by Jennifer Shakeel
You have heard about women who suffer from postpartum depression. Some have made the news with the things that they have done. You may even remember the big debate between Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise a few years ago over whether or not it was a real condition and if medications should be used to get through it. Your doctor may talk to you briefly about it, and then you will dismiss it. The thought that is going to enter your mind is, “Who in the world could be depressed over such a wonderful event?” The answer is, more women then you realize.
The first thing I want you to understand that depression during the last trimester of pregnancy is normal. The fluctuation of hormones, the draining of your energy, not being able to sleep properly, the realization that you are going to be a new mom (for the first time or second or third) all sinking in can cause a woman to feel down, not quite like herself and depressed. This is not saying that all women go through this. I didn’t with my first two, but I can tell you with this one… the last couple of weeks have been tough.
Understand that they depression isn’t over having a baby. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t happy about the new bundle of joy. It is more that you question everything that you have done in the past up until now and wonder if you are going to be a good mom. Your life is about to change in a big way, regardless of whether it is your first or your third or fourth child. The worst thing in the world you can do is not acknowledge and talk about the way you are feeling. Talk to someone that you trust, that you are comfortable with, that isn’t going to judge you. This can be your partner, your sister, mom, therapists, best friend, doctor… talk to someone. If it means you sit and spend the afternoon crying and you don’t know why then sit there and cry and then pick up the phone and call that person.
For me, I have spent the last two weeks questioning whether or not I am good wife and a good mom. I wonder if the reason that this baby is still not coming out because she is afraid that I am going to mess her up. This of course has worried my husband and made my little sister play the role of the big sister as she spent hours on the phone with me the other day as I cried and confessed all my concerns and tell me honestly, the things I needed to hear. I am incredibly grateful for my husband and my sister.
Now let’s talk about postpartum depression. There are three different types of postpartum depression, what we all know as “baby blues” which happens right after birth within the first 5 days. Postnatal depression, which affects 1 in 10 women, it starts off as the baby blues and quickly progresses. There is also Puerperal Psychosis, this happens in the first three months after birth, affects 1 in 1000 women and is the most severe case.
Again, getting the “baby blues” is normal, anywhere from 50 to 75% of women experience this condition. You may feel teary, anxious, irritable and you may even feel indifferent towards the baby. This usually goes away as quickly as it came on. Obviously the postnatal and puerperal depression are progressions of the baby blues, each more severe then the previous. In any of the conditions it is very important that you talk to someone about how you are feeling, and definitely consult with your health care profession if things do not improve. There are a number of other things that you can do to help you get through what you are feeling.
First, you need to take care of yourself. I understand that a new baby can be just as overwhelming as it is exciting. New babies are also very demanding, which can make it very difficult for you to remember to take time for yourself. Right now is the most important time for you to make sure you are taking care of you.
1. Sleep as much as you can. When baby is sleeping you NEED to sleep. The house work can wait. If you deprive yourself of sleep you are going to make everything seem much worse then what it is. Sleep is mother nature’s way of letting the body and mind recuperate.
2. Eat Nutritiously. While that cup of caffeine in the morning helps you perk up enough to at least recognize the world, it is actually doing you more harm then good. If you are like me, you are still going to want that coffee, so make sure you drink orange juice and plenty of water. Eat fresh fruits and veggies, not chips and junk. Your body needs the nutrients to repair itself and keep you going.
3. Exercise. Yes, get up and get moving. Go for a walk with baby, the fresh air will help relieve stress and clear your mind.
4. Take some “me” time. This one is really hard, but very important so that you keep your sanity. It doesn’t matter if it is a 10 minute bath, where you light candles, play soft music and soak in the bubbles. It is ten minutes that is all about you.
While most women get over postpartum depression fairly quickly, it is important to consult with a health care provider if things do not improve or worsen.
Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience. As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms!
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