small portions. You can snack all day on celery and carrots or fruit. Try to eat healthy foods until your appetite returns to normal. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages as much as possible.
If someone offers you prepared meals or help in the kitchen, say yes. Let others help you.
3. Intense irritability or anger
Mood swings are common after childbirth, but if you have constant and intense bursts of anger and you are unable to control them, this is depression talking.
Try to take some time to yourself, several times a day, to decompress and regain control. This is your system telling you to ask for support.
4. Not bonding with your child
The mother-child bond is a natural and very strong connection. Postpartum depression can take away your desire to bond with your child, as if you were unconsciously blaming your baby for the constant crying, diaper changing, and sleep deprivation.
In order to truly enjoy your baby, you need rest and support. Let your husband, partner, family, or trusted friend take care of your baby a for brief period of time while you attend to your self-care.
Just like fatigue and loss of appetite, the best cure for insomnia is to be more physically active*. Cardio exercises are especially effective for getting the stagnant and negative energy out of your system. Depression drains your emotions and your mind, but your body accumulates all the negative stress. You can also try guided meditations at bedtime to induce sleep.
When to contact your doctor or counselor
- Your symptoms last for more than two weeks without any signs of improvement
- Your symptoms prevent you from taking care of your baby or yourself
- If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Your symptoms keep getting worse
Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants, therapy sessions, and even hormone therapy as needed. Make sure to tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding.
Don’t let postpartum depression ruin this magical moment for you and your baby. Catch it early, complete treatments recommended by your doctor or therapist, and go on enjoying your family life as you should.
*Always remember to follow your doctor's instructions regarding exercise after childbirth.