Postpartum Depression Is Not Your Fault
The first thing to know is that postpartum depression is treatable. Your symptoms may feel paralyzing to you now, but they are temporary, and you will feel better again.
Depression is not a character flaw, and it is not your fault. Be assured that you can have postpartum depression AND be an excellent mother!
Postpartum Depression Treatment
Some women with mild to moderate symptoms feel better on medication alone, while others can be treated with counseling alone. Yet, it’s a combination of both medication and counseling that has been found to be the best line of treatment.
Medication for Postpartum Depression
Think of your brain as an organ just as you would your heart or kidney. When depression is present it shows up as dysregulation (or an imbalance in your brain). Medication, such as an antidepressant, works with your brain’s chemistry to regulate things again.
Medication isn’t a magical pill, rather it’s more like a tool. Similar to how medication is used to manage heart disease or diabetes, these “tools” can activate healing within the brain to diminish depression symptoms.
It’s understandable that the topic of medication triggers unease. And while some medications are deemed unsafe to take while breastfeeding, some have been shown to be safe given minimal to no traces of the drug found in breast milk.
Often, the first place women go for medication is their ob-gyn. That’s a great first step but finding a doctor or psychiatrist who specializes in prescribing medication for managing postpartum depression is most beneficial.
Above all else, it’s important to have a careful discussion with your doctor in which you can openly discuss your symptoms, your needs, and any fears you have related to taking medication.
Postpartum Depression Counseling
Counseling can be the best place to start for many women experiencing postpartum depression symptoms. I can say from my own experience that counseling works. Yes, it takes time and effort to find a therapist that suits you, but once you find the right therapist, it’s worth it!
Your counselor can provide the space to discuss your symptoms of postpartum depression and help you formulate a plan to feel better. If you’re not seeing improvements within the first 4 weeks of treatment, your counselor can discuss the steps with you to start medication as an additional support.
Alternative Treatment Methods
Complementary and alternative methods (known as CAMs) are non-medical approaches to depression treatment and can be used as a single intervention if your postpartum depression symptoms are mild in nature. For most women, they are used as a supplemental method to enhance their postpartum depression treatment plan.
Reasons for trying alternative methods may include: avoiding medication side effects, valuing a holistic lifestyle, and/or desiring medication-free treatment. Regardless of the reason, work with your doctor and counselor on finding the alternative treatment that is best for you.
We often think of yoga as stretching, but the foundation of yoga is the focus on the breath. While engaging in the yoga postures, it is the breath that serves as the guide for your movement. The deep breathing associated with yoga can help regulate the hormonal imbalances experienced during the pregnancy and postpartum period.
The exhaustion and stress that comes with new motherhood can overwhelm your central nervous system (the part of your body responsible for regulating stress). By slowing down and regulating your breath, such as with yoga, your body has a chance to switch over from your worn out sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest/relaxation and digestion).
Additionally, being a new mother means dealing with post-pregnancy body changes. Yoga provides a gentle way to get moving and connect with your new mom body.
It is well-documented that regular exercise improves mental health. So, when it comes to postpartum depression, exercise is also considered an important part of treatment.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week, if no medical complications exist. Moderate exercise or activity includes going for a brisk walk, bike riding, water aerobics, shoveling light snow, gardening, or raking leaves.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered good fatty acids that our bodies need. Like other nutrients we find in our food, most Omega-3s are found in fish, such as salmon or tuna, and some plant and nut oils.
You may be asking what do Omega-3s have to do with depression? Well, Omega-3s play an important role in brain function and development and since depression is triggered by a chemical imbalance within the brain, a correlation may exist.
Research by Dr. Marlene Freeman, a top researcher on the role Omega-3s play in treating perinatal depression, suggests that Omega-3s can have a mild impact on mood. However, larger studies are needed before we can accept Omega-3s as an effective treatment for perinatal and postpartum depression.
Light therapy can be received through a light therapy/phototherapy box, or even using natural sunlight. Light therapy boxes, mimic sunlight, and are believed to help boost your mood by causing a chemical change in your brain.
Natural sunlight triggers your body to produce vitamin D, which can help to improve your mood and satisfaction.
When using light therapy as a treatment method, it is recommended to use the light therapy box or sit in sunlight for 30-60 minutes daily.