If you’ve gone through childbirth or know of someone who’s been through childbirth, you might have heard of postnatal depression.

The first week of motherhood is one of the most difficult, and many new mothers may not be prepared for the emotional challenges. Around 80% of mothers may experience the baby blues, which refer to a short-term dip in mood after childbirth. This usually shows up around 2-3 days after giving birth and mothers may feel a little down, anxious, tired or moody. It is completely normal and usually these feelings will go away within a week or two.

Postnatal depression is sometimes confused with baby blues. While some of the symptoms sound the same, postnatal depression lasts longer and the symptoms are severe, which can interfere with daily functions.

Postnatal depression is quite common as it affects one in 10 women who’ve recently given birth, and isn’t something that should be ignored.

In this article, we’ll discuss the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression, how you can cope with it, and some simple lifestyle changes you can make to overcome depression.

What is postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression, also known as postpartum depression, is a type of mood disorder associated with childbirth. It isn’t a character flaw or a weakness, and sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth.

There is no single cause of postnatal depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role. Physical issues include hormonal changes after childbirth and sleep deprivation; while emotional issues include feeling overwhelming/anxious and having money, work or relationship problems. 

If you experience any symptoms of postnatal depression, it is important that you talk to a doctor. Postnatal depression is a serious disorder but it can be overcome through treatment.

Do note that men can also suffer from postnatal depression. 

What are the signs of postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression is more than just bad mood swings. If left untreated, it could worsen and cause a strain in the family. 

Here are some symptoms of postnatal depression you should look out for:

  • Low mood for several weeks or more
  • Irritability
  • Extreme tiredness with no energy
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Sense of guilt
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Physical symptoms (e.g. body aches)
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby or negative feelings towards your baby

Besides having a persistent low mood and being easily irritable, those who suffer from postnatal depression often experience episodes of anxiety, a deep sense of guilt and hopelessness. 

In severe cases, mothers often harbour negative feelings about their baby and may even have thoughts to harm their baby. 

Before we go into the tips on how to cope with it, here’s a summary table of what postnatal depression is.

What is itA type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby
Who’s at riskWomen who were depressed in pregnancy are most likely to be depressed after delivery
Men and women with a personal or family history of depression
Men and women who have little support, money worries and marital/relationship dissatisfaction
When does it happen Often develops within the first few months after giving birth, particularly in the first five weeks. Can start at any time during the first year. 
CausesPhysical factors e.g. hormone changes, sleep deprivation, inadequate diet, underlying medical conditions, drug and alcohol misuse
Emotional factors e.g. financial burdens, marital/relationship problems, social isolation, lack of support, feeling anxious / overwhelm to care for a newborn, struggle with sense of identity
SymptomsLow mood for several weeks or more
Irritability
Extreme tiredness with no energy
Loss of interest in activities
Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Sense of hopelessness
Sense of guilt
Physical symptoms e.g. body aches
Withdrawing from family and friends
Difficulty bonding with your baby or negative feelings towards your baby
TreatmentPrescribed psychological treatment or therapy in the form of a support group, counsellor or psychotherapist.Severe cases may require medication, along with psychological therapy. 

6 tips to cope with postnatal depression

Infographic sharing tips for coping with postnatal depression
Reach out for help if you’re suffering from postnatal depression

If you think you might have postnatal depression, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible. With appropriate treatment, support and time, most women make a full recovery in overcoming depression.

Here are some of the ways you can cope with postnatal depression: 

1. Build a secure attachment with your baby

Family playing with baby, a way to cope with postnatal depression
Spending time and bonding with your child can help you cope with postnatal depression.

It’s important to take active steps to build a relationship with your child. Those who suffer from postnatal depression may harbour negative emotions towards their child and at the same time, feel guilty about it. 

To overcome that, putting in consistent effort to respond warmly to your baby’s needs could help. 

When you build a secure attachment with your child, it releases the oxytocin hormone in your body, which helps to make you feel happier. Additionally, it helps you see the difference you’re making in your child’s life. 

Seeing your child respond to you positively and showing you trust also helps you overcome your initial fears about being a new mother. 

Remember — building a relationship with your baby takes time, and it’s important for you to be patient with your child and with yourself. 

2. Look after yourself 

This might sound simple, but many new mothers forget to take care of themselves because so much of their energy is being poured into their newborn. 

After childbirth, your physical condition may not be as strong as before. Due to hormonal and other physical changes, your body needs ample rest and to be fed with nutritious foods. Being conscious about your lifestyle choices and taking some time for yourself is crucial. 

Give yourself sufficient space to rest and recuperate by working together with your partner to come up with a schedule to support one another. 

Taking care of a child is the responsibility of both parents, and both parents should support each other during this period. Being clear about each other’s responsibilities and roles will help you find time to take care of yourself. 

While it’s important to be attentive to your child’s needs, it’s also crucial to set aside time to do what you enjoy. Setting aside time to meditate, read or simply develop your hobbies is a great way to cope with the stresses of being a new parent. 

Giving your child the best care can only happen when you’re in a good physical, emotional and mental state. 

3. Get some rest

Getting sufficient rest is important for mothers especially after childbirth. While getting eight hours of rest may be hard, prolonged lack of sleep can worsen depression. 

Taking naps in the afternoon can help you cope with fatigue and tiredness. If you need help with childcare, reach out to your family members if they’re available even if it’s just for a short while. Having that extra one to two hours of sleep each day can go a long way in keeping depression at bay.

If none of your family members can help, you can also look for childcare services. These services don’t have to be expensive. Babysitting services tend to be more affordable than infant care centres. You can ask around for babysitters recommended by your trusted friends and relatives.

4. Exercise

Taking care of your child can wear you out physically, and the last thing you probably want to do is go out and exercise. After all, you already lack sleep and your body feels fatigued. Won’t exercising make you feel even more tired? 

It’s actually the opposite, and exercising is a great way to cope with postnatal depression as it has antidepressant effects. You don’t need to engage in vigorous exercise — simple, relaxing exercises like walking or yoga are great for new moms. Bringing your child out for a walk in the stroller is also a great option to get some exercise in while you attend to your child’s needs. 

5. Lean on others for support

Taking care of your newborn is difficult and challenging. As much as it’s your responsibility to care for your child, you don’t have to do it alone. If you have family members and close friends around you, reach out to them for support.

postnatal depression might make you feel guilty, or cause you to think that you’re not doing enough for your child, but it’s important to push these feelings aside and seek help. 

Staying connected to family and friends will help ensure that both you and your child get the best care. Positive social interactions with people who care about you can help you cope with postnatal depression. The last thing you want to do is to isolate yourself. 

6. Maintain a healthy diet

Having a nutritious diet helps you feel stronger and less fatigued. Eating whole foods like chopped carrots and apple slices can ensure that you get the optimal amount of vitamins that your body needs. 

Being conscious of your diet and lifestyle choices is important because it’ll directly benefit your overall wellbeing.

These days, there are many recipes you can find online that are both tasty and nutritious. Set aside some time to experiment in the kitchen when you can. Every little step you take to help you achieve a more well-balanced, happier life, will help you deal with postnatal depression effectively. 

Making lifestyle changes to cope with postnatal depression

Woman looking depressed in the car suffering from postnatal depression
If you think you’re suffering from postnatal depression, seek help.

Postnatal depression can feel overwhelming and difficult to overcome. Sometimes, it can even make you feel guilty, alone and ashamed. But the truth is, you don’t have to go through it all alone, and there are active steps you can take to help you cope with the challenges of becoming a new mom. 

Making lifestyle changes, being more aware of your diet, and getting loved ones to help you along the way all play a part in helping you support the growth of your child. The truth is, your situation is not as bleak as you might think, and you’ll begin to see it with these seemingly small changes you incorporate into your life. 

Want to learn more about postnatal depression? Perhaps you feel like you need to reach out for professional help? Or maybe you think you might know someone who suffers from postnatal depression? Feel free to reach out to MyDoc’s Video Consultations and speak to a medical professional today.  

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