When Postpartum Depression Doesn't Go Away

“I’ll never forget the day I felt cheated by motherhood. My eyes were met by a dawning sun after a sleepless night of tears, sore breasts, and a general feeling of listlessness and sorrow. Where was the happiness I was promised? Where were the smiles, the baby chortles and giggles, and the endless joy everyone said I would feel? Where was it? And why didn’t I feel this way?”

Does this feel like the opening chapter of a New York Times Best Seller, or perhaps the opening narration of a Lifetime movie? It’s not…. It’s the true story of many mothers all over the world during the first year after childbirth. It’s the feelings of resentfulness and the bitter taste of a darkness that swells and drowns so many mothers, but it is kept silent and locked away in the mourning center of their hearts. Perhaps… it’s your story.

Today, we're going to address a dark side of motherhood that plagues 1 out of every 7 women, and that's Perinatal Depression. The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that every year, more than 400,000 infants are born to mothers who are depressed, making perinatal depression the most under diagnosed obstetric complication in America! Can you imagine that?! That's pretty significant.

Let's take this one step further.... Did you know that 1 in 10 new fathers also suffer from postpartum depression? That's 10% of new dads and 15% of new moms that are struggling with Postpartum Depression. And it gets worse!

Studies have revealed that when Perinatal Mood Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) go untreated, there are several risks and complications that can arise, including:

  • Relationship problems

  • Separation/divorce

  • Child neglect/abuse

  • Developmental delays/behavioral problems in the child

  • Tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use and abuse

  • Infanticide, homicide, and suicide

That's not a pretty list, and one that you definitely want to avoid! So, the next question naturally becomes, "Can postpartum depression be cured? The answer: YES! PMADs are very treatable and many men and women make a full recovery from their postpartum depression. The key is getting help as soon as you suspect you may have perinatal depression.

To help you on your journey to feeling better and becoming the best mom (or dad) you want to be, I'm going to give you some tips you can begin implementing TODAY to help lessen your symptoms and get you feeling better. I'll also give you some resources at the end of this post to help you find the right support and the help you need to make a full recovery!

Let's look at some strategies you can begin implementing right away to help lessen your symptoms and feel better.

Self-Care Practices to Treat Postpartum Depression

Self-care is one of the most important things we need to work on as moms, and it is a cornerstone to a healthy body, positive mental health, and an overall happy life. There are a lot of different components to self-care, but we’re going to discuss some items that you can start doing today to help yourself feel better! Many of these tips are used in the professional treatment of PMADs. So, if you begin implementing these right now, you'll be on your way to health!

1. Sleep

Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest contributing factors to Perinatal Depression and other PMADs. Sleep deprivation causes your physical body and your mental state to slowly break down over time. Folks who are severely sleep deprived oftentimes will experience auditory and visual hallucinations too! Can you imagine trying to take care of your kids while hearing voices or seeing shadows constantly?

Sleep is pivotal in helping you manage your emotions. If you’re not getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night, it’s time to make this a priority. How you do this will depend on your schedule, family dynamics, whether you work or stay home, etc. However you do it, you need to make sure you’re getting some Zzz’s. If you want ideas on how to fit more sleep into your schedule, check out my book, “Trials of the Working Parent,” for ideas on how to manage this.

2. Diet

Sugar, caffeine, and fast food are quick sources of energy, but have little nutritional value. The result is a tired and cranky Mommy. You should be aiming to eat nutritious foods as much as possible. And if you’re breastfeeding/expressing breastmilk, this is even more imperative since your diet is also the diet you are feeding your baby.

Try to eat your fruits/vegetables and proteins every day, as best as possible. Do your best not to skip meals since this messes with your blood sugar and can cause mood swings. Finally, stay away from fad-diets!

If you don’t have time to eat in the morning, consider having a protein shake that you can drink on your way to the market. Or, perhaps grab a hardboiled egg that you can eat quickly when you're in a hurry. You may also want to talk to your doctor about adding vitamins to your diet or getting a referral to see a nutritionist.

3. Basic Hygiene