Returning home from the hospital with your child is supposed to be the start of a magical period of bonding and discovery as you learn to care for a baby and watch in utter amazement at the miracle you have created. And yet, this bucolic image can quickly turn into a nightmare for a new mother suffering from postpartum depression. While there have been many advances towards understanding and dealing with this crippling disorder, it can still be extremely difficult for a young woman to admit that she has a problem (especially since there is a common misconception in our society that women are instinctively maternal, and those who cannot care for their child may feel stigmatized or isolated).
- Friends and family. A strong support network is absolutely essential for any new mother coping with the stresses of child-rearing, but it is especially important for women dealing with postpartum depression. Much of the time, you will have trouble controlling your emotions and you may be horrified by the thoughts that run through your mind. But you must realize that you have a problem and lean on those who love you for support. They can take some of the burden off your shoulders and allow you to seek the help you need.
- Counseling. Whether you have seen a psychologist before or not, now is a good time to become familiar with the practice. A specialist in the area of postpartum depression has the skills and knowledge to explain why you are experiencing these changes in your body and mind. They can also teach you how to deal with your emotions and take the steps necessary to get your life back in order. And you may find that talking to a stranger is, in many ways, easier than discussing your feelings with family members (whose reactions or advice may end up doing more harm than good).
- Group therapy. A lot of women find it helpful to know that they are alone in dealing with this debilitating disorder (believe it or not, more than half of all mothers suffer from postpartum). Speaking with others, listening to their stories, and sharing your own experience may be just what you need to start feeling good about yourself again. And knowing that you can form friendships with other who understand your predicament may relieve some of the pressure you have been putting on yourself to buck up and get over it. You need patience to overcome your depression and having someone to commiserate with will ease your conscience considerably.
- Sleep, eat, and exercise. Although many attribute postpartum depression to fluctuating hormones, the truth is that lack of sleep, a poor diet, and little exercise can throw just about anyone into a depression. So sleep when your baby sleeps (and accept offers for help), stick to a balanced diet instead of grabbing easy junk food, and try to get in some energy-building exercise at least three or four times a week. Keeping your body healthy will only help to improve your mood.
- Medication. While doctors seem to hand out mood-altering drugs like candy, many women want to leave this as a last resort (and it’s no wonder if you plan to breastfeed). However, some people will need a little extra help to return to normal, so don’t write off prescription drugs altogether. If you’re not sure, get a second (and third) opinion on the matter before you commit, or look into alternatives like holistic (or natural) medicine. You don’t want to suffer needlessly, so consider all of your options for maximum health and wellness.