Adapting to the postpartum life can be quite challenging for new mums. From struggling with insomnia, tiredness, sore nipples, to experiencing a series of physical challenges at the onset. As the newborn becomes the centre of your life and attention, you will find even less time for yourself.
To add to it, the anxiety of COVID-19, the masks, the constant use of the sanitiser, can make post-pandemic postpartum almost a nightmare. But while these are more physical challenges, it is the emotional and mental ones that are often the most taxing on women, and often brushed under the carpet as well.
Immediately after child birth, you may experience rapid mood swings, frequent crying spells, stress and also difficulty in sleeping. During this time, the joy and excitement of having a baby is often replaced with anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, all leading up what is commonly and sadly called postpartum depression.
If you are going through this phase, hang in there. We understand how difficult it must be for you and chances are your condition may even require proper medical diagnosis and intervention.
But the good news is that it is a period that one can overcome with continued guidance and support.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioural changes that some women experience after delivery. Approximately 21% of women experience major or minor depression following childbirth.
Unfortunately, due to lack of proper diagnosis, postpartum depression symptoms are often confused with baby blues, where the latter typically begins within the first two to three days after delivery and may last for up to two weeks. However, the more severe, long-lasting form of depression is known as postpartum depression.
In rare cases, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis may also develop after childbirth, which occurs in approximately 1 to 2 of every 1,000 deliveries.
This is why it is crucial to identify the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression as it can interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks as well.
9 Dominant Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
While crying without reason could be a sign of triggered emotions, it is also one of the many prominent postpartum depression symptoms. You could get triggered by things like your infant crying, or a back ache, or even hunger. In the context of postpartum depression, there are studies that say that “excessive infant crying behaviour may be problematic if it leads to a failure to elicit appropriate maternal responses.”
So if this is a more than regular occurrence, it’s best to take note of your mood as well as report it to your doctor.
Having a panic attack is the most terrifying experience at any point in someone’s life. It becomes worse when it happens right after your child’s birth. At a time when you are managing a sea of emotions like balancing sleep deprivation with unprecedented levels of stress – panic attacks can feel even scarier than before.
There are some common symptoms of a typical panic attack such as intense fear, feeling hot or sweaty, nausea, cramping, and dizziness. Remember, like any panic attack, a postpartum panic attack also comes unannounced. So if you notice these ever so often, consult with your doctor immediately.
The guilt of not being a good mother
The inability to bond with your child and failing to address the little one’s needs can give rise to this feeling. But there is nothing to worry about. Mothers can’t be classified in the bracket of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Reassure yourself that you are a good mother and are doing a wonderful job. If verbal positive affirmations don’t work, write them down on a piece of paper and repeat them aloud.
Severe mood swings
You may experience severe mood swings and some that may be beyond your control. One moment, you may feel happy after nursing your baby and holding the little one near your chest, the next moment you will find yourself sitting and crying.
You need to understand that giving birth can alter your body not just physiologically, but also emotionally. So if that happens, don’t be so hard on yourself and give yourself some wriggle room to bounce back.
Failing to bond with your baby
An infant requires to be fed frequently, their nappies need to be changed, burped and several of their needs have to be taken care of. In this phase, right after giving birth you may not be as physically fit as before and may feel tired most of the time. This can make you more irritated.
The pain and exhaustion from childbirth — especially from a difficult delivery — can also get in the way of the bonding process. In some severe cases, there is no bonding at all. If you feel the same as well, you may need to consult with your doctor to find out if this is a physiological issue or a psychological one.
Disturbed sleeping pattern
As a new mum, your sleep will be disrupted by repeated awakening of the infant, and hormonal factors that also come into play. Immediately after childbirth, levels of the reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, drop precipitously. It is these hormones that modulate neurotransmitter systems in the brain that are responsible for sleep quality. So if they fluctuate, it may cause significant disruptions in sleep.
Another reason could be your baby’s irregular sleep pattern. According to a study, because infants’ sleep patterns tend to follow maternal circadian rhythms, the infants of depressed mothers may also experience poor sleep quality, which may further worsen the maternal depressive symptoms.
Withdrawing from family and friends
One of the major symptoms of postpartum depression is the feeling of loneliness. You may show massive symptoms of withdrawals from your loved ones. You may want to just sit in one corner of the room and cry. You may dislike people calling you or barging into your home to meet you.
Recurrent thoughts of suicide and death
This is one of the severe forms of postpartum depression. If the above symptoms are not addressed properly, then they may take a tragic turn even before you realise it. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you should always seek help from a medical professional to understand why you are feeling this way.
Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
This is another severe form of depression. Postpartum psychosis is severe and life-threatening and the risk of hurting yourself or your baby is real.
If you or someone close to you exhibits these symptoms after giving birth, you must seek immediate medical attention. While these symptoms may seem triggering, the idea is not to scare you, but to warn you to take yourself and your symptoms seriously.
If you are in this new mum phase and have noticed some of these symptoms, fret not. There is a lot you can do to feel better and back to your usual happy self.
How To Deal With Postpartum Depression: Postpartum Essentials
The first step in the right direction is diagnosis. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and feel that it is coming in the way of you and your baby bonding, you need to seek medical advice.
After studying your symptoms and depending on the severity, doctors may advise proper medication. This will be followed by a specific mental well-being plan for you. However, there are a few things you can also do to work on yourself.
- Try to rely on your ‘support system’
Humans are social creatures and crave interaction with others. As a new mum, you may feel lonely and want to be in the company of your friends. You may want to escape from the ‘nappy talks’ or ‘breast milk’ conversations. So go ahead, call your friend, and reach out to them.
You can also ask your partner to care for the baby while you catch a quick lunch with your family members or friends. You need to find ways to de-stress yourself before you go back and get ready for another gruelling night with your child.
It is very important to take care of yourself. You may think that you don’t have the time to pamper yourself or go for a relaxing facial, but it can happen if you plan well. You need to plan these activities when your baby is fast asleep. Giving time to yourself and caring about your needs, is an instant mood booster.
Unfortunately, at this time you may also feel down by negative physical changes such as severe hair loss. But don’t panic, it’s totally normal. Postpartum hair loss can set in any day after your baby arrives, and it sometimes continues for as long as a year. You may be losing chunks of hair and missing your long and thick mane, but there are ways to nourish your hair in your postpartum phase. Try to improve your lifestyle by inculcating a healthy diet and exercise in your daily routine.
Try and include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins in your diet and consume prescription supplements. While supplements are surely not a replacement for your diet. They can help fill the gap which your diet won’t be able to and your body needs during this time.
- Try to bond with your baby
The bonding with your baby now will play an important role in their growth and development in the future. In fact, a study conducted on 14,000 children in the United States found that 40 percent of the children lacked strong emotional bonds with their parents. This lack of strong parental attachment made the children more likely to experience behavioural and educational problems.
So whenever possible, hold your baby, think about why you had him/her and how much you love them. Try to read positive affirmations around your baby or even hymns and lullabies that make you happy as well.
There are small things that you can do to strengthen the bonding between you and your baby.
- Hold your baby’s hand: As you know, touch is an early language for babies, and just by holding your little one’s hand, you will be able to feel a gush of maternal love and a soothing communication.
- Look into your child’s eyes: Looking into your little one’s eyes can initiate meaningful conversation at close range. It will not only help you better connect with your child, but also relieve yourself of some of that emotional baggage you’ve been carrying.
- Smile at your baby: Your baby will give you their first real one between 6 and 12 weeks of age. Research has found that when a mother sees her baby smiling, areas of her brain that are associated with reward light up. So there is a return on investment here.
- Make skin-to-skin contact: This is regardless of whether you breastfeed your baby or formula feed, skin-to-skin contact can go a long way in forming a formidable bond with your baby. If possible, make your baby lie on your bare chest and allow him/her to hear your heartbeat. This is not only a great bonding exercise, it also helps the baby grow and develop on track.
- Exercise: You can slowly start to introduce exercise to your daily routine. You don’t have to jump into high intensity workouts immediately, but just light exercises such as walking or swimming will suffice. The idea is get your body moving so as to strengthen your recovering muscles. As the researchers at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that exercise helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles, relieves stress, promotes better sleep, and boosts energy.
Now, while these might seem like activities you can do by yourself, remember that these are not usual times. With the world hit by a pandemic, pretty much everything is now altered, even the way we recover from mental health illnesses.
Getting Over Postpartum Depression Amidst The Pandemic
The pandemic has changed all our lives and our usual rituals have gone for a toss. With the rising cases and restrictions in several places, our lives are anything but normal. And in all this if you exhibit signs of postpartum depression, it is added anxiety and stress, and is understandably very difficult.
And one of the only and perhaps best ways to de-stress and relax your mind is by pushing yourself to relax. Yes, you read that right.
The constant paranoia of getting infected and keeping you and your little one safe may greatly affect your mental health. However, this is where you can tweak your strategy a bit and push yourself to relax.
- While you may not be able to step outside frequently to meet your friends, you can always fix a time for an online reunion. Speaking to friends and family and sharing your feelings and emotions can help you understand what you’re going through and perhaps enable them to better help you.
- Your husband is out for work and you may be alone, don’t let the loneliness overpower you. Divert your mind in doing something fruitful for your baby. Perhaps making him/her toys or arranging his room. This way you not only divert your attention, you also spend bonding time with your baby.
- Get a relaxing facial or a massage, while your baby sleeps in the other room. If you are in a zone that allows outsiders to come home, book an appointment for a relaxing postnatal massage.
In addition to these basics, perhaps it’s also a good idea to keep a survival kit handy, postpartum essentials, if you will.
Postpartum Essentials: The Most Practical Items You Need
Nursing Pads: These can come in handy whether or not you decide to breastfeed your little one. They will absorb milk that might leak from your breasts between feedings. In order to maintain hygiene, make sure to change your breast pads frequently.
Comfortable panties: Grab yourself a pair of high waisted panties that are comfortable and soft and won’t cause any inconvenience to you if you delivered vaginally or through a C-section. You can buy the loose styles that are good for those who have had a natural birth. While the big, high-waisted briefs are the way to go after caesarean as bikini styles could rub on your scar.
Nipple creams: One of the major issues new mums face while breastfeeding are sore breasts, dry, painful, bleeding or cracked nipples. This usually happens in the early months of nursing. So get yourself a good nipple cream to help your breasts recover faster. It’s typically recommended to apply nipple cream after a feeding so it has time to absorb into your skin before your baby latches back on.
Breast pump: This is a blessing for new mums. You will have the option to express the milk at your convenience. You can then store the milk in a bottle and refrigerate it. It will allow you to have a break, and take some time for yourself.
Remember that recovering from childbirth can be as challenging as managing the time and demands of caring for a baby or infant. The postpartum phase is a very delicate stage in your life and you need to take it slowly and not overburden yourself by being too critical of everything. While this is a time for celebration, if you often feel low and angry or negative towards your baby, getting medical help is priority.
News Source: Heathline, Medical News Today, WebMd
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