August 26th, 2013
So you have a new baby! Congratulations! What a joyous, wonderful time! Although maybe sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Maybe you feel a loss as the connection you had to your baby while pregnant is no longer there. Maybe you’re sleep deprived, can’t think straight and cry for no apparant reason. Maybe your hormones are completely out of balance, and your mood is up down and all around. Is this normal? Yes!
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, it’s completely natural to feel joyful one minute and depressed the next. These “baby blues” often go away within 10 days of delivery. However, if it lasts much longer, it is considered postpartum depression. Symptoms can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. Symptoms may include feelings of anger, irritability, lack of interest in the baby, change in appetite, change in sleep, crying, sadness, guilt, shame, hopelessness, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, and possible thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
The first thing to remember is that this is not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault. Nobody is to blame. It is a common complication of giving birth. The second thing to remember is that you are not alone. Postpartum Support International (PSI) says that one in eight women suffer from postpartum depression. The last thing to remember is that it is temporary. You will pull through, especially with support around you. It’s ok to reach out and ask for help.
“Help for Mom” outlined several useful ways that you can manage your PPD:
1/ rest during the day, even for brief periods.
2/ maintain a healthy diet
3/ accept help/support/assistance from others
4/ talk to your family doctor, public health nurse or midwife about your symptoms
5/ find resources/websites/books on PPD, or support groups
6/ do something just for yourself daily
7/ try to be around positive people
8/ ignore negative comments from others such as “snap out of it” or “you should just be happy to have the baby”
9/ exercise or go for a walk daily, get outside
10/ arrange respite with a trusted family member or friend
11/ avoid television talk shows
12/ accept the painful feelings; it’s ok to cry
13/ this is not your fault, remember not to blame yourself
14/ try not to be superwoman. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Accept offers of help from others
15/ find a healthy and safe way to express your anger, such as screaming into a pillow or journalling
“Help for Mom” also outlined several ways that your partner can help you. So, partners, listen up! Here is what you can do:
1/ allow her to openly express your feelings
2/ accept her need to cry
3/ ask her how you can help her in the best way (such as with meal preparation, laundry, housework, errands or respite)
4/ encourage her to talk about it with mental health or medical professionals
5/ find resources/ websites/ books on PPD
6/ be patient, it may take her time to recover
7/ remember it’s not her fault, try not to criticize or judge
8/ don’t deny the problems of PPD by saying things such as “you should just be happy” or “snap out of it”
9/ remember that PPD is not due to lack of mental strength; it’s a situational temporary chemical imbalance
10/ do not withdraw your support, as that will make her feel rejected. She needs to know that you accept her no matter what happens
11/ validate and accept her feelings as they are, try not to tell her what to feel and what not to feel
12/ reassure her of your love and concern, let her know she’s not alone
13/ listen to her without judgement
14/ you cannot be the solution finder, but you can be the comfort and confidant
15/ reassure other children you may have that mom will be ok
16/ remember that a new baby is an adjustment for everyone, including you. Be sure to take time to look after yourself too so that you have energy to look after your partner and child. Try to eat well, sleep well, exercise and connect with other dads.
There was recently a great discussion about Post Partum Depression on The Couple Wellness Expert Facebook Fan Page. Thank-you to MJ, SJ, and LF for your amazing input! Here are some pointers that came up during that discussion that are unique to those listed above:
1/ breastfeeding can help with regulating your hormones. However, if nursing does not work out well, it could add to the stress level. If that happens, it’s important to talk to a professional.
2/ talk to your partner! Be open and honest with yourself and with him. Share what is going on inside of your mind. He’s not a mind reader, and would likely be more willing to help if he understands what is going on.
3/ consider natural remedies. It could help to consult with a naturopath.
4/ get sufficient sleep at any and every opportunity
5/ it’s ok for the more well rested parent to take the lead with baby as needed. It’s ok to take turns, and work as a team. One mom illustrated this by sharing that when her baby would not stop crying, it was her partner that calmed her. She started to cry, as she felt that the baby should have been comforted by her as she heard her heartbeat for months and had that connection. Her partner then explained to her that the baby was crying because she picked up on how tired mom was. She concluded this so beautifully by saying that , “a supportive partner that allows you to get rest when you need it helps a lot”.
I hope you found this helpful. Please feel free to comment and share your experiences.