“If a mother is not well, her family is not well. Mothers deserve care and are worth being the focus of society’s attention.” (Jane Honikman, PSI)
Perinatal mood disorders, like postpartum depression or anxiety, are preventable and you CAN get better with intervention. Make yourself a priority for the well-being of your whole family. Here are some suggestions for wellness:
- Education. Get adequate information about perinatal mood disorders from the resources listed below, your healthcare providers, and childbirth education classes.
- Sleep. The goal is 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep within your total sleep. While this may seem impossible, start thinking outside the box. Who can help out at night? How early do you need to go to bed to fit in 5 hours before that first feeding? At least rest if you cannot sleep.
- Nutrition. Make sure you get enough complex carbohydrates, protein and water throughout the day. Try to limit caffeine and sugars. Omega-3 essential fatty acids can improve mood, but make sure you are getting a high enough dose (200–400 mg of DHA and 1-2 grams of EPA).
- Exercise and Time for Yourself. Ask an accountability partner to help you get out the door. Regular breaks away from the baby 3-4 times per week can de-escalate stress. You are worth it.
- Practical Support. Having someone bring meals or do a load of laundry can feel like a lifesaver some days. Reach out to family and friends, hire a postpartum doula or a mother’s helper.
- Emotional Support. You need to find non-judgmental listeners. It may be your partner, friends and family, your faith community, parent educators or women in your playgroups. Some find the emotional support they need from outside their circle, like a therapist or support group. Therapy can increase self-awareness and provide insight, help you develop coping plans and strategies, and change dysfunctional patterns of thinking, resulting in changes of mood and behavior.
- Referrals to Other Professionals. Your health care providers can provide referrals and order lab work to rule out Thyroiditis, a condition that occurs in about 10% of postpartum women. A psychiatrist can assess the need for psychotropic medication and help you consider the benefits vs. risks to your baby if you are breastfeeding. Lactation consultants can assist with breastfeeding. Consider complimentary alternative treatments like acupuncture, massage, Chinese medicine, meditation or light therapy.
If you are suffering, you need to believe these 6 truths:
I will recover. I am not alone. It is not my fault. I am a good Mom.
I am going to take care of myself. I am doing the best I can. (PSI)
Consider using the following resources to strengthen your recovery:
www.postpartum.net – Post Partum Support International(PSI)’s site
www.MedEdPPD.org – Education
www.ppdsupportpage.com – On-line PMAD Support group open 9am-9pm, survivor volunteers
www.postpartumDADS.org – Support for partners
PSI’s toll free helpline: (800) 944-4PPD
Local warm line: 1(888) 678-2669
Postpartum Survival Guide (1994) Dunnewold & Sanford
This Isn’t What I Expected (1994) Kleiman & Raskin
The Mother-to-Mother Postpartum Depression Support Book (1996), Sandra Poulin
Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression (2005), Brook Shields
Beyond the Blues – A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression (2006),
Bennett & Indman
Gina Borelli Moore, MA, MFT