When you have postpartum depression (PPD), it’s important to work with a mental health professional to find a treatment plan that’s right for you. But treatment plans require some time to start working, and in the meantime, there’s day-to-day life to deal with.
When it comes to changes and strategies for managing postpartum depression, you’ll get a lot of advice. Unsolicited advice isn’t always much fun to receive, especially when it’s in the form of common general health solutions presented like they’re definite cures. But the thing is, with PPD, it can be hard to tell what will be helpful until you try it. So it might be a good idea to test out a range of different strategies for managing PPD, to figure out what works for you — here are just a few.
It sounds too easy, but the healthier your body is when coping with PPD, the better. Physical health problems only add to the way you’re feeling when dealing with PPD. Improving physical health generally might mean making sure to get balanced, healthy, regular meals, regular exercise and time outside, and as much sleep as it’s possible to get with a new baby. Sleep is a big one, since lack of sleep is regularly listed as one of the biggest contributing factors to PPD.
Setting realistic goals
It can be jarring to realize you might not have the time or energy to do some of the things that might have just been a given in the past. But now, while taking care of a new baby and dealing with PPD, it’s important to give yourself a little bit of a break.
Instead of feeling inadequate for the things you might not be feeling up to these days, try to make a point to give yourself credit for all the things you are doing. And even if you can do certain things to fit a little extra productivity in, that doesn’t mean that you need to, or even that you should.
Giving yourself time to rest and even relax when you’re dealing with PPD is important enough that you may even want to make a point to add it to your to-do list, even if all you have time for is squeezing in an episode of some sitcom while Baby naps.
One way to make sure you’re giving yourself credit for all the things you are doing is to break those bigger tasks that fill up the day down into the smaller things you need to do to achieve them. This can also make it easier to prioritize what you can and need to do during the day, and which things you may be able to let go of.
In general, there’s some evidence that exercise can have a positive impact on all types of depression, including postpartum depression. That doesn’t mean you need to go out and start training for a marathon, but light exercise that won’t cause physical strain during postpartum recovery may be helpful.
There are a few reasons exercise might play a role in recovering from PPD, from the endorphins the body releases during physical activity to the physical health benefits to the time spent out in the sun during outdoors exercise. There’s also the fact that early parenthood can feel isolating, and can make new parents feel shut-in at home.
It’s not entirely clear which is the cause and which is the effect, but several studies have drawn a correlation between breastfeeding and lower rates of postpartum depression. What’s unclear is whether it’s because PPD gets in the way of breastfeeding or because breastfeeding does something to ward off PPD.
Like anything else, though, breastfeeding is a personal issue that affects every woman differently. For women who feel strongly about breastfeeding, having the support they need to breastfeed successfully for as long as they want to may be a victory in the fight against PPD. For others, struggling to continue to breastfeed when it feels like their bodies are fighting against them may contribute to PPD.
Only you really know how breastfeeding might be affecting your state of mind. The important thing, though, is to figure out how you feel and what you need, and then to honor those needs.
Your mental health is an important part of the health of your own family, and taking care of it is important. In this case, that might mean reaching out for support, whether from family members who have experience with breastfeeding, new parents’ groups, or a lactation consultant, or whether it means stopping breastfeeding while you’re ahead instead of pushing yourself to breastfeed for longer than you feel equipped to.
Most tips for managing PPD boil down to the same general principle: take care of yourself. During this time, it can be tempting to dismiss the way you’re feeling as “just part of the PPD,” but even if your feelings are being affected by PPD, they’re still very real, very present in your life, and worthy of being taken seriously.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed because of the PPD, you still might benefit from trying to shift certain tasks off your to-do list until you’re feeling better. If you’re feeling claustrophobic around your family because of the PPD, you still deserve to take a little time for yourself. The way you feel during PPD may not correspond very well with the way you regularly feel, but it’s the reality of how you’re feeling at this moment, and it’s what you’re working with right now.
And keep in mind that even if you incorporate some of these strategies, you should continue working with your mental health provider and sticking with your treatment plan. Remember, recovery from PPD is often a slow, gradual process, and it can take time and patience before you start to see results. Remember that it’s no one’s fault — it’s a medical and mental health issue, and it can happen to any new parent.
- Cristina Borra, Maria Iacovou, Almudena Sevilla. “New Evidence on Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: The Importance of Understanding Women’s Intentions.” Maternal and Child Health Journal. 19(4): 897-907. Web. 2015.
- A.J. Daley, C. Macarthur, H. Winter. “The role of exercise in treating postpartum depression.” Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. 52(1): 56-62. Web. January-February 2007.
- A. Hamdan, H. Tamim. “The relationship between postpartum depression and breastfeeding.” The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 43(3): 243-59. Web. 2012.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum depression.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, August 11 2015. Web.
- Joanne Silberner. “Depression Screening Recommended for All Pregnant Women, New Mothers.” NPR. National Public Radio, January 26 2016. Web.