Alleviate Perpartum, Pospartum Depression & Anxiety
Suffer in Silence No More: Postpartum Depression is very treatable. The following article was written by Dr. Zozula and has appeared in local Montreal newspapers, including Le Point d’Outremont & Mile End, Le Journal de Mont-Royal, and The Westmount Times.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression, or PPD, leaves a mom feeling overwhelmed, irritable, very sad, unable to cope, hopeless, and oftentimes very guilty about how she feels. It affects new moms a few weeks after giving birth and interferes with the care and bonding experience they provide for their new babies.
More serious than baby blues
PPD differs from the baby blues, a transitory tearfulness and sad mood that affects about 80% of new moms, occurs within a couple of days of delivery and lasts no more than 1 or 2 weeks. If the baby blues seem to be getting worse instead of better, or if it lasts for more than 2 weeks, there is a possibility that the new mom is developing PPD. Women who experience PPD find that their symptoms do not lessen with time, and this makes them feel even more alone and more like a failure, creating a downward spiral.
Contributing to the downward spiral is the reaction of well-intentioned, but sometimes ill-informed friends and family members. Sometimes friends or family members can unintentionally create more guilt and anxiety in the new mom in their attempt to reassure her. Common mistakes are minimizing or dismissing her symptoms, trying to reassure her that what she is feeling is “normal” and that all she has is a bad case of the baby blues, and that all will be well soon.
Time does not heal all wounds
Unfortunately, moms who have PPD do not usually get better with time alone. About half of women with postpartum depression suffer needlessly in silence and never receive any treatment.
Recognizing the Signs of Postpartum Depression adapted from The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada’s handbook: Healthy Beginnings, 2nd edition. Your doctor may have this or a similar handbook on pregnancy If any of these signs apply, please consult a doctor or licensed mental health professional: • More than two weeks have passed since delivery, and the baby blues haven’t gone away;
- Strong feelings of guilt or sadness;
- Strong feelings of hopelessness or helplessness;
- Cannot sleep even though very tired;
- Sleeps all the time, even when the baby is awake;
- Not able to eat, even though hungry;
- Not able to eat because never hungry or because feels sick;
- Worries about the baby all the time; feels obsessed with him/her;
- Does not worry about the baby at all; it’s almost like the mom doesn’t care;
- Has panic attacks;
- Has feelings of anger towards the baby;
- Thinks about harming the baby or herself.
Recognizing the signs of PPD
If you or someone you know have any of these signs of postpartum depression, seek help by contacting your doctor or licensed mental health professional. Although having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have postpartum depression, getting the help you need can reassure you and make you feel much better. It may help to know that PPD is a medical disorder, like any other depression, and that you are not “going crazy”.
Treatment involves talking with your doctor and seeking psychotherapy from a licensed psychologist or other certified mental health professional specialized in reproductive mental health. In more severe cases, your doctor can prescribe a medication that is safe during breast-feeding. One thing is for sure: PPD is much more common than we thought (about 1 in every 8 Canadian women) but very treatable.
How to Alleviate or Reduce Your Chances of Developing Postpartum Depression adapted from the Pacific Postpartum Support Society’s self-help guide, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: A Self-help Guide for Mothers, 6th edition. You can order this book from www.postpartum.org and look under “Our Guide”.
- be active: get out of the house and walk, exercise and enjoy the fresh air;
- eat right: eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit will give you the nutrition you need to get and stay healthy;
- talk to people: share your feelings and concerns, especially with other mothers;
- get rest: sleep when the baby sleeps;
- forgo housekeeping: you have yourself and a new baby to take care of, so you have the right and the duty to put your health and the baby’s before any cleaning;
- relax and de-stress: take time for yourself and just relax, even if it lasts only a couple of minutes. Make alone time a priority for yourself. It is important for your mental health;
- find child care: you need a break and this allows for some scheduled time for you to take care of yourself;
- take one step at a time: break large tasks that overwhelm you into smaller parts. Setting very tiny goals that you attain is better than trying to get a lot done and not being able to. For example, instead of thinking you can read the entire newspaper, just settle for 5 minutes, and work your way up;
- pay attention to the good feelings: although you might feel depressed there may come a time when you get a good feeling. Cherish the feeling. Appreciating the good feelings may encourage more of them!
- keep expectations realistic: you are human and cannot be a nurturing caregiver 24 hours a day, nor can your house be spotless. Do not push yourself too hard.
Based in DDO, Dr. Leanna Zozula is a licensed psychologist specializing in PPD, infertility and other reproductive mental health issues. She is a member of l’Ordre des psychologues du Québec. You can visit her website at www.psymontreal.com or contact her at (514) 337-2473.