It is normal to have periods of sadness, often referred to as baby blues, while transitioning to life with a new baby. Still, those feelings can last for months or even years, turning into postpartum depression. This condition affects your ability to accomplish everyday tasks, making an already difficult time even harder. It’s important to understand how this condition impacts us, as well as what treatment options are available. You may even be surprised by some of the recommendations that experts have for dealing with postpartum depression (PPD), like babywearing. Let’s discuss.
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What Is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Although it hasn’t always been this way, experts now recognize postpartum depression and anxiety as a real and serious perinatal mood disorder. In fact, it’s common - it affects 1 in 5 people after childbirth. People also experience “baby blues,” a lesser form of PPD that may last for a few weeks after childbirth.
While postpartum depression used to be quite taboo to discuss, it’s finally becoming more common to share these experiences. However, we still don’t talk about how PPD affects men. Postpartum depression or anxiety affects approximately 4% of new fathers.
PMADs (perinatal mood disorders) also impact different socioeconomic classes in different ways. Black women, Latinx women, and moms that have had babies in the NICU all have higher rates of PPD. 50% of NICU moms will experience some form of postpartum anxiety and/or depression.
The CDC outlines the risk factors and symptoms of postpartum depression - read more on that here.
Treating Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Although baby blues and PPD can affect people differently, the treatment methodology is mostly the same for all women. It begins at the most basic level by giving mothers tools they can use at home to help them get through the day. This is followed by setting up a community support system and therapy which may involve medication.
PMADs can last for months, so finding a way to alleviate symptoms that works for you is key. Experts suggest the following:
Skin-to-skin time with baby. This can be done while babywearing, which releases oxytocin in both mom and baby. This is the “feel-good hormone of the body.”
Exercise. Physical activity increases oxygenation in the blood, which helps to fight fatigue and boosts your energy levels, thereby improving your mood.
Stress management. Finding a healthy way to cope with stress, like meditation and yoga, can help improve the mood.
Joining community groups. It takes a village to raise a baby. We’re not meant to do it on our own. Finding a community that can support you, both physically and mentally, is important.
Get more sleep. Babies that are worn frequently cry up to 50% less and also sleep better. This can help lower parents’ cortisol or stress levels. Read the research here.
Self-Care for Baby Blues
Although it's easy to put your own well-being aside when you have a new baby, self-care is critical at this time. You can’t care for others if your own needs aren’t being met. Babywearing helps make it easier to do both because it allows you to multitask in so many ways.
When you babywear, you can get skin-to-skin contact - already knocking off one item on the list above. You can also babywear and do yoga or exercise, allowing you to boost your mood and decrease stress. As you babywear more often and accomplish self-care tasks, your confidence will also increase, which can help ease this transition. Plus, you also get vital bonding time with your new baby while babywearing.
If you’re suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, Postpartum Support VA offers a Path to Wellness that can be printed out and kept at home for reference. Get it by clicking here.
Please also reach out to your doctor for help. Don’t suffer in silence. Baby blues, postpartum depression, and other PMADs are treatable and temporary with help. If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, add a postpartum support plan to your “bringing home baby” preparations.