Treatment for Postpartum Depression
Having a child can bring about a number of emotional and physical experiences, looking different for each individual. It is natural for new parents to experience mood swings, feeling happy one moment and saddened the next. These feelings are often referred to as the “baby blues” and typically go away soon after birth. However, some parents may experience a deep and ongoing depression that lasts much longer. This is referred to as Postpartum Depression or PPD.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Postpartum depression is depression that can start during pregnancy or at any time up to a year after the birth of a child. Depression affects an individual’s mood therefore, impacting the way one thinks about themselves, relates to others, and interacts with the world around them. This is more than a ‘bad day’ or ‘feeling down.’ Without increasing one’s awareness on how depression is impacting one’s emotional and physical self and learning the tools to promote emotional stability, depression can last for a long time.
Symptoms of depression include feeling sad, worthless, hopeless, guilty, or anxious most of the time. Some individuals may experience irritability, frustration or anger. Individuals may lose interest in things that once brought pleasure and joy. Some may begin to withdraw from interacting with others, finding comfort in isolation. One may notice difficulty in focusing on tasks at hand and remembering information. Making it hard to concentrate, learn new things, or make decisions. Many individuals who experience PPD may notice changes in eating, sleep, along with a decline in self care.
An individual with postpartum depression may not enjoy time with their child and may have frequent thoughts that they’re a bad parent. They may also have thoughts around harming themselves or their baby. Although it’s rare for a parent to make plans to act on these thoughts, this situation is serious and requires urgent medical care. If you believe that you or a loved one is in danger, please don’t hesitate to call 911 or your local crisis line for support.
Who does PPD affect?
Postpartum depression can affect anyone. Although it’s more commonly reported by mothers, it can affect either parent, including parents who adopt. Postpartum depression is likely caused by many different factors that work in combination, including family history, genetic disposition, personality, life experiences, and the environment (especially sleep deprivation).
What can I do about PPD?
Postpartum depression can be a very difficult experience. Becoming a new parent is a transitioning time for many families. PPD can make this time very challenging causing one’s mental mindset to become shut down and overwhelmed. It’s essential to remember that there is no perfect pregnancy, perfect birth, perfect baby, or perfect parent. You are doing the best you can, with what you know. If you are noticing you are struggling it is important to identify your support and take the time to recover and learn how to enjoy time with your family.
Counselling Process for PPD
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common treatment for postpartum depression. It may be the first treatment to try for mild or moderate symptoms. Cognitive-behavioural therapy teaches you how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours work together. It also teaches important skills like problem-solving, realistic thinking, stress management, and relaxation. Another type of counselling called interpersonal psychotherapy may also help. It focuses on relationships and can help people adjust to changing roles in their relationships.
Support groups are also very important. Postpartum depression and new parenthood can both isolate you from others, and isolation can add to feelings of depression. Support groups are a safe place to share your experiences, learn from others, and connect with other parents who have similar experiences and understand what you’re going through.
Taking care of your well-being is especially important, but this can be difficult for any new parent. It may be helpful to recruit loved ones or see what services may be available so you can take some time for your own personal needs. Regular exercise can boost your mood and help you manage stress. Eating well and sleeping as much as you can are also very helpful. It is essential to spend time on activities you enjoy, find relaxation strategies that work for you, and spend time with people who make you feel good.
How can I help someone experiencing PPD?
Postpartum depression can be challenging for family members to watch their loved one’s experience. Most people expect the arrival of a child to be happy and joyful, and postpartum depression is none of those things. It’s important to know that postpartum depression is no one’s fault, but you can play a big role in a loved one’s recovery.
Here are some tips on supporting a loved one who may be experiencing PPD:
- Identify everyone’s expectations and make sure they remain realistic.
- Remember that every parent and child is unique. Do not compare.
- Understand that people who experience PPD may want to spend time alone. This can hurt, but try to remember that it isn’t about you. They are simply trying to cope.
- Offer help with daily responsibilities. It’s hard enough at the best of times to find time for daily chores when there’s a new baby. Often, offers of help from friends and neighbours are strong in the first month or two, but may be needed just as much, or more, in later months.
- Help with child care (including overnight help for feedings), or help finding a child care provider. A short break or a chance to get back into interests can make a big difference in anyone’s well-being. It can also create more opportunities for sleep.
- Managing PPD can take a lot of hard work. Recognize a loved one’s efforts regardless of the outcome.
- Talk to a counsellor or your doctor/public health nurse, or accompany your loved one on appointments, if you’re concerned.
- Seek support for yourself, if needed.
In all, professional help becomes essential for individuals suffering from PPD in order to change one’s self perceptions and behaviour.
Heather Kempton at Optimal Life in Coquitlam can help one to adjust to the changes brought by parenthood so that one feels confident and can enjoy the process.