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How to Prevent Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is an intricate blend of emotional, physical, and behavioral changes that occur after giving birth. While PPD might seem inevitable, pregnant and new moms can take the following measures to prevent or lower the risk.

  • Published on: 10 May 2021
  • 6 min read
How to Prevent Postpartum Depression

A majority of new mothers experience “baby blues” within a few days after giving birth. This emotional rush can cause crying spells, mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Typically, these symptoms will go away in two weeks. But, if you continue to experience negative emotions and distressing symptoms, you might have a serious but yet common condition called postpartum depression (PPD).

What Is Postpartum Depression?

postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is an intricate blend of emotional, physical, and behavioral changes that occur after giving birth. The symptoms of postpartum depression include but not limited to:

  • Severe mood swings, panic, and anxiety attacks
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Feelings of shame, worthlessness, inadequacy, or shame
  • Difficulty bonding with your child
  • Loss of appetite or eating more than usual
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Insomnia
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

What Are The Risk Factors Of Postpartum Depression?

According to CDC, one in eight women experiences postpartum depression in the United States. So, what might be the determining factors of the condition?

Antepartum depression: while antepartum and postpartum depression can occur independently, the level of antenatal anxiety, mood disorders, and depression are correlated positively to postnatal depression.

Stress: a major stressful event during or after your pregnancy, such as divorce or the death of a loved one, can lead to postpartum depression. Besides the anxious and overwhelming thoughts, the stress of caring for a baby can take a toll on a new mother.

Physical change: giving birth can bring several physical changes. You might be dealing with physical pain from the delivery or challenges of losing the baby weight. This can leave a new mother insecure about their sexual and physical attractiveness that can result in emotional withdrawals.

Hormonal change: when pregnant, women have high levels of progesterone and estrogen. But, within the first 24 hours after childbirth, these hormone levels drop quickly to their normal, pre-pregnancy levels. Research indicates that this sudden change of hormones can cause postpartum depression.

The Truth About Postpartum PTSD

postpartum PTSD

If you’re a new mom, you’ve probably heard a lot of things about Postpartum PTSD, some of which are true while others are not. Here is the hidden truth every mother needs to know about Postpartum PTSD:

You may seem like you’re back to normal.

After giving birth, you may go back to work and resume normal life but still have PTSD. From the outside, you may look as though nothing has changed or even continue to be an A achiever. In essence, most women who experience PTSD often assume that what they’re feeling is a normal part of childbearing. But deep down, they wonder why things seem so hard than those around them who’ve had children. Some days they feel normal, but the next day, they’re overwhelmed with flashes of memories that remind them of the traumatic events they experienced during pregnancy or delivery.

Your baby isn’t the only thing keeping you up at night.

You might think that all new mums are sleep-deprived, so there is nothing to worry about. However, it’s important to note that postpartum PTSD can cause nightmares, irritability, and restlessness, preventing you from falling asleep. There’s a significant difference between being sleep deprived when taking care of your baby and sleep deprivation from restlessness and nightmares.

You can bond with your baby and still be depressed.

The biggest misconception around postpartum PTSD is that new moms will have a hard time bonding with their babies. If you think about it, mothers who have PTSD don’t necessarily have a negative feeling towards their babies. They still have a strong maternal bond.

But while maternal bond might not be affected, it’ll still be difficult when you keep having flashes of anxiety overwhelming you.

You avoid talking about childbirth at all costs.

Many women often talk about the experience of giving birth to their babies because it is a joyous occasion. Childbirth stimulates the release of oxytocin into the body and arouses a feeling of euphoria and happiness. However, if your birth story causes fear and anxiety, that might serve as a red flag. Thinking about childbirth will create fear and nightmares, so you’ll do your best to avoid talking about your experience or any related incident that triggers the same feelings.

It’s not normal to feel helpless during birth.

It’s hard to explain what giving birth should feel like, but feeling helpless shouldn’t be considered normal. You’ll undergo a lot of pain, but that shouldn’t lender you hopeless.

The flashbacks are all too real.

Postpartum PTSD can make you re-live the experience of unpleasant events over and over again. You can keep on having flashbacks of the moment you lost consciousness on the delivery bed, that moment when the nurse said you have to undergo a C-section, or you keep hearing voices of nurses and doctors saying you’ve lost too much blood. These scenarios play on your mind so many times than you can count, and each time you feel helpless, panic, your heart beats faster, and you begin to sweat.

How to Prevent Postpartum Depression?

postpartum depression help

While PPD might seem inevitable, pregnant and new moms can take the following measures to prevent or lower the risk.

Eat a balanced diet

A well-balanced diet is necessary for optimal emotional wellbeing for pregnant and new mothers. In fact, serotonin, the feel-good hormone, doesn’t occur naturally in the body but needs building blocks such as amino acids or tryptophan. You can also include omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, calcium, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc since they can help in the production of dopamine and melatonin (hormones that improve your moods).

Drink up

There is a connection between anxiety and dehydration. Typically, pregnant moms, those who have just delivered, and those breastfeeding are at a high risk of issues associated with inadequate water intake. Hence, it is crucial to drink up to lower the risks of postpartum depression.

Slowly reintroduce exercise in your life

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercise can help relieve stress, strengthen abdominal muscles, boosts energy, and promotes better sleep. Exercise can also ease the symptoms of postpartum depression as it can increase endorphins and decrease the stress hormones such as cortisol. You can start with gentle exercise such as stretching and walking but if you had a cesarean delivery or any complications, consult your GP before starting any exercise.

Get as much sleep as possible

Sleep deprivation can lower your resistance to depression and your threshold for an emotional reaction. And with round-the-clock diaper changes and feeding, having a child means having enough time to sleep is a challenge. Nonetheless, it is essential to try and make up for the sleep lost by napping when the child is asleep or asking relatives to pitch in. It would be best if you also dedicate some “alone time” in which you can decompress and meditate.

Do not keep your feelings to yourself

Friends and family can serve as an emotional outlet. Share all your emotions –the good, bad, and the ugly- before and after pregnancy. The supportive network can offer reassurance and support. Besides, you can reach out to other women dealing with similar transitions into motherhood. It is essential to hear that other mothers share your insecurities, worries, and feelings. This can lower the risk of baby blues escalating to postpartum depression.

The takeaway

Becoming a parent can trigger an array of conflicting emotions from joy, pride, excitement, fear and anxiety. But, many new mothers might experience the distressing symptoms of postpartum depression. Luckily, you can use the above tips to prevent or at least lower the risk of postpartum depression.

 


Lindsay Hudson

Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Lindsay Hudson

Lindsay is a freelance writer who is mom to a lovely daughter. She loves dressing in matching outfits with her daughter and bringing their 2 dogs out for their daily walk.

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