The Facts vs. The TRUTH about Postpartum Depression (+ video)

The Facts vs. The TRUTH about Postpartum Depression; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

 

The fact is that Postpartum Depression (PPD) is real. I know, because I’ve experienced it four times, along with Postpartum Anxiety. That’s another fact: “Postpartum Depression” is often used as a catchall phrase for a whole spectrum of pregnancy and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, including OCD, PTSD, and even Psychosis.

 

 

PPD: Fact vs. The Truth

As a clinical psychologist and expert on Perinatal Mental Health, I’ve definitely learned about, and seek to share, the facts on Postpartum Depression. I believe everyone should learn about PPD, because chances are either you or someone you know will experience PPD at some point (that’s another fact: as many as 1 in 5 will experience postpartum depression), and knowing the facts can make all the difference. If you want the facts about Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, the following links are a great place to start:

 

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Postpartum Survival Mode

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Beyond Depression: Understanding Postpartum OCD (part 1, plus video)

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

 

However, as a mother of six who’s experienced Postpartum Depression/Anxiety four times, and as one who has worked with pregnant and postpartum women for over 16 years, I know that sometimes, the facts don’t reflect the full truth about PPD.

 

 

20 Truths about Postpartum Depression (plus bonus video!)

The truth is Postpartum Depression is a life-altering experience, and if we really want to understand this experience, we must move beyond the facts and start talking about the truth. Here are 20 truths I’ve discovered about PPD. I hope you’ll learn them, share them, and then join the truthful discussion, below.

 

 

1)   It can feel like you’re all alone, but you’re definitely not. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety often feel isolating; it feels like you’re the only one feeling this way. The truth is you’re not alone. Most women will experience some change in their emotional health following childbirth (up to 80%), and one in five will experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. Because of this, PPD has been called the most common complication associated with childbirth.

 

 

2)   PPD is not your fault. There are many risk factors that make Postpartum Mood/Anxiety Disorders out of your control, not least of which include: the extreme changes in hormones (women who are sensitive to hormonal shifts are definitely at higher risk), the insanity that is sleep deprivation (women sensitive to sleep loss are at higher risk), and the coping and adjustment that naturally comes when a new baby is born. The list of risk factors is long, and bottom line: Even if you feel like it’s your “fault,” it’s not.

 

 

 Watch this “3-Minute Therapy” video from my YouTube channel on “The Truth about Postpartum Depression,” then continue reading, below. 

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3D-i94cc8TCEw img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/-i94cc8TCEw/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false responsive=16:9 /]

 

 

3)   Postpartum Depression is not a character flaw, and it does not mean you are weak. For many women, however, it feels that way. The more we talk about and educate people on PPD, the more women will see PPD for what it is: an illness that comes, and, with help, will go, just like any other. (Read Postpartum Depression Treatment)

 

 

4)   Postpartum women are far more exhausted than you, or they, realize, and sleep plays a critical role in PPD, and its treatment. You can’t understand how exhausted you can be until after you have a baby. Postpartum depressed or anxious women often also suffer from insomnia; the baby is sleeping through the night, but she is not. Sleep is crucial to mental and emotional well-being, and helping moms treat sleep issues is a crucial part of them becoming well again. (Read: PPD Treatment–Sleep)

 

 

5)   Anxiety is often a huge part of PPD. Some say the anxiety came first; others feel their depression caused the anxiety, while others say it all feels like a jumbled mess of sadness and worry. Either way, anxiety is a common symptom of Postpartum Depression, which is one of several things that makes PPD different from a typical Major Depression. (Read Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD)

 

 

6)   Anger/irritability is common with Postpartum Depression. Frustration with all the changes that come with being a parent and/or having a newborn, anger about one’s symptoms, or irritability related to sleep loss/hormone shifts are definitely a “normal” part of PPD. (Read Understanding & Overcoming Anger: “I don’t want to be an angry person!”)

 

 

7)  Guilt is a huge component of PPD. Guilt about having the illness, guilt about not being at your best when you wish you could be, guilt about your guilt. Guilt is one of the most common topics I address in therapy with postpartum women (and have had to address with myself, too). (Therapy can be a huge help in becoming free of all the guilt.)

 

 

8)   The choice to breast or bottle-feed (or sometimes the lack of choice) often impacts PPD. Many women want to breastfeed, but struggle with it, and then feel terribly guilty switching to a bottle. Others realize, for their own health and wellness, they need to quit breastfeeding sooner than they’d wished. Too many are wrongly told they cannot breastfeed

Singing & rocking my youngest, Sydney. Though I was able to breastfeed her, I introduced a bottle early on. I knew I needed it to help me survive PPD.

Singing & rocking my youngest, Sydney. Though I was able to breastfeed her, I introduced a bottle early on. I knew I needed it to help me survive PPD.

because they need a medication to help their depression or anxiety, and this leads to intense grief. Yes, breastfeeding (or not) is a hot topic when it comes to PPD.

 

 

9)  Grief is usually a common part of Postpartum Depression. Most people don’t understand this or send the message that you should feel “happy” because of all you’ve gained in having a baby. And you surely have gained many blessings. But you’ve also lost many things: sleep, health, maybe breastfeeding or the ideal of what you thought would be, your figure, a sense of control, all these things listed above—the list goes on. Each loss must be grieved. (Read “How do I grieve?” Grief Work & TEARS)

 

 

10)  PPD makes many women question their identity. “Who am I now?” is a common question. Many mothers feel lost, “not like myself,” or say, “I don’t know who I am anymore.” Rediscovering one’s identity after childbirth is common, and after PPD even more so.

 

 

11)  Self-Esteem/sense of self is often deeply impacted by PPD. If you feel ashamed, guilty, angry, fearful, it can certainly lead to feelings of inadequacy as a mother and as a woman. All of these things can, and often do, make women question their self-worth. I’ve become an “expert” on self-worth because I’ve worked with so many women on this important topic (and personally, too.) Therapy is a great tool to help you learn to feel your true worth. (In the meantime, read this: How to Feel Self-Worth: The Pyramid of Self-Worth)

 

 

12)  Relationship support can make or break you. Poor support or troubled relationships, especially with your husband/partner, are the number one non-biological cause of PPD. You need understanding, especially from those you love most, and when that doesn’t come, it can make postpartum depression/anxiety worse. On the flip side, PPD can be very hard on a relationship, so it’s important to seek help for both of you as needed. (Read more here: Couples & PPD)

 

 

13)  Women with PPD may seem “fine,” but often, it’s an act. Many people think, if a mom is depressed, she’ll obviously look like a mess, but that’s not the case. We want to feel fine. We try so hard to feel–and look–fine. But sometimes, though it seems we are, we’re not, not at all. (See my picture, below.)

 

 

14) Shame and embarrassment are a common part of postpartum depression and anxiety. Many women feel ashamed they aren’t “stronger” or more capable of simply “sucking it up” and “moving on.” Many feel embarrassed by their

Our family christmas photo, 2007, taken just three weeks after I gave birth and inherited my two nephews, going from 3 to 6 kids. I wrote about this in "This is How We Grow." Don't I look "fine?" Look closer. I definitely wasn't.

Our family christmas photo, 2007, taken just three weeks after I gave birth and inherited my two nephews, going from 3 to 6 kids. My hardest postpartum experience by far, yet, don’t I look “fine?” Look closer. I definitely wasn’t. (Read about it in my memoir, “This is How We Grow.”)

symptoms. Unfortunately, the sting of the stigma of mental illness can feel especially sharp when you’ve just had a baby and so desperately want to be at your best.

 

 

15) For many PPD moms, it feels like no one gets it. Others might say they understand or even try to reach out and be supportive, but for many moms it feels like no one really gets PPD. Unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to truly relate, and unless you can truly relate, it’s hard for a PPD woman to want to open up and let you in. So, please, please, if you know a new mom, ask how she is feeling and really mean it. Listen to understand. Often we just need someone to sincerely ask so we can open up and begin healing.

 

 

16) Well-meaning friends/family often say/do the wrong things. When I had postpartum depression with my first son, who was colicky, one friend told me, “I really think babies reflect the temperament and calmness of their parents. That’s why I try to always be peaceful around my baby.” After my third baby was born, when I was officially a psychologist specializing in PPD and experiencing it again myself, a new friend asked, “Is that even real?” Statements like these can make PPD feel even worse and increase a mother’s sense of isolation.

 

 

17)  Having Postpartum Depression in no way makes you a “slacker” or means you’re “lazy,” but many women feel that way. In fact, it’s often the high-achieving women with perfectionistic tendencies who fall prey to PPD. It’s one of the risk factors.

 

 

18)  Because many PPD moms are used to being able to “do it all,” and do it all well, it can be hard for many of us to accept help. We know we need it, but when it comes down to it, it’s hard to let go of the need to do it on our own.

 

 

19) Help is out there, though it can be tough finding the right help. There are more PPD resources than ever. There is fabulous online support, solid educational programs, and providers who are compassionate and knowledgeable about pregnancy and postpartum mental health. The trouble often comes in accessing that help. My best advice? Stick with it. Help is out there, and it’s worth it to find the right kind of help for you. (PSI can help: www.postpartum.net)

 

 

20) Though we may fight it, medication is a good option for many pregnant and/or postpartum women. I wrote all about it here, so if you’re considering it, check this out. I also shared my own experience with choosing to take an antidepressant in my memoir, This is How We Grow: “I’ll admit, I do not want to take it. Must I?…I realize I haven’t really been living for far too long. I’ve been coping, surviving, manage, getting by—but coping is not living. I want to engage, set goals, dream, travel again…This little pill might just be the final ticket that helps me get there.” (p. 218) Sometimes, your brain just needs a little extra support, and medication is the one thing that might make the difference. (And yes, in many cases you can still breastfeed.) (More on medication: “Antidepressant? or Not? 12 Facts on Depression & Medication)

 

 

One final, bonus truth…

21)  There is life after Postpartum Depression.  With the right help, therapist and/or a support group specifically for PPD moms, you’ll find the understanding, information, and tools you need to be well again. Trust me when I say, six kids and eighteen years later, “There is life after PPD. With help, work, and time, you will be even better than better.”

 

If you’re a Postpartum Depression or Anxiety survivor, I’d love to hear from you. Do you agree with any of my “truths?” What are some truths of your own you’d like others to know? Let’s keep this important discussion going in the comments, below!
#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Award-Winning memoir, This is How We Grow!
Available now on Amazon.com.

 
 
 

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The Facts vs. The TRUTH about Postpartum Depression; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

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Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

The Baby Blues & You

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16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later (PSI Blog Hop)

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Postpartum Depression Treatment

Beyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy/Postpartum OCD (Part 1)

Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD (part 2) (& video)

Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment (part 3) (& video)

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Couples

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Complementary Alternative Modalities

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Psychotherapy

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

Mom Mental Health (& Happiness): The Importance of Alone Time

Mom Mental Health (part 2): How to Get Alone Time (25+ Strategies!)

Moving Beyond Shame: The Ultimate Power of Support & Time (PSI Blog Hop) 

Pregnancy & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Are Women of Advanced Maternal Age at Higher Risk?

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Pregnancy & Postpartum Loss, Grief, & Family Healing (Part 1)

How to Cope with and Treat Perinatal Loss & Grief (Part 2)

Pregnancy/Postpartum Resources & Help:

Postpartum Support International Website

-Worldwide help and support for new mothers and families, including a bilingual hotline and state/country coordinators to help you find the right treatment provider or support in your area. PSI also provides educational courses on Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders.

Postpartum Progress Blog

-Excellent source of education and support for mothers and families.

Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition

-Support for AZ families: Support Warmline, Brochures, & Provider/Family Education.

Postpartum Stress Center

-Education & support for Providers and Families

Postpartum Couples Website

Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources

**This article is not intended to replace proper medical/mental health care. If you think you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, please contact your medical or mental health provider, or PSI, for referrals/help/support.**

Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment–part 3 (& video)

Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment--part 3 (& video); www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD #pregnancy #postpartum #mentalhealthIn this 3-part series we’ve been discussing Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Complusive Disorder (PPOCD). In part 1 we took a good look at the symptoms of PPOCD and why it is so misunderstood. In part 2 we discussed why PPOCD is so misdiagnosed and how to make a proper diagnosis. In this final part we take a look at treatment for Postpartum OCD. 

 

Postpartum OCD Treatment: Best Options

When it comes to pregnancy and postpartum mood/anxiety disorders, there are a variety of treatment options, including medication, psychotherapy, self-help, and complementary and alternative modalities. It’s also helpful to consider addressing/treating sleep issues, couples’ and relationship issues, and making sure dads and partners get the treatment they need. (Please see my Postpartum Depression Treatment series for more.)

 

(For a quick overview, watch this 3-Minute Therapy YouTube video, Beyond PPD: Postpartum OCD Treatment. Then, read on, below.)

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3D6kReyGHJMVo%26feature%3Dyoutu.be img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/6kReyGHJMVo/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false responsive=16:9 /]

 

However, when looking specifically at Postpartum OCD, the following treatment options are considered the “gold standard of care”:

Psychotropic Medication

Antidepressant/antianxiety medications are highly recommended for PPOCD. These medications heal the misfiring of the brain chemistry that is causing the intrusive images/thoughts. They help reduce symptoms of anxiety, worry, and fear, and can also treat the symptoms of depression that may accompany postpartum OCD. (More on medication: Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication; Antidepressant? Or not? 12 Facts on Depression & Medication)

 

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy aims to teach new, healthy coping strategies. This can be especially helpful for women struggling with Postpartum OCD. Working with a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist who understands your symptoms and can offer reassurance, encouragement, sound advice, and new ways to deal with the troubling symptoms of PPOCD is a highly effective treatment approach. (More on postpartum psychotherapy, here.)

 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered one of the best treatment methods for PPOCD because of its focus on helping mothers identify and alter unhealthy thoughts and beliefs.

 

Couple’s therapy is also helpful, for it addresses not only the mother’s concerns, but the couple’s relationship. It allows fathers to get involved in treatment and also addresses any issues he may be facing. (More here for Dads/Partners or on  Paternal Postnatal Depression)

 

Social Support

Social support may involve support from your partner, friends, family, and faith community. Reaching out and letting others help and support you through PPOCD is important to your recovery. (More on social support, here.)

 

Support groups specifically for pregnant/postpartum women can also be a great help to PPOCD moms. Many communities around the world now have Postpartum Adjustment support groups, and the camaraderie, support, and encouragement these provide can help women with Postpartum OCD realize they are not alone. Hearing another mother say, “I’ve experienced that, too,” is often the thing you need most. (Find a support group near you here.)

 

Combination Treatment

Of course, research shows the very best treatment for Postpartum OCD, Depression, and most of the perinatal mood/anxiety disorders is a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and social support. Combined, these treatments provide the PPOCD mom with the physical, mental, and emotional support and care she needs.

 

Postpartum OCD Treatment: Things to ConsiderPostpartum Depression & OCD Treatment; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

For moms/dads/families:

1)   It’s important, when possible, to seek treatment from a medical/mental health provider who has been trained in the diagnosis and treatment of perinatal mood/anxiety disorders. Postpartum Support International is a wonderful resource for finding experienced providers in your area.

 

2)   If you can’t find someone who specializes in pregnancy/postpartum mental health, then look for a provider who is at least understanding and willing to learn about PPOCD and consult with others, as needed.

 

3)   It can be very helpful to have your husband/partner/parent/friend go with you to your first treatment session. This can give you support and a second opinion on the treatment. It can also help the provider to obtain information from another person who is close to you, in order to make a more thorough diagnosis and treatment plan.

 

4)   While it’s important to find an educated, understanding provider, it’s just as important to find somebody you like and trust.

 

5)   It’s okay and even recommended to seek a second (or third or fourth) opinion until you find the provider(s) that is right for you.

 

For Providers:

1)  Part of the treatment for women with PPOCD is providing understanding and reassurance. I’ve had mothers call just to hear me remind them they are not going crazy, to help validate these thoughts are not their fault, and remind them of the coping strategies they have learned. This, along with making a proper diagnosis, is one reason providers must seek as much education and training on this issue as possible. There are wonderful educational courses on perinatal mood/anxiety disorders, so please consider learning more, as needed. (See the resources section below for more information.)

 

2)  If you do not feel comfortable diagnosing and/or treating PPOCD (trained or not), please seek supervision or consultation from a provider who specializes in pregnancy/postpartum mental health. This is imperative in making the proper diagnosis and protecting the health and safety of the mother and the child. You may also consider referring the mother to a provider who specializes in perinatal mood/anxiety disorders, if that feels like the best option.

 

3)   As mentioned above, it is very helpful when diagnosing Postpartum OCD for you, the provider, to involve the client’s husband/partner/parents/friends in the assessment process. It may also be helpful to obtain a signed release to speak with the mother’s obstetrician or other care providers. A team approach is an ideal way to ensure the safety of the baby while also giving the mother the diagnosis and treatment she needs.

 

Bottom Line…

Together, we can reduce the stigma, misunderstanding, and mistreatment associated with Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The more educated mothers, fathers, families, and providers become on this disorder, the better the diagnosis and treatment.

Mothers, remember you are not alone. Remember, this is highly treatable, and with patience and proper treatment, you will be well.  Trust me–you will.

 

Please share your thoughts/suggestions/questions by leaving a comment, below! 

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow
available now on Amazon.com!

Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment--part 3 (& video); www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD #pregnancy #postpartum #mentalhealth

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Related Articles/Posts:

Beyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy/Postpartum OCD (Part 1)

Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD (part 2) (& video)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Couples

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Complementary Alternative Modalities

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Psychotherapy

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

The Baby Blues & You

Postpartum Survival Mode

16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later (PSI Blog Hop)

Moving Beyond Shame: The Ultimate Power of Support & Time (PSI Blog Hop) 

Pregnancy & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Are Women of Advanced Maternal Age at Higher Risk?

In Praise of Fathers: 10 Research-Based Ways Dads Impact Kids for the Better

5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth

How to Feel Self-Worth: “The Pyramid of Self-Worth”

Thought Management, Part 1: The Relationship between Thoughts, Feelings, the Body, & Behavior

Womens’ Emotions & Hormones– Series

Achieving Balance–Why You’ve Got it Wrong, & How to Get it Right

Pregnancy & Postpartum Loss, Grief, & Family Healing (Part 1)

How to Cope with and Treat Perinatal Loss & Grief (Part 2)

 

Pregnancy/Postpartum Resources & Help:

Postpartum Support International Website

-Worldwide help and support for new mothers and families, including a bilingual hotline and state/country coordinators to help you find the right treatment provider or support in your area. PSI also provides educational courses on Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders.

Postpartum Progress Blog

-Excellent source of education and support for mothers and families.

Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition

-Support for AZ families: Support Warmline, Brochures, & Provider/Family Education.

Postpartum Stress Center

-Education & support for Providers and Families)

Postpartum Couples Website

Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources

 

**This article is not intended to replace proper medical/mental health care. If you think you may be suffering from Postpartum OCD, please contact your medical or mental health provider, or PSI, for referrals/help/support.**

Beyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy & Postpartum OCD–Part 1

Beyond Depression: Understanding #Pregnancy & #Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPDBeyond Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is the most commonly talked about and treated form of Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). It affects as many as one in five new mothers (up to 20%), and can have a significant impact on the father, the infant, and the entire family.

Yet there is much to learn about Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders beyond PPD. In fact, there’s a spectrum of disorders— ranging from the mild to the severe and including depression, various anxiety disorders, and yes, even psychosis.

The most misunderstood of these disorders is Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

 

What is Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

According to research, OCD affects 3-5% of all new mothers, and some studies estimate those rates might be even higher. [1] Symptoms may start in pregnancy and continue through postpartum, or they may begin after the baby is born—sometimes several months later.

 

Symptoms of Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder include:

  • Obsessions:
    • Recurrent, persistent thoughts, impulses or images that are intrusive and inappropriate.
    • These are typically related to the baby, and cause mothers intense anxiety or distress.
    • These thoughts/images are not simply excessive worry about real problems.
    • The mother attempts to ignore or suppress the thoughts/ images.
    • The mother recognizes these thoughts/images are a product of her own mind
  • Compulsions:
    • Repetitive behaviors or mental acts she feels driven to perform in response to the obsessive thoughts/images
    • These behaviors/mental acts are aimed at reducing/preventing some dreaded event or situation, but they are not connected in a realistic way or are clearly excessive.
  • A sense of horror about the obsessive thoughts/images.

 

Watch this video from my YouTube channel–> Beyond PPD: Understanding Postpartum OCD–3-Minute Therapy w/ Dr. Christina Hibbert. Then, continue reading, below.

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DKyoxtsa_Vn4 img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/Kyoxtsa_Vn4/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false responsive=16:9 /]

 

Other important facts about PPOCD symptoms:

  • The “obsessive” thoughts most pregnant/postpartum women experience are usually vivid images or thoughts in their head. These images are often like a movie playing in the mind and are typically centered around the baby. These women actually see terrible things happening to their body (in pregnancy) or the baby (postpartum), and it causes them deep distress.
  • The “compulsive,” ritualistic behaviors often include: checking the baby, avoiding situations that cause distress (like cooking, sleeping with the baby, or taking the baby up the stairs), and/or searching for information about her symptoms on the internet or in books, etc.
  • Unlike general OCD, in Pregnancy/Postpartum, the symptoms of OCD are directly related to baby.
  • There are often co-occurring symptoms of Depression related to the OCD thoughts/images.
  • Mothers feel intense anxiety/worry about the thoughts/images.
  • The mother recognizes the obsessions/compulsions are excessive.
  • They cause her severe distress or significantly interfere with normal life.

 

Understanding Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

I’ve been working with pregnant and postpartum women for fifteen years, and I have helped many mothers deal with OCDBeyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy & Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD in pregnancy and postpartum. In fact, a significant portion of my clients have presented with PPOCD. Here are a few things I have learned as I have treated PPOCD; I hope they will help you better understand PPOCD, too.

1)   Mothers experiencing symptoms of Pregnancy or Postpartum OCD present with extreme anxiety, or even fear, about their symptoms. They are often afraid they are “going crazy” or that they are going to become psychotic. I’ve even had a mother show up at my office with her bag packed—certain I would commit her to “the mental hospital” because of her symptoms, and ready to go if I did. (I didn’t.)

2)   These mothers are highly concerned about the welfare of their babies and go to extreme lengths to take care of and protect their children and families. They are devoted, wonderful mothers, but they will say things like, “What kind of mother would think such things about her baby?” They tend to take a severe hit to their sense of self-worth because of their symptoms, and that’s one reason therapy is so helpful, especially Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy–because it works to identify and correct these distorted thoughts and self-beliefs.

3)   These mothers are afraid of telling anyone about their OCD thoughts/images, because they fear others will take their baby away or say they are unfit as mothers (which, unfortunately, happens sometimes—see below).

4)   The fact that these mothers are so genuinely worried, nervous, and concerned about the thoughts/images they’re having is proof they are not psychotic. Psychotic people don’t understand what is real and what is not, and they do not experience anxiety about their disturbing thoughts. In fact, they find them ego-syntonic. (We’ll discuss this more in Part 2.)

5)   Unlike psychosis, which can be life-threatenting, PPOCD women are much more likely to harm themselves before ever letting anything happen to their babies. In fact, there are no incidents on record of a PPOCD mom ever harming her child.

6)   Part of my job as a psychologist specializing in Perinatal Mental Health is to help PPOCD moms understand the thoughts are not their fault. They’re a misfiring of the brain, and they mean nothing about the kind of mother a PPOCD mom really is. I help them get the right doctor who will understand their symptoms and work with them to find the right medication. I also work to help them understand their symptoms, overcome them, and feel like the wonderful mothers they are. (Read 3 Things Every Mom Needs to Hear, and How to Feel Self-Worth.)

7)   Unfortunately, many mental health and healthcare professionals do not understand Pregnancy/Postpartum OCD, and so many women have been unnecessarily diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis and hospitalized. (Part 2 of this article discusses diagnosis in greater detail, and Part 3 discusses Treatment.)

8)   This is why greater education on Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders is needed—for all medical and mental health providers—and why mothers and families need education, too, so they can find the treatment and providers who will understand and help them with their concerns.

9)   The good news is this: Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is treatable–the gold standard of treatment being a combination of medication (to correct the brain chemistry and help the thoughts stop) and psychotherapy (preferably with someone who specializes in Perinatal Mental Health). Postpartum Support International (PSI) is an excellent resource to help you find a provider that is right for you.

 

To all mothers and families experiencing Postpartum or Pregnancy OCD…

Please remember this: “You are not alone. You are not to blame. With time, you will be well.” (PSI’s universal motto)

 

Join me in Part 2: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD (& video), as we discuss diagnosis, including taking a look at PPOCD vs. Psychosis. And in Part 3, we discuss PPOCD & Treatment.

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow
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Related Articles/Posts:

Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD–Part 2 (& video)

Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment–part 3 (& video)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Complementary Alternative Modalities

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Psychotherapy

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

The Baby Blues & You

Postpartum Survival Mode

16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later (PSI Blog Hop)

Moving Beyond Shame: The Ultimate Power of Support & Time (PSI Blog Hop) 

Pregnancy & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Are Women of Advanced Maternal Age at Higher Risk?

5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth

How to Feel Self-Worth: “The Pyramid of Self-Worth”

Thought Management, Part 1: The Relationship between Thoughts, Feelings, the Body, & Behavior

Womens’ Emotions & Hormones– Series

Achieving Balance–Why You’ve Got it Wrong, & How to Get it Right

Pregnancy & Postpartum Loss, Grief, & Family Healing (Part 1)

 

 

Pregnancy/Postpartum Resources & Help:

Postpartum Support International Website (Worldwide help and support for new mothers and families, including state and country coordinators to help you find the right treatment provider or support in your area!)

Postpartum Progress Blog (Excellent source of education and support for mothers and families)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources

Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition (AZ Support Groups, Events, Education)

Postpartum Stress Center (Education for Providers and Families)

Postpartum Couples Website

 

References:

[1] Brandes et al. (2004) Postpartum Onset Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Diagnosis & Management. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, vol. 7; is. 2: 99-102.
Ghadiali, N.  (2007).  Comorbidities in Perinatal Mental Health.  PSI 21st Annual Conference, presentation, June 22.  Kansas City, MO.
Labad, et. al. (2005). Female Reproductive Cycle & Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 66(4):428-35.

Postpartum Depression Treatment–For Couples

10 Things You Should Know, & 10 Things You Can Do

 

Postpartum Depression Treatment For Couples: 10 Things You Should Know, & 10 Things You Can Do; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

The Facts on PPD & Couples

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety are not just a mother’s issue. Dads and partners can be affected too, placing a strain on the couple’s relationship. In fact, research shows that:

 

1)   Pregnancy and the first year postpartum are one of the most stressful times in a couple’s life, with the highest divorce rates.

 

2)   When mom is struggling with depression/anxiety, her partner is often left bearing the burden of caring for both baby and mom. This can be very overwhelming and lead to feelings of frustration, stress, fear, and even anger.

 

3)   If one partner is depressed, the other is at an increased risk for depression.

 

4)   In fact, maternal PPD is the strongest predictor of Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND). (One study found that, while PPND typically affected up to 25% of men, those rates doubled [24-50%] when dad had a depressed partner).[i]

 

5)   Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms are also highly related in couples.

 

6)   In fact, men’s trauma symptoms seem to predict their partner’s subsequent symptoms of PTSD.[ii]

 

7)   And, when both parents have PPD, studies show less emotional attachment with the infant, higher parenting stress, increased risk of behavioral and cognitive problems in children, and greater marital dissatisfaction, all of which obviously compromise family health and wellness.[iii][iv]

 

In short, men’s and women’s responses to pregnancy and postpartum appear to be highly interlinked. (One can assume this same dynamic applies to same-sex couples too, though research is definitely lacking.[v] ) Thus, postpartum depression treatment needs to focus on both members of the couple in order to heal not only the individuals, but the couple’s relationship as well.

 

 

The Couple’s Relationship & PPDPostpartum Depression Treatment: For Couples; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

While pregnancy or postpartum depression can definitely impact a couple’s relationship, the health of a couple’s relationship can also impact whether or not they develop a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD). In fact, according to research:

 

8)   Less secure attachment to one another and dissatisfaction with partner support is associated with higher rates of Postpartum Depression and  PTSD.[vi]

 

9)   Partner support is associated with improved outcomes for postpartum depression.

 

10) And, on the flip side, poor partner support is the number one non-biological predictor of PPD.

 

 

“What Does All This Mean?”

Together, these things mean that it’s tough having a baby—that your relationship will change, and that it can be a great challenge.

 

Considering the incredible stress of pregnancy and postpartum, it’s no wonder many couples feel irritated, frustrated, fearful, angry, and distant from one another after the baby comes. Considering the levels of sleep deprivation, life change, and the coping skills required to deal with all these things, it’s no wonder arguments, trouble communicating, and struggles with problem-solving are so common.

 

But, couples, you don’t have to struggle on your own. You don’t have to let your relationship become swallowed up in this crazy postpartum experience. You can choose to work on it. As a four-time PPD survivor who’s been married nearly 18 years, trust me, I know it’s not at all easy. But, I can attest: It is worth it. And, with time, patience, and hard work, you can not only heal, but your relationship can become stronger if you choose to let it.

 

 

“What Can We Do?”: Healing Postpartum Couples

How can you stick together and heal from your postpartum experience? Here are ten suggestions to try today.

 

1)   Recognize & acknowledge pregnancy and postpartum for the difficult time it is. Give yourselves credit for all you’re already doing, and give yourselves time to adjust and work through.

 

2)   Learn all you can about pregnancy and postpartum depression and anxiety, in mothers and in fathers. The more you know, the more you will see that you are not alone and that these symptoms are not your fault. Partners who learn about this together develop greater compassion and know better how to support one another.

 

3)   Find qualified professionals to help treat the maternal or paternal depression. Yes, dads—if you need help too, then seek it. There are counselors, support groups, medications, and alternative treatments out there that can make a huge difference in your healing. Do not quit until you find someone who is 
able to give you both the help you need.

 

4)   Talk and listen to one another’s feelings. This may seem difficult, but you must try to understand one another’s 
points of view. Ask yourself, “How Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Couples; www.DrChristinaHibbert.commight I feel about this if it didn’t affect me at all?” This can help you see the other person without seeing what they’ve “done” to you.

 

5)   Plan for some time alone as a couple doing activities that help build your relationship. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Sit and talk. Watch a movie together. Play a game. Arrange for a 
sitter, or spend time alone after the baby is asleep. Just be together, one-on-one. You need it more than you realize.

 

6)   Improve overall communication by talking about things that are not related to PPD or the baby. Talk about your day, family, friends. Look for positive conversations to have, and then have them.

 

7)   Recognize you’re not alone in the struggles you’re facing as a couple, and that help is available. Some of the common struggles postpartum couples face include: Identity & Role changes, Communication difficulties, Grief/loss, Parenting challenges, Conflict resolution and Problem-solving skills, and trouble with Sleep, Intimacy, and Sex. Seeking help, together, from an older, trusted couple, faith counselor, or therapist can help resolve these issues. Whatever you do, choose to work on these things and seek help before they become too hard to change.

 

8)   Try couples therapy to work on relationship issues. Research shows couples therapy benefits couples in the following ways:

  1. The couple works on their relationship and not just individual issues.
  2. It helps mom feel like this is not just her problem.
  3. Her partner is able to take a role in treatment and take an active support role.
  4. Dad/partner can also receive support and healing.
  5. The therapist can assess the couple’s relationship directly—no misunderstandings.
  6. The therapist can observe interactions with the baby, bonding, attachment, and cooperation with each other on parenting issues.[vii]

 

9)   When it comes to intimacy, be patient, respectful, and loving. Since it can often take some time for things to feel “normal” again (especially when one partner has PPD), express your love for each other in other ways. Say, “I love you.” Hold each other. Work on getting your intimacy back to where you want it to be (couple’s or sex therapy are great ideas too).

 

10) Remember, you are both going through this, even if your experiences are different. Choose to turn toward each other instead of away. When you need space, take a time out. But, come back together again. Go through it together.

 

 

Bottom Line:

Having a baby is hard. Not just on mom. Or on dad. But on your relationship too. Hang in there. Be patient with each other. Love each other. And your relationship will not only heal, it will be strengthened.

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. A 4-time PPD survivor, Dr. Hibbert and her husband of almost 18 years have made it through and can tell you, “It’s worth all the trouble, so hang in there!”[/author_info] [/author]

 

Postpartum Depression Treatment-For Couples; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

 

 

 

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Related Articles/Posts:

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

PPD Treatment: Psychotherapy

PPD Treatment: Medication

PPD Treatment: Complimentary & Alternative Modalities

PPD Treatment: Self-Help

In Praise of Fathers: 10 Research-Based Ways Dad Impact Kids for the Better

16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later

Postpartum Survival Mode

Weather the Storms Together: 4 Ways to Strengthen Families Through Times of Stress

“Mommy Fails” and Mother’s Day: 3 Messages Every Mom Needs to Hear

“This is How We Grow” Summer Book Club: Join and Preview Chapters of My New Book!

Postpartum Couples DVD Link

 

Postpartum Help:

Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Dads 

Online PPD Support Group

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
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Resources

[i] Goodman, J.H. (2008). Influences of Maternal Postpartum Depression on Fathers and on Father-Infant Interaction. Infant Mental Health Journal; Vol. 129, Issue 6: 624-643.

[ii] Isles, J., Slade, P., & Spiby, H. (2010). Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Postpartum Depression in Couples After Childbirth: The role of partner support and attachment. Journal of Anxiety Disorders; Vol. 25, Issue 4, May: 520-530.

[iii] Goodman, J.H. (2004). Paternal PPD, its Relationship to Maternal Depression, and Implications for Family Health. Journal of Advanced Nursing; Vol. 45, Issue 1, Jan: pp. 26-35.

[iv] Letourneau, N.L, et. al. (2012). Postpartum Depression is a Family Affair: Addressing the impact on mothers, fathers, and children. Issues in Mental Health Nursing; 33:445-457.

[v] Leterneau, . (2012).

[vi] Goodman, J.H. (2008).

[vii] Apfel and Handel, in Miller, L (eds). (1999). Postpartum Mood Disorders.

Postpartum Depression Treatment—For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression Treatment—For Dads & Partners

 

 

If your wife/partner is experiencing a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD), like Postpartum Depression, you may be feeling many different things all at once.

 

 

 

Many Dads/Partners feel:

  • “Pulled” between the demands of work and home
  • Angry that she is not “pulling her weight”
  • You can’t do anything right
  • Your efforts go unnoticed by her
  • You are taking on the role of the “mother”
  • Afraid she’ll never be the same again
  • You want to “fix” this problem and you’re frustrated because there is no apparent solution

 It’s understandable why you’d feel these things. Being the support person for a loved one who’s struggling with depression or anxiety is one of the toughest positions you can be in. And with a new baby to care for too, you can be left with overwhelming responsibilities.

 

 You Make a Huge Difference!

But, dads & partners—you can make a huge difference in a mom’s recovery! Whether she knows it or not, she needs you! In fact, you are often the first to recognize something is wrong—sometimes even before she realizes it—and are in the perfect position to help her get the treatment she needs.

It’s important to learn about what she’s going through in order to support her as she works on getting well. Helping her call for treatment, attend appointments, and get some sleep can be just what you all need to start the healing process.

 

 Avoiding Mistakes

Sometimes you may feel like no matter what you do, it’s wrong. You want to make it better and feel frustrated when it’s not working. This can lead to mistakes that only make things feel worse, like:

  • Trying to handle everything on your own
  • Getting angry with your wife
  • Comparing her to other women
  • Distancing yourself from your partner
  • Not being open about your feelings
  • Ignoring her depression/anxiety
  • Telling her to “get over it”
  • Not making her health and the well being of your family your number 1 priority[1]

Recognizing these mistakes is the first step in avoiding or correcting them. And that is the first step in actually making things better.

 

What Can You Do?

Now that you know what not to do, here’s what you should do:

  • Learn all you can about postpartum mood disorders in order to understand what she is experiencing.
  • Recognize that she is not making up her symptoms and that this is not her fault.
  • Tell her you love her, support her, and are there for her.
  • Help take care of the baby as much as you can, allowing time for mom to take naps or sleep during the night.
  • Enlist others, such as family, friends, and/or the community to help with care of the baby, household, other children, and/or meals in order to provide both of you with time to care for yourselves.
  • Be patient with sex. Let her know you understand she may not be interested in sex and that you love her and enjoy holding her.
  • Take some time for yourself and encourage her to do the same.
  • Help monitor her symptoms and seek out professional help when needed.
  • Remember that this is 100% treatable and she will be well.

You Need Care Too!

Remember: you need to take care of yourself too! Postpartum Depression impacts the entire family, so you also need time and space to cope and heal. If you are not well, you won’t be able to be there for your family, so take a little time each day/week to care for your own needs.

 

Postpartum Depression in Dads

Up to 10% of dads will experience postpartum depression too. And having a depressed partner increases your chances. If you think you may have postpartum depression, the first step is to acknowledge what is really going on. After all, you would want your partner to do the same, right? Talk with her about how you’re feeling or seek support from a trusted friend or family member. Then seek treatment resources. Counseling, Medications, and Alternative Treatments can help you get back to feeling like yourself again soon. (For more on Postpartum Depression & Men, click here.)

 

Above All…

Never forget how important you are to your partner and to your child. As Postpartum Dads founder, David Klinker, said, “Most important, dads offer something you can’t get from a bottle, a doctor, a book, or the internet—LOVE.” You offer something unique and valuable, so hang in there, be patient, and keep that love coming–for your partner, for your child, and for yourself.

 

Resources for Dads:

www.postpartumdads.org

www.postpartummen.com

www.postpartum.net

Postpartum Couples DVD

 

 Postpartum Depression in Men:

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

“Postpartum Depression in Men Becoming More Common article & interview with Dr. Hibbert.


#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
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available now on Amazon.com!

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Related Articles/Posts:

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Couples

The Facts vs. The TRUTH about Postpartum Depression (& video)

16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later (PSI Blog Hop)

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Complementary Alternative Modalities

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Psychotherapy

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

The Baby Blues & You

Beyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy & Postpartum OCD (Part 1)

Antidepressant? Or not? 12 Facts on Depression & Medication

Postpartum Survival Mode

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Moving Beyond Shame: The Ultimate Power of Support & Time (PSI Blog Hop) 

Pregnancy & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Are Women of Advanced Maternal Age at Higher Risk?

 5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth

How to Feel Self-Worth

Join my “This is How We Grow” Personal Growth Group!

Pregnancy/Postpartum Resources & Help:

Postpartum Support International Website (Worldwide help and support for new mothers and families, including state and country coordinators to help you find the right treatment provider or support in your area!)

Postpartum Progress Blog (Excellent source of education and support for mothers and families)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources

Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition (AZ Support Groups, Events, Education)

Postpartum Stress Center (Education for Providers and Families)

Postpartum Couples Website


PPD Treatment-Sleep

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

 “New parenthood in America is experienced as, above all else, an exercise in sleep deprivation.” Barbara Katz Rothman (1989)

If there’s one common denominator for pregnant and postpartum women and their partners, it is sleep deprivation. In fact, sleep is one of the top concerns for most new mothers and fathers, and sleep disturbance has long been associated with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Learning about sleep strategies and treatment can make a huge impact on a postpartum family’s adjustment and well-being.

 

Postpartum Sleep Deprivation

Sleep troubles usually begin in pregnancy, with sleep becoming more disturbed as a woman’s body grows, making it uncomfortable to sleep (and forcing her to visit the restroom all night long). During labor, women are pushed to extreme physical limits, and sleep in the hospital is usually interrupted and poor. All of this sets the stage for highly disturbed sleep in the postpartum period. I hear it from new parents all the time, “I never understood just how tired I could be.” Between 2-3 hour feeding schedules, other children, and just plain life, new mothers (and fathers) are usually more sleep deprived than they realize; and that sleep loss can take a serious mental and physical toll.

 

What makes sleep so challenging?

Even without middle-of-the-night feedings, sleep can be a challenge for new parents. Many mothers whose infants sleep through the night wake up to “check” on them, or they listen for and hear every sound, preventing them from much needed deep sleep. Older children and partners can also disrupt a mother’s sleep. In fact, studies have found that, despite overwhelming signals from their minds and bodies to rest, many new mothers readily give up sleep in favor of keeping their infants from crying or being uncomfortable, protecting an older child’s activities, and protecting a working partner’s sleep. Some even view sleep as “optional.” Though most women know that they feel better physically and mentally—with better focus, thinking, and ability to relate to family members—sleep tends to be one thing we moms don’t protect.[1] And dads can be just as affected by all of these sleep challenges.

 

The Toll of Sleep Deprivation

This pattern of giving up sleep can take a heavy toll, and new parents need to “wake up” and realize the price you will pay. Sleep is the body’s way of restoring health and well-being. Sleep loss is associated with poor attention and decision-making, poor performance on routine tasks, more mistakes, diabetes, obesity, and a host of emotional symptoms like depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, anger, frustration, and poor coping skills. At its extreme, sleep deprivation can actually induce psychotic symptoms!

5 hours of uninterrupted sleep every 24 hours is a physiological imperative for healthy functioning in a normal adult. It’s easy to see, therefore, that a mother who does not get 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep will further her sleep deficit and has a high likelihood of developing physical and mental health symptoms as a result.

 

Sleep Treatment

Even medical and mental health practitioners may minimize the importance of sleep. Sure, sleep is often recommended as part of many pregnancy and postpartum wellness routines, but telling a new parent to “get more sleep” just doesn’t cut it! Providers need to take it a step further and help families learn strategies to improve sleep. In fact, it’s time we see sleep for what it really is–a fundamental cause of PMADs–and treat it as such. In many cases, sleep treatment is the treatment families need. Either way, improving sleep will have a positive impact on a mother and her family.

 

Perinatal Sleep Strategies

The following strategies have been shown to improve sleep quality and quantity. Try one or a few and see what it can do for you!

1)     Make sleep a priority. If you want to be a happy, healthy mom or dad, then you need sleep! Too many parents know that sleep is important but fail to make it a priority. As a 4-time PPD survivor and longtime insomnia sufferer, I know how hard it can be to force yourself to go to bed right when you finally have a few free minutes! But believe me, the price you will pay is not worth the sleep loss. Set up a sleep hygiene routine, including frequent naps and a bedtime goal with time to wind down, and stick to it as much as possible. I repeat, “Make sleep a priority!”

2)     Establish a sleep plan in pregnancy. Know that you are going to be more tired than you’ve ever been. Get used to the idea of having others help you get naps, take a feeding at night (if your baby takes a bottle), or even keep the baby and bring her to you only to eat. Also, try to get as much sleep as possible before the baby comes. The more prepared you are going in, the better your chances of staying on top of the sleep loss.

3)     Enlist the entire family. We’ve already established that sleep is a family concern. There are many ways families can help one another sleep better. Parents, take turns helping each other sleep through the night. Work on getting your older children into their own beds so they aren’t disrupting the family’s sleep. Let grandparents or other family members help you get naps or take over for a night once in a while.

4)     Treat Insomnia. Insomnia is a common occurrence in pregnancy and postpartum, and treating the insomnia can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety dramatically. Learn and apply strategies that help you fall asleep and stay asleep better (read “Sleep Better, Cope Better: 6 Causes & Cures for Insomnia”). If these strategies aren’t helping, speak to your healthcare provider about insomnia treatment options.

5)     Learn & Use Strategies to Improve Infant Sleep. Sometimes it’s more about the baby than you. Some babies just sleep better than others. Colicky babies can be the toughest to deal with, crying for hours and waking all night long (trust me, I’ve had one!). Newborns are usually on their own schedule, but once they reach 4-6 months, you can start getting them on a sleep schedule that works better for all of you. Books, websites, and talking with friends or other support systems can give you ideas to help your baby (and therefore, you) sleep better.

6)     Try Sleep Therapy. There are many thought and behavior-based methods that can significantly improve sleep. Finding a psychologist or therapist who provides sleep therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be very helpful, especially if your sleep troubles are related to too much thinking! (Read about Cognitive-Behavioral Theory)

7)     About Sleep-Aids: Many new parents use a sleep-aid to help them settle down at night and sleep while the baby sleeps (when the opportunity presents itself). There are many types of sleep aids, from over-the-counter to prescription strength, which can be helpful. Natural sleep aids like Melatonin can also help temporarily. However, natural or not, these sleep aids can have varying side effects, and some can be addictive. It’s therefore important to discuss sleep aids with your medical provider to keep you safe and well.

8)     Order a Sleep Disorder Assessment. Sometimes the problem isn’t as simple as having to wake up all night to feed the baby. Sometimes, there’s an underlying sleep disorder than can be causing trouble (like sleep apnea). Talk with your doctor, who can order a sleep study or refer you to a sleep specialist.

 

I know how challenging it can be to get enough sleep when you’ve got a baby to care for. But, take sleep seriously, learn sleep-promoting strategies and practice them, and you will be able to improve your energy, functioning, emotional state, and even  your postpartum depression treatment. It won’t be like this forever—trust me! Eventually your children will sleep better and so will you!

 

 

 

Related Articles and Posts:

Postpartum Depression Treatment

PPD: Complementary Alternative Modalities

PPD Treatment: Psychotherapy

Postpartum Depression: For Dads and Partners

Sleep Better, Cope Better: 6 Insomnia Causes & Cures

Thought Management

Postpartum Survival Mode

The Baby Blues & You

Links:

American Academy of Sleep Medicine: http://yoursleep.aasmnet.org/topic.aspx?id=40


[1] Runquist, J.J. (2007). Persevering Through Postpartum Fatigue. JOGNN 36, 28-37.

 

PPD-Complimentary and Alternative Modalities

Postpartum Depression Treatment:

Complementary & Alternative Modalities

 

Many women experiencing a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder (PMAD), like Postpartum Depression, are looking for alternative treatment options. Women want alternatives to taking medications, not only to avoid their potential side effects (especially in pregnancy and breastfeeding), but also for a greater sense of control and autonomy, and a desire for a more holistic approach.

The good news is, with more and more research on PMADs, there are more Complementary and Alternative Modalities (CAM) available than ever before. These non-medical interventions are generally considered safe for babies and moms alike, making them a great option to add to your postpartum depression treatment.

Let’s explore some of the most researched and validated forms of Complementary and Alternative Modalities for pregnancy & postpartum mental health:

 

1)     Exercise: Exercise is a well-validated component of physical and mental health, so it’s no surprise that exercise is also considered an important part of pregnancy and postpartum depression treatment. In fact, pregnant and postpartum women who exercise regularly tend to have lower rates of depression, better quality of sleep, and lower rates of fatigue overall. It’s also great for mental clarity, body image, and lowering stress. Adding exercise to psychotherapy or medications can also boost the effectiveness of those treatments and help you feel better quicker. Just be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider before you begin an exercise program. (more on exercise)

 

2)     Massage: Whether you’re pregnant or postpartum, massage is a wonderful tool. Not only does it relieve muscle tension and improve relaxation and sleep quality, but research shows it can also reduce anxiety, depression, and maternal stress. Researchers have also found that massage therapy  increases the feel-good chemicals in your brain (like serotonin and dopamine) that make you feel well, while simultaneously reducing stress hormones, like cortisol. Some studies even show that massage in pregnancy reduces the incidence of low birthweight and prematurity too. Like exercise, massage has been shown to boost the effectiveness of other perinatal treatments. Plus, let’s face it, massage feels terrific. Just remember—massage therapy is not pampering, it’s a valid part of your pregnancy or postpartum emotional (and physical) health routine!

3)     Light Therapy: Phototherapy, or Light Therapy, is a well-validated treatment for depression in general, and also for postpartum depression. This form of treatment involves early morning light exposure, which not only helps boost your mood, but also helps reset your sleep cycle, enabling you to fall asleep and wake up earlier. If you live in a sunny place, sit outside or in front of a sun-filled window in the early morning for 20-60 minutes. If there’s no sun out, you can buy a light box (7,000-10,000 lux intensity—sold online and in many stores) and sit in front of it for the same amount of time to get the same effect. Light therapy is simple and can be highly effective, so why not give it a try!

You can also get out and go for a walk in the early-morning sun. Combining light therapy and exercise can give you a double-boost!

4)     Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The cardiovascular benefits of Omega-3’s are well-documented, but did you know that Omega-3’s benefit your mental health as well? In fact, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, like those found in Fish Oil, can have an antidepressant effect on mild to moderate depression, and have been shown to improve pregnancy and postpartum depression without the negative side effects that medications can have. Additionally, “Most of the data we have so far suggests there is an additional response of adding omega-3 fatty acids to someone’s antidepressant medication regiment. What’s really exciting about omega-3 fatty acids in the study of pregnancy and post-partum is babies need omega-3 fatty acids for optimal neurocognitive development. So unlike medication where we kind of wring our hands and weigh the risks and benefits of medication, we want babies to be exposed to omega-3 fatty acids” (Dr. Marlene Freeman, Harvard & Mass General Psychiatrist and a top researcher of Omega-3’s in pregnancy and postpartum). Thus, Omega-3’s are generally viewed as a win-win supplement to add to your treatment routine. Though Omega-3’s are found in a variety of foods, fish sources are the most recommended for mental health benefits, and 1-3 grams per day is the recommended dose. The only downside seems to be mild gastrointestinal symptoms in some women, so if your stomach can handle it, I always recommend a fish oil supplement for pregnant and postpartum women.

5)     Doulas/Home Visitors: Women who receive support in their homes tend to have less depression and anxiety. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Whether through a doula or another home-visitor program, in-home support can provide practical help (like caring for the baby or housework so mom can sleep) and emotional help (like non-directive counseling or just a listening ear) that can alleviate symptoms of PMADs. Research also shows that when home visitors receive even basic training on postpartum depression and counseling skills, the benefits can be even greater.

6)     Acupuncture: Not only has acupuncture been shown to improve physical health, it also increases relaxation, sleep quality, and reduces fatigue and stress. Acupuncture has also been validated as a safe and effective treatment for pregnancy and postpartum depression—another option worth checking into.

 

Hopefully you can see that alternative postpartum depression treatment methods are available, and they can make a big difference in your pregnancy or postpartum well-being. For mild symptoms, CAMs may serve as the main intervention, but for most women, CAMs work best as supplements to other forms of postpartum depression treatment. For optimal pregnancy or postpartum mental health, work with your medical or mental health provider to explore all of your options, and find what works best for you.

 

Related Articles:

Postpartum Depression Treatment

PPD Treatment: Psychotherapy

PPD Treatment: Self-Help

PPD Treatment: Medication

PPD Treatment: Sleep

PPD Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

Pregnancy & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Are Women of Advanced Maternal Age at Higher Risk?

PPD Treatment for Couples

 

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Resources:

http://www.womensmentalhealth.org

http://www.postpartum.net

http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/news/mass-general-expert-marlene-freeman-cites-promisin/nMFfh/

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/prenatalmassage.html

 

PPD-Medication

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication

 

When weighing Postpartum Depression Treatment options, medications almost always come up. Many feel uncertain, however, about taking medications in pregnancy and postpartum, making it one of the most difficult treatment decisions you can make. Here are a few of the questions I hear most often and some answers I hope will help you in your decision-making process.

 

1) “What exactly do you mean by ‘Postpartum Depression medication’?”

When we talk about postpartum “medications,” we’re really talking about psychotropic medications. Psychotropic medications are those that work on the mind, behavior, and mood. There are many types of psychotropic medications, including antidepressants, anxiolytics (or antianxiety medications), mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. Any one of these may be recommended for you, depending on your presenting symptoms and severity of illness.

 

2) “Do they really help?”

Research has shown time and again that psychotropic medications do help pregnant and postpartum women feel better. The trick is finding the right medication and dosage that works for you, and giving it enough time to really kick in.

 

3) “How do they help? I’m not sure I want to just take a ‘happy pill’.”

First, antidepressants are not “happy pills”—they don’t make everything suddenly better. They simply bring you closer to your “normal” level of functioning. For those with mild to moderate symptoms, I describe it this way: When you’re under the influence of a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder (PMAD), you wake up each morning feeling lower than your “normal”. You still have your bad days and good days, but your lows can be extremely low, and your “highs” might just feel like your old “normal,” if you’re lucky. Medication works to regulate the chemistry of the brain so that you can start your day closer to your “normal” level. You’ll still have your bad days, but you’ll feel much more able to cope with them. For women with severe symptoms, medications are necessary to help stabilize and re-regulate the brain and body.

 

4) “If I’m not sure about medication, can I start with therapy or alternative methods first?”

Research suggests that “rather than using medication as a first-line treatment, it could be reserved for more severe depression that does not respond to counseling,”[i] and I agree—for mild to moderate symptoms. Mild symptoms may improve with Self-Help or Alternative Treatment methods like Sleep Treatment, Light Therapy, or Nutritional Supplements. For more moderate symptoms, Psychotherapy works to correct the chemistry of the brain, just like medications do, but it can take longer. I usually suggest starting with therapy; then, if you’re not seeing improvement within 8-12 weeks or if your symptoms worsen, it might be a good time to discuss adding a medication. In general, therapy plus medication is considered the “gold standard” for postpartum depression treatment; therapy helps you learn new ways of coping, and medication can help you feel “well” enough to do the work of therapy.

 

5) “How do I decide if I should take a medication or not?”

Unless you’re experiencing severe symptoms (like Postpartum Psychosis), the decision to take a psychotropic medication or not is ultimately up to you. Dr. Kathy Smith, a Psychiatrist from the University of Arizona Department of Psychiatry, states that “the decision to use psychotropic medication or not should be made collaboratively with the patient, other health care providers, and family members as appropriate.” Talk to your medical or mental health provider, involve your counselor and family, seek out experts in the treatment of women’s mental health, and make sure you have all the facts before you decide. It’s easy to feel confused by the opinions of others, but it’s also important to work together in order to make the decision that is best for you.

 

6) “Can I take a medication if I’m pregnant?”

In many cases, “Yes.” Research shows that psychotropic medications do cross the placenta, meaning that some of it may get to the baby. However, research shows that depression and anxiety may also negatively impact the fetus; in fact, Maternal Depression is, the #1 predictor of future behavioral and cognitive problems in a child. So, the question becomes, “What is a bigger risk to the baby—medication, or a depressed/anxious mother?” Dr. Kathy Smith says that “in pregnant women, the clinical challenge is to minimize the risk to the developing fetus, while also limiting the effects of untreated postpartum depression or anxiety on the mother.” Working with a doctor who understands pregnancy and postpartum mental health can help you make the decision that works best for you. As Dr. Smith states, “No decision is risk free, but when made collaboratively with the patient and physician, the outcome can be a positive one.”

 

7) “Do I have to quit breastfeeding if I decide to start a psychotropic medication?”

No—taking a medication does not necessarily mean you have to stop breastfeeding. Too many women are put on a medication by their doctor and told they have to quit breastfeeding—it’s one of the biggest topics that comes up in my postpartum group and in my practice. Though some of the psychotropic medications are not safe for breastfeeding mothers, many of them are.  Again, the small risk to the breastfeeding infant in many cases outweighs the great risk of having a depressed mother. Your doctor should be able to help you weigh the risks and benefits so you can decide what works best for you. If you don’t feel right about what your doctor is telling you, you have the right to seek a second opinion.

 

8 ) “How long will I have to stay on the medication?”

Most are encouraged to stay on the medication a minimum of six to twelve months in order to give it time to really work (and to possibly prevent future episodes of depression), but this varies greatly. When you feel ready to go off medication, just make sure to bring it up with your provider. Do not quit cold turkey, as it may result in a recurrence of your symptoms. Tapering slowly is the way to go, and this is best done under the care of your physician.

 

9) “Who can prescribe psychotropic medications and how do I find the right person for me?”

Psychiatrists, primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and OB/GYNs can all prescribe psychotropic medications. But not all understand perinatal mental health well enough to help you make the most informed decision. It’s best if your provider has had specific education on perinatal medication, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Has s/he received specialized training in PMADs? Can s/he name books or resources on postpartum depression? Is s/he affiliated with any postpartum organizations, like Postpartum Support International or a local branch? Is s/he affiliated with a medical center which specializes in the treatment of women’s mental health? If you don’t feel like you are getting the answers you need, keep looking until you do. (See Resources, below, for help).

 

The Bottom Line…

The bottom line is this: Whether you’re pregnant or postpartum, breastfeeding or not, it’s ok to consider taking a medication. When you need it, it’s a huge help. When you no longer need it, you can taper off. Adding therapy or alternative treatment modalities with the medication is the best way to go. Collaborating with your family, mental health, and medical providers, and finding a doctor trained in Perinatal Mood Disorder medications should provide you with all the facts you need to make the decision that is best for you. In pregnancy and postpartum, your wellness is the most important thing—for you, your baby, your partner, and your family.

 

Resources:

Postpartum Support International

Coordinators in all 50 states and many countries around the world are available to help you find the right resources in your area.

Hotline: 800-944-4PPD (In English & Spanish)

 

In Arizona:

The Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition

Warmline: 888-434-MOMS (In English & Spanish)


[i] Stuart, S., O’Hara, M. , & Gorman, L. (2003).  The prevention and psychotherapeutic treatment of postpartum depression. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 6[Suppl.2]: s57-s69.)

Psychotherapy

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Psychotherapy

 

PPD-Treatment-Psychotherapy-1As a Clinical Psychologist, I know a thing or two about psychotherapy: I know that it is a highly effective treatment for Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), that there are some terrific therapists out there, and that it can be tough to find the right therapist for you. However, as a four-time postpartum depression survivor and therapy participant, I know that postpartum psychotherapy works.

 

Is Psychotherapy An Effective Treatment for Postpartum Depression?

You don’t have to take my word for it—research has demonstrated time and again that psychotherapy is an effective treatment for PMADs. In fact, research now shows that psychotherapy “should be considered a first-line treatment, rather than as an adjunct to medication treatment.”[i]

 

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, postpartum psychotherapy is a great place for most women and families to start—it’s an opportunity to talk with a trained provider who can identify what’s really going on and help you begin to make positive change. Then, if the therapy is not working well enough, you can always look into adding medication. In fact, psychotherapy plus medication is often recognized as the “gold standard” for postpartum depression treatment. (For severe PMAD symptoms, however, medication or hospitalization may be better indicated to start).

 

What is Psychotherapy?

The term “psychotherapy” is just another way of saying therapy or counseling. The goal of postpartum psychotherapy is to provide a nurturing environment where you can gain self-understanding and insight, make connections between your past and present, and learn tools to help you cope. Ideally, psychotherapy provides a space that is just for you, with an experienced therapist to show you things you might not otherwise have seen, to support and encourage you, and also to teach new ways of doing things.

 

Who Provides Postpartum Psychotherapy?

There are several types of mental health specialists who provide psychotherapy—psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, therapists, psychotherapists, and even psychiatric nurse practitioners. The different titles refer to the different types and levels of schooling the provider has achieved, and while this may influence a provider’s level of education or how much the provider charges, in general, any one of these might provide the type of psychotherapy you’re looking for.

 

What Are The Best Therapeutic Approaches?

Each therapist will have their own therapeutic approach, or the way they view and do therapy. Research has shown the following four therapeutic approaches to be the most effective for postpartum depression treatment:

1)     Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) examines the relationship between your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, with the goal to become more aware of these relationships and make alterations as needed.

2)     Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) works on modifying interpersonal relationships, focusing on interpersonal disputes, role transitions, and grief/loss.

3)     Couple’s Therapy provides partners with a place where each can feel safe and supported while working through issues like role changes, parenting, communication, negotiation, and strengthening the relationship. Considering the high stress placed on couples in pregnancy and postpartum, couples therapy is an excellent option when both partners are willing.

4)     Group Therapy is a support group that’s led by a professional counselor, nurse, or social worker. Participants are taught coping strategies from the group leader, with the added benefit of receiving support and wisdom from other moms or dads who have “been there”.

 

What Should I Look For in a Postpartum Psychotherapy Provider?

First, does the provider understand Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders? Has s/he had any extra training on the evaluation and treatment of PMADs? If you’re not sure, then ask.

 

Second, what is the provider’s therapeutic approach? How does s/he “do” therapy? Does it seem in line with what you are looking for?

 

Third (and most importantly) do you like and trust the provider? The fit between a client and therapist is crucial to making therapy work. If, for any reason, you have doubts, please bring it up with your therapist. And if that doesn’t help, try someone else, and keep trying until you find the person that will best help you.

 

What Should I Say/Do in Psychotherapy?

Though it may take some time before you establish a trusting relationship with your therapist, you should feel comfortable talking about all of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, including (and especially):

  • Intrusive thoughts or images
  • Feelings or thoughts of suicide
  • Sadness, crying
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling disconnected from the baby
  • Feeling like you’ll never feel better again

You should be able to share these things without feeling minimized, judged, or blamed.

 

Most Importantly:

You should feel BETTER when you leave a therapy practice, not worse. You should feel hopeful, like this person might actually be able to help you, and especially that they understood what you were saying and how you were feeling.

 

Psychotherapy can make a world of difference in your postpartum depression recovery. Just give it a try, be patient, and soon enough you will feel the hope return.

 

Related Articles/Posts:

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication

PPD Treatment: Complementary & Alternative Modalities

PPD Treatment: Sleep

PPD Treatment: For Dads & Partners

PPD Treatment: Self-Help

The Baby Blues & You

Postpartum Survival Mode

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

 

Resources:

Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources: http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/resources/

Postpartum Support International www.postpartum.net


[i] Stuart, S., O’Hara, M. , & Gorman, L. (2003).  The prevention and psychotherapeutic treatment of postpartum depression. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 6[Suppl.2]: s57-s69.) Quoted in: American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology, “Treating Postpartum Depressionhttp://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/02/postpartum.aspx .

PPD-Self Help

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help

 

If you’re experiencing The Baby Blues or mild to moderate symptoms of Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, self-help is a great place to start. And one of the best ways to make sure you “help” all the parts of your “self” is:“NURSE”

N= Nourishment and Needs

U=Understanding

R=Rest and Relaxation

S=Spirituality

E=Exercise [1]

 

Nourishment & Needs

Pregnant and postpartum women need good “food” for the body as well as the mind to ensure emotional health:

[two_third]

“I know it can be a challenge to eat nutritious, balanced meals with a new baby, so here are some suggestions: 1) Make and freeze postpartum meals before the baby comes, 2) Stock the fridge with ready-to-go fresh foods like cut up fruits and veggies, & lean protein like boiled eggs, cooked chicken, or almond butter (yummy with apples!), 3) When preparing meals, make extra and save it for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner, 4) Put together “snack bags,” complete with nuts, dried berries, or other healthy and easy-to-eat snacks you enjoy; when it’s time for a snack, grab and go!”

[/two_third]

1)     Ask yourself, “What am I eating?”: Are you eating enough? Are you eating too much? Are your food choices those that will give you increased energy?

2)     Eat nutritious, balanced meals to give you energy: Create a food plan including small, frequent meals and easy, high-protein snacks.

3)     Drink plenty of water: Approximately 64 oz a day is recommended for most women, but breastfeeding moms will likely need more.

4)     Limit caffeine and sugar intake: Caffeine and sugar can amplify emotional symptoms, especially anxiety. Reexamine your use of these substances and adjust as needed.

5)     Ask yourself, “What are my needs?”: We’re not just talking nutrition here. It’s important that you identify your emotional, intellectual, social, physical, and spiritual needs too. Identifying your needs is the first step in meeting those needs.

[two_third]

“Create a “breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding) basket.” Keep it stocked with a full water bottle, nutritious snacks, and whatever else you need. This makes drinking plenty of water and eating healthy a built-in part of your baby’s feeding routine!”

[/two_third]

Understanding

All pregnant and postpartum women can benefit from having a safe space where they can examine their emotions and needs, and receive insights or support. Try one or more of these:

1)     Journal, or write down experiences, emotions, and needs. Writing 1) helps get it out of you, and 2) enables you to go back later and see the bigger connections.

2)     Talk to an understanding support person. Simply sharing, crying, or “venting” to a trusted other can make a world of difference.

3)     Join a pregnancy or postpartum support group. In a support group you can meet other mothers who are feeling similar to you. It’s a great place to share how you’re doing and to remind yourself that you’re not alone.

4)     Read materials about pregnancy and postpartum emotional health. Books or websites can help you learn about and better understand your emotions.

5)     Try psychotherapy. Ok, I may be a little biased, but research shows psychotherapy can really alleviate emotional distress. It’s always helpful to have a non-judgmental person and place where you can discuss and work through your emotional struggles and concerns.

 

Rest & Relaxation

Pregnancy is exhausting; then add in labor and delivery followed by feedings around the clock and new parents are worn out before they even get started! In addition to sleep, new moms and dads need (and deserve) a little time to relax too. Here are some suggestions:

[two_third]

“Naps help! Even though 5 solid hours is recommended for mental wellness, sleep has a cumulative effect and every little bit counts.”

[/two_third]

1)     Make sleep a priority. Most don’t realize how much sleep deprivation impacts emotional health, so let me just make this clear: Sleep is critical to mental health! Make it one of your top priorities. Naps help! Even though 5 solid hours is recommended for mental wellness, sleep has a cumulative effect and every little bit counts!

2)     Nap when the baby naps.This can be especially challenging for moms with older children, but implementing “quiet time” for everyone during baby’s nap can help.

3)     Find someone to care for the baby. Letting others help you is important for your emotional well-being. Help with the baby, housework, or meals can free you up to get some much-needed rest or relaxation. [Tip:Even breastfeeding mothers can get a little more sleep by pumping and allowing their partner, family member, or friend to take over a feeding once in a while.]

[two_third]

Tip: “Even breastfeeding mothers can get a little more sleep by pumping and allowing their partner, family member, or friend to take over a feeding once in a while.”

[/two_third]

4)     Focus on relaxation. In addition to sleep, you need some time to relax each day. Even ten minutes for a bath, stretching, quiet time, or reading can do the trick. Whatever relaxes you, do it. It will not only improve your ability to sleep more peacefully, it will bring you more peace of mind during the day.

 

Spirituality

Spirituality can have a different meaning and practice for each mother or father, but the important part is to keep connected to your spiritual nature and meaning during pregnancy and postpartum:

1)     Focus on experiences that bring you joy and keep you uplifted and connected to your higher power.

2)     Engage in activities that foster your spirituality, including: meditation, deep breathing, prayer, attending religious services, reading spiritual texts, being around family or in nature, listening to uplifting music, practicing gratitude, and giving service.

 

Exercise

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It is also a well-validated component of postpartum depression treatment. Exercise increases levels of the feel-good chemicals in the brain (like serotonin and endorphins), leads to improved quality of sleep, improves thinking and problem-solving, and is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. Some tips for perinatal exercise include:

[two_third]

“Research shows that even two 10-minute segments of cardio can give you the same benefits as 20 continuous minutes!”

[/two_third]

1)     Always clear exercise with your doctor before you begin/resume an exercise program.

2)     For the best mental health benefits, consistent cardiovascular exercise is key: 20 minutes a day 3-5 days a week is all you need!

3)     Exercise isn’t just walking or running: Walking is a great exercise in pregnancy and postpartum, but there are many other options. Swim, try a class, hike, bike—even housework or gardening counts as long as it’s done for 10 minutes or more at a moderate level. Find what you enjoy and do it.

4)     Find an exercise buddy. Research shows that those who are the most consistent with their exercise plan are those who partner up!

 

Self-Help & Beyond

The important thing is to find the suggestions that work best for you and do them. Consistent self-help practices like those mentioned here can make a big impact on your emotional well-being.

If, however, your emotional symptoms intensify or do not improve within 2 weeks or so, I suggest you seek professional help. There are many options for Postpartum Depression Treatment —find the right one for you. You (and your family) will be so grateful that you did.

 


[1] “NURSE” is borrowed and adapted from one of my favorite books: Women’s Moods, by Deborah Sichel & Jeanne Driscoll.

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