Over 80% of women experience mood instability during the postpartum phase, the mildest of which is called the "baby blues". Symptoms of the baby blues include mood swings and crying, which fades relatively quickly. However, in some cases, baby blues can progress into Postpartum Depression, which occurs in 10% to 20% of postnatal women. Postpartum Depression is a moderate to severe depression that occurs in a woman after giving birth. In very rare cases, Postpartum Depression can lead to Postpartum Psychosis, a very serious illness that involves hallucinations and delusions, among other symptoms. By paying close attention to your body, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing Postpartum Depression.
The following are tips to help in avoiding Postpartum Depression:
1. Rest, rest, rest: This is much easier said than done, right? However, fatigue is a major contributing factor in the development of Postpartum Depression. Women should rest when their baby is sleeping. This is not the time to do the laundry, clean the bathroom and wash the dishes. In fact, try to do these things while your baby is awake, calm and alert. Find a safe place, nearby, for them to stay while you do the household chores. Better yet, elicit help from your partner, friend or family to get the work done. You can, instead, try to use this time to eat or bathe; a baby can go with you into the bathroom and stay safe in a portable car seat, cradle or Pack 'n Play. Common signs of sleep deprivation include poor concentration, memory loss, social ineptness, tiredness and irritability (many of which are also signs of depression).
2. Proper Nutrition: It is no secret that fatty foods and empty calories are not good for the postpartum woman (or anyone for that matter) but did you know that certain healthy foods can help to improve your mood almost immediately? The brain is highly responsive to the foods we eat. In fact, the neurotransmitter, Norepinephrine, which affects your mood, is regulated by Vitamin C. Oranges, strawberries and other citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C. Red peppers and bell peppers contain even more. Eating one of these fruits or vegetables can instantly elevate your mood. Reach for a piece of fruit as opposed to a fatty snack. Don't forget your green, leafy vegetables (easily obtained in a bag of salad) and be sure to drink adequate amounts of water; stay away from caffeine and soda pop.
3. Lower Your Stress Level: Again, this is easier said than done. However,
a. For money issues, when increasing income is not an option, lower your spending (check out the book, The Complete Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn. It is full of tips on easy ways to save and cut back on your spending).
b. If possible, distance yourself, at least temporarily, from stressful relationships.
c. Try not to take on too many activities and commitments. Now, more than ever, is a time for you to put yourself and your immediate family first.
4. Make Quadruple Batches of Meals: When taking the time to make a meal, increase your effort by a relatively small margin and make four batches instead of one. Have the second batch as leftovers and freeze the other two batches for a quick, already-prepared, healthy family meal. Even when you are making a sandwich, make two or three; put the other ones in the refrigerator and they are ready for you to consume within the next few days.
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