Wouldn’t it be lovely if all you needed was a hot cuppa tea, and all would be good in the world? Mums who are suffering from depression and/or anxiety after the birth of their baby are often told to ‘cheer up and get over it’, and that all new mums ‘feel like this’.
We know that this is just not the case, and in fact, these types of comments can prevent mums from seeking help and starting on the road to recovery. Mums try to present a happy and competent picture perfect (think happy family Facebook pics) to the world, while slowly dying inside. Mums describe to me a feeling of being utterly overwhelmed and alone with their new baby, whilst others feel a total lack of joy and crushing sadness. Alternatively, other mums feel terrified, worried and anxious about the task of looking after a baby and totally consumed with the babies sleep and feeing routines. If you have felt this way for at least 2 weeks, it is possible that you are suffering from PND.
PND is experienced by 1 in 6 mums and it is important to speak to a health professional as soon as possible. You may be referred to see a psychologist for counselling and in some instances, your GP may recommend a short treatment of anti-depressant medication depending the severity of your symptoms.
Five tips to help recovery
Exercise – Research suggests that regular exercise may increase the level of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood. Exercise can also increase the level of endorphins in the brain which have ‘mood-lifting’ properties. Walking for 30 minutes a day can be so helpful as it is a chance to get out of the house, get some sun and will increase your energy levels and improve sleep. See if you can find a friend to meet for a regular walk and a cuppa, and you will benefit from the exercise, sun and social connection.
Ask for help – there is nothing to be ashamed of and you are not a failure. Talk to your partner, a friend, family member or your GP and ask for help. Taking that vital first step, is often a relief and certainly a step towards recovery. You are not alone.
Healthy Eating – there is some evidence to suggest that healthy eating is good for our physical and mental health. Try to eat regularly throughout the day (3 meals plus snacks), choose less refined high sugar food and drinks, eat a wide variety of foods including lots of fruit and vegies, protein including oily fish. Remember to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day and limit your intake of alcohol.
Sleep routine – if possible have a rest when your baby is asleep. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and follow the same routine before bed. It is a good idea to avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, and helpful to keep your bedroom free of mobile phones, laptops and TV. There are lots of apps you can download to help you relax before bed, such as smiling mind which take you through some useful mindfulness exercises. Other helpful relaxation exercises help with breathing techniques, and muscle relaxation.
Realistic expectations – there are so many myths about motherhood in the media and for some reason, a hesitation for society to be honest about the difficulties in becoming a parent. There is the false perception that we will fall in love with our baby at first sight, breastfeeding is a breeze, babies should ‘sleep through’ the night, and that new mummas should be able to achieve the perfect post-baby body, keep a spotless house and cook nutritious meals. Well, it is simply not true; these unrealistic expectations are not healthy, and can ultimately contribute to PND. So, let’s keep it real and be kind to ourselves and our fellow mums.