Perinatal depression (more commonly referred to as postpartum depression, or “PPD”) is one of those things that no one wants to talk about.
And, let’s be honest: why would we? It’s not nearly as fun as choosing newborn baby clothes or checking your baby’s development in the pregnancy app on your phone.
In fact, postpartum depression (or postpartum anxiety, or any other perinatal mood disorder) is the elephant in the nursery. We can ignore it, but only for a while. I did, after the birth of my first child. And I’m a maternal mental health advocate.
Pro tip: don’t ignore the signs.
Ignoring the symptoms of postpartum depression is like ignoring your toddler: you can try it for a while, but in the end, sh*t just spirals out of control.
The symptoms vary from person to person. Plus, you can only be diagnosed for postpartum depression, or any other perinatal mental health issue, by a clinical professional. If you think you might have PPD, see your healthcare professional as soon as possible.
That said, generally, postpartum depression symptoms include things like deep sadness, excessive crying, nervousness, sleeping all of the time, not being able to sleep, overeating, undereating, inability to make decisions, and being obsessively controlling.
No pattern? No problem. If you don’t see a pattern in the symptoms, that’s because there isn’t one.
But there are two key factors you and your health team can use to figure out whether you might have postpartum depression.
The first is intensity (how strong is the feeling? does it interrupt normal functioning?). The second is duration (has it been going on longer than 2 weeks)?
Chances are also higher if you have a biological predisposition (e.g., a parent with depression) or stress-fueled “environmental” risk factors. These can help explain why women get postpartum depression.
- difficult pregnancy
- birth trauma
- newborn and infant colic
- lack of spousal/partner support
- a tantrum-ing toddler or older baby at home, who must adjust to life with a sibling
- stress from work, career, and other business responsibility
- selling, buying, and/or moving homes (with babies!)
- relocating to a new neighborhood, city, state, or even country
- separating from, or moving closer to, family members
- blending your new baby with “bonus” stepchildren
- pet stress, illness, or death that can happen around the time of baby’s arrival.
(This is just a sample list of things I personally experienced in The Worst (aka 2017), so yours might look different).
So how did I “heal” my postpartum depression?
This is, hands down, the #1 question I’m asked about postpartum depression (and anxiety)! Can you handle it? Avoid it altogether? How did I manage my own mental health crises after I gave birth?
There are many different ways to manage postpartum depression. Everyone is different, but a combination of methods is always the most effective strategy. Your particular recipe might include things like therapy, more sleep, doctor-prescribed meds, journaling, eating healthier, or hiring childcare and a home cleaner.
Here are 3 basic guidelines to help you start healing:
#1. First of all, educate yourself (before you even have symptoms, if possible).
I made the free-and-fast PPD 101 mini-course for you. It includes summaries on postpartum depression and other perinatal moods, signs and symptoms, healing strategies, vetted resources and support networks, and yoga poses that help take the edge off.
#2. Next, get support (professional, if possible).
This is not the time to self-isolate. During The Worst, I got so overwhelmed that I went offline abruptly and turned my phone off. But I also reigned in my old therapist and sent texts to my best friends, even in survival mode. PPD (or other perinatal mental health concerns) isn’t something to do alone. See your healthcare professional, and stay in touch with friends you can depend on.
#3. Lastly, take baby steps.
When it comes to mental health, small steps are your best friend. In fact, I didn’t get better because the “environmental” risk factors in my life did. I got better because I took baby steps for better mental health. Check out the Self-Care for Stress Relief (with Baby Steps) post.
You aren’t alone.
You are supported.
Hang in there.
P.S. If you can relate to the feelings in this post, I’ve got something for you. Learn more about postpartum depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and other perinatal moods — plus, get the free PPD Care Kit — in our 100% free, 30-minute mini-course, PPD 101. It’s ideal for mamas, papas, grandparents, doulas, and anyone who supports them. Click here to get the course for free.