More than 1 in 7 new mums (and 1 in 10 new dads) will experience postpartum depression (PPD), according to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia. In 90% of cases a combination of medications and psychotherapy (aka talk therapy) will be successful as treatment. Dealing with PPD isn’t easy but there are ways you can help yourself handle even the worst symptoms and experiences.
Finding ways to bond with your baby
Anxiety and fear are common when suffering from PPD and you shouldn’t feel guilty or inferior because of these emotions. For many mums there is a fear their PPD will keep them from bonding with their baby. Support services suggest that spending quality time with your baby is much more important than the quantity. Your baby should feel your presence and as though you are truly seeing them. Using a functional change table can help make changing nappies a stress-free activity and an opportunity to engage with your baby by talking to them, making eye contact and enjoying cuddles once they are fresh and clean again.
Feeling unable to respond to all your child’s needs because you are tired, ill or depressed is a major cause of anxiety. But you are more likely to experience quality time with your baby when you aren’t feeling obliged to respond to them. Share the load with your partner, family members and trusted friends and fill your baby’s room with cosy nursery furniture that you know will keep them comfortable and happy. Knowing they are with someone that cares for them can put you at ease and remove some of the anxiety and responsibility.
Try an alternative medicine
If you are concerned about the potential side effects of using antidepressants to treat your PPD there are other methods you can try. Especially when breastfeeding there is a risk of adverse side effects of these drugs on your child. Dr. Kirk Wilson has a PhD from the University of Technology in Sydney and successfully uses acupuncture for treating depression, including postpartum symptoms. His clinical trial resulted in an 87% remission rate with benefits maintained for at least two months after treatment finished. He now practices the same treatment protocol at his Sydney CBD clinic and believes acupuncture to be a safe and natural way to treat PPD.
“Acupuncture is Non-pharmacological: This means it carries no risk of an adverse effect on breast milk. There still remains some conjecture over the possible side effects of antidepressant medication on breast milk. The use of acupuncture can alleviate this concern.
Other benefits: Acupuncture can also improve lactation and other post-partum related problems such as sleep, energy, stress etc.”
Check up on any major changes in your behaviour
The symptoms won’t always be obvious so if you are experiencing mood swings - from sadness to anger - which interfere with your normal functioning be sure to consult your doctor. Anna Malcolm shared her experience with one of the less common PPD symptoms:
“I experienced the lesser known postpartum rage as my main symptom. My tips are first and foremost to know the reason for the unexplainable rage. I was 18 months in before I found out I had been suffering PND. If I'd known sooner, I could have taken more steps to maintain my own sanity.”
Read more about her experience on her blog here. Or follow on Facebook and Instagram.
Exercise can work wonders
Studies have shown that engaging in vigorous exercise once your body has recovered from childbirth is associated with increased feelings of well-being. Finding just 30 minutes a day for exercise is effective in relieving pent up stress and releases endorphins. But how do you fit exercise into your busy mum schedule? Joanne Shepherd is a personal trainer and founder of Mummactiv - a high quality and functional activewear brand made for mums that want to keep fit during and after pregnancy. Here’s her advice on exercising as a new mum:
“One way to incorporate exercise is to hit the playground. There are so many options including step ups, chin ups, triceps dips off the park bench, pull ups, using the swing (like a TRX) the list is endless. Not only do you benefit but your kids are happy to play at a park and they are also witnessing a great active role model. The first step towards putting yourself in a better postpartum state is by doing something- walk, yoga, Pilates- remember the first step is the hardest!”
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There are so many things you can do to ease the struggles of PPD (from getting outside to joining support groups). The most important thing is accepting that it is okay that you don’t feel okay and seeking treatment in whatever way feels right to you.