So, you just had a baby. Congratulations! You should be the happiest person alive with your new bundle of joy. Except that you aren’t — and there’s just no straightforward way to express what you’re going through.
Although there are no official statistics as to how many women are affected by postpartum depression, it is said that in the United States alone, approximately 70 to 80 per cent of mothers will experience the ‘baby blues’ at least once in their life. In another study, it is found that in Asian countries, the rate of postpartum depression could be somewhere around 65 per cent or more among new mothers. Moreover, the reported case of clinical depression among new mothers is between 10 to 20 per cent.
It is important to understand that these numbers only represent live births. Women who had miscarriages and have stillborn babies also experience postpartum depression as well. It is also believed that postpartum depression is more prevalent than what is reported and diagnosed. Many symptoms still go unreported and undiagnosed, especially in poor and developing countries.
Postpartum Depression: The Recovery Journey
Postpartum depression is a condition that affects different women in different ways. Not only are the symptoms and appropriate treatments different for each mother, but the recovery process is also very personal.
Recovering from postpartum depression requires ongoing treatment, family support, education and coping skills as well as regular self-help practices. A full recovery from postpartum depression is almost always possible for anyone affected. Though no one can guarantee when it will go away, it eventually does pass.
While the process itself may be different for each person, there are certain practices that can help you effectively recover from postpartum depression. These include continuing medical support, implementing self-care practices, prioritizing diet and exercise and getting enough rest. If you are struggling with postpartum depression, here are fours steps you can take to recover well:
1. Get Ongoing Professional Help
As you recover, it is best to stay in communication with your doctor or trusted mental health professional. Communication with doctors shouldn’t end after a diagnosis is reached and treatments are prescribed.
Ongoing communication with doctors allows you to adjust your treatment plan as needed. It’s also a way for you to bring up any concerns you may have throughout your recovery. Seeing your doctor regularly can also provide a sense of support and understanding of your condition and symptoms.
2. Focus on Self-Care and Wellness
To help ensure a healthy recovery, it’s important for women to be proactive when it comes to self-care. While this can be difficult, it is important to look after yourself during this time.
Self-care practices can include meditation, yoga, journaling, prayer, deep breathing and anything else that calms the mind. Positive self-talk and reminding yourself of the temporary nature of postpartum depression can also help you during this time.
Ultimately, the goal of these self-care practices is to limit the amount of stress you experience. This is why it’s important to not take on any unnecessary responsibilities or commitments, as these can trigger anxiety.
3. Adopt a Healthy Diet and Exercise Routine
Proper diet and exercise are important for everyone, but they are especially important for women suffering from postpartum depression. The food you eat can directly impact the symptoms you experience. If you are undereating or aren’t eating the right foods, it can worsen your symptoms. Nutritional deficiencies can cause fatigue, which further compounds feelings of sadness and irritability.
The amount of exercise you get can also directly impact postpartum depression symptoms — for better or worse. Without exercise, the body becomes weak and susceptible to illnesses that can aggravate depression and anxiety. Regular exercise, even in limited quantities, can go a long way to managing postpartum depression symptoms.
If you’re concerned about your diet and exercise habits as you recover, consult a professional to coordinate a diet and exercise plan that’s right for you.
4. Take Time to Rest and Relax
There is perhaps nothing more important during postpartum depression recovery than getting enough rest. Sleep deprivation is a terrible condition that can worsen postpartum depression symptoms. Without enough rest, the risk of becoming further depressed, anxious and irritable increases. A lack of rest also affects the immune system which increases your risk of illnesses and infections.
Ensuring that you are in a relaxed state is important so you get enough rest. Part of relaxation should include spending time in nature and getting outside frequently.
How Long Until You Feel Better?
Due to the personal nature of postpartum depression, there is no definite recovery timeline. While most cases heal within one year after symptoms begin, many women might still experience postpartum depression symptoms years after their onset.
The most important aspect of ensuring the smoothest recovery possible is adhering to and adjusting your postpartum depression treatment plan. The more proactive you are in regards to your own health, the sooner you will likely recover from postpartum depression. Women who leave their symptoms unaddressed and untreated can suffer from long-term postpartum depression.
Factors Affecting Postpartum Depression Recovery
The reason that postpartum depression recovery looks different to each person is that many different factors determine how you will recover. Some of these factors may include:
- The severity of the illness
- How soon you sought treatment after symptoms began
- The effectiveness of the treatment plan you are on
- Other life factors that are contributing to depression symptoms
- Past medical and mental health histories
Any of these factors will determine someone’s ability to recover and even the length of time it may take to recover.
Tips for Postpartum Depression Recovery
If you’re currently recovering from postpartum depression then here are some helpful tips to consider. These tips will help you to set realistic expectations about the recovery process.
- Don’t Compare Yourself to Others: It’s natural to compare your story to others in order to try and make sense of your suffering. However, this can create unrealistic expectations and place more added pressure on yourself. Remember that your recovery process is different from others for any number of reasons and you cannot necessarily control the outcome.
- Forget Perfection: You may feel a strong sense of needing to be perfect and not living up to this ideal can be hard. Instead, remind yourself that you’re doing your best and that’s all you can ask for.
- Include Your Friends and Family: Suffering through postpartum depression alone creates a more difficult path to recovery. Avoid isolating yourself. Be sure to include your friends and family in your recovery process. This support will help improve your confidence.
- Adjust Your Treatment Plan as Needed: Remember that nothing is permanent when it comes to your postpartum depression treatment. If you feel that your treatment isn’t working, talk to your doctor to adjust it. It may be necessary to change medications or to include other types of therapies.
- Don’t Rely on Medication Alone: While medication can dramatically improve symptoms, it shouldn’t be the sole approach to postpartum depression recovery. A holistic treatment plan that includes other well-being practices can greatly aid your recovery.