How to overcome postpartum depression is a question that up to 13% of new moms (source) will need to ask.
(And that number is just a statistic. It’s likely much higher, as women in postpartum recovery mode often don’t share their depression with others.)
Postpartum depression (and postpartum anxiety ) are finally being given the attention they deserve – with more public voice than it’s had in the past, and most (good) doctors being watchful for it.
But for new moms, overcoming postpartum depression can feel like an absolutely insurmountable feat.
To heal from postpartum depression, we’re often told to “take time for yourself” or “make sure you’re getting enough rest”, but the harsh reality of the postpartum phase of life is that taking care of yourself the way you’d LIKE to is almost a physical impossibility. (Not to mention that “time for yourself” isn’t something that we can have in spades either.)
So how then, can we try to overcome postpartum depression?
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To heal from postpartum depression, we need to understand what it is – and what it is not
(Because those are actually very different things, and in the days after baby, it can be hard to distinguish between postpartum depression and the baby blues.)
What is postpartum depression not?
Well, it’s not in your head for one thing.
It’s not just that you “feel sad”.
It’s not something you can “shake off”.
(Just like any depression. It’s not an “attitude” thing. Having a positive attitude – if you can – WILL help a little, but it won’t cure postpartum depression.)
It’s not just the overwhelm of a new baby or exhaustion (although those things do compound it).
It’s also not the baby blues. Or more correctly, the baby blues are not postpartum depression.
The baby blues are VERY REAL and very awful, but if you’re experiencing
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Reduced concentration
- Appetite problems
- Trouble sleeping
in the first few weeks after the birth of your baby, you don’t necessarily have to worry – yet – that this is postpartum depression.
In many (most) cases, the baby blues are 100% normal (your hormones are going NUTS and your whole world just turned upside down. You’re expected to cry).
If it’s only been a few weeks since the baby was born, and you’re feeling this way, then tell someone.
Give yourself some grace, go ahead and cry and sleep (if you can) – but just keep an eye on it and you may notice yourself starting to feel more “normal” after a month or so. (Hopefully!!)
If you DON’T start to feel like yourself, you could be in postpartum depression.
(You can also develop postpartum depression even if you don’t experience the baby blues. Postpartum depression can onset up to 6 months after giving birth.)
What is postpartum depression then?
Postpartum depression is messed up hormones from growing and giving birth to a baby, often aggravated by the fact that you’re not sleeping well, and all the fun stresses that come with being a new mom.
Because it is generally HORMONAL, and we understand that hormones are PHYSICAL, that means that postpartum depression needs to be treated – as any PHYSICAL issue needs to be treated. (Meaning just “having a better attitude” probably won’t help you overcome postpartum depression.)
The symptoms of postpartum depression (according to the mayo clinic) are:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If you are experiencing the above symptoms, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.
Talk to your husband, your mom, your friends, talk to a therapist.
Also, read the tips below from 19 women who know what it takes to overcome postpartum depression.
Try some of the things they suggest!
Sometimes it does just help to know that there are many, many other women who have been there – and we can learn from their experiences.
I asked 19 wonderful moms what THEY did that helped them overcome postpartum depression, and this is what they shared with me:
“I’d have to say the absolute best things I did for myself to help with my postpartum depression is to leave the house every day, preferably in the morning. And if you can, exercise is SO incredibly helpful. Also, find a hobby, do a project, something to work on every day. Keep yourself busy! Getting out of bed is the hardest part.” – McKayla from www.motivationformom.com
“I experienced postpartum depression after my second was born. He was about 2 months old when I realized the overwhelm of having a newborn and a toddler was more than just overwhelm. I was stressed, angry, hopeless, and frustrated. My ob-gyn prescribed medication, but after talking it over with my husband I chose not to take it. I decided to first make my health a priority and see if things improved. I focused on light exercise, changing my eating habits, having at least a little “me” time, and spending time with Jesus. After a couple of months, things got much easier. There are still challenges, but overall I’m thankful I put in the work before trying meds (though in some cases, I do believe that may be what’s best for both Mom and baby.) I hope that helps!” – Ashley from oh-yellow.com
“I had strange symptoms of PPD after my first and didn’t even recognize that I had it until way after. I was so sleep deprived that I thought my symptoms were lack of sleep. I was literally hearing voices. Every time I’d lay down to sleep I’d hear my name being screamed, startling me awake. The strangest part is that it felt normal. Rationally, I know this is not normal. But at the time, it felt normal! Also lots of crying, and paranoia that my baby was going to succumb to SIDS. I literally thought if I didn’t watch my baby sleep, he wouldn’t survive.
Once the fog cleared (3 months later) it became obvious something was wrong. I started eating better, actually making sleep a top priority and taking postnatal DHA. Now, DHA is a must for me postpartum! I really feel like it’s made a huge difference in my anxiety and PPD issues. I take it regularly, and I’m fine, even after baby 2.0.
“My doctor shared two bits of wisdom with me that have helped me immensely. A month after I saw him the first time for PPD, I told him I had actually experienced a moment of happiness, about something as simple as a nice drive in the car. A month prior to that occasion, I literally wanted to die over something as simple as my family going to the beach without me (because I didn’t want to go). The first part of his shared wisdom was to do four things:
1. Eat nutritious food.
3. Stay hydrated
4. Don’t put bad things in your head (negative talk, TV shows, etc)
The second bit of wisdom was this: If your thyroid wasn’t working, you would treat it without a second thought. If your brain isn’t working, you should do the same.
I take prescribed medication, and it has made a world of difference. I had already tried his first four things without meds, and although doing all of them resulted in better days, those “better days” weren’t very good. Even while taking medication to help heal my brain, Mr. A knows when I’ve been neglecting that first bit of advice, because it results in “bad days”.
So… my best tip for overcoming PPD is to eat well, exercise, stay hydrated, don’t put bad things in your head, and treat your brain just like you would any other organ, and do what’s necessary to help it heal.” – Anna Anderson from abrazoandcoze.com
“There is a lot of evidence emerging about the role of gut health and diet in PPD and postpartum anxiety. With my early pregnancies, I knew nothing about this. Poor diet, combined with lack of knowledge, lack of sleep led to ALOT of stress. It was when I had my 3rd, and I was totally freaking out, that I realized I needed help. That’s when I discovered self-care and started taking it seriously. I made sure I was drinking 8 glasses of water, eating 3 meals plus snacks, exercising daily (or at least getting sunshine) and focused on having a positive mindset. I nourished my body with nutrient-dense foods, fermented foods, healthy fats and took LOTS of Epsom salt baths (for the magnesium!). I actually made a checklist to remind/force myself to do these things daily. When I had my 4th, I prepared ahead of time and made sure to have my fridge STOCKED with healthy foods and freezer meals. I asked for help instead of being a supermom and spent plenty of time in bed. And I followed my checklist from day 1. This made all the difference! My 4th postpartum was almost blissful.” – Lisa from birtheatlove.com
“Working out helped me a lot… it was hard to get started but once I realized it was helping, I couldn’t give it up.” – Waynna from www.allgracedup.blog
“I know it sounds too simple to be true but eating well, with plenty of vitamins (fresh veggies), saturated fats (your happiness hormones are built on cholesterol) and omega 3’s (think fish and walnuts), along with family and social support, time to yourself and getting out in the fresh air and daylight everyday helps significantly. There are definitely cases that this won’t cure, and they may need medication to help them through, but these things totally help!” – Dana (trained well child/mama nurse) from naturalearthymama.com
“Like many, I didn’t know I had PPD for a while because I felt completely fine (or so I thought), I doted on my newborn and I was my normal self with everybody…apart from my partner. I used to have arguments with him in my head and when he came home I was so angry with him for saying the things he had said (in my head) that I would turn on him. It sounds bizarre now that I couldn’t differentiate between reality and what was in my head. What helped was my partner confiding in my mum what was happening (because he certainly couldn’t make me see), and through time she brought me around and I was able to get help. It is so important for partners and family members to seek for help too and not to try and bury it under the carpet or hope that it will go away.” – Loretta from feelgooddiet.com
“This might be obvious but TELL SOMEONE. My discharge nurse at the hospital engrained this into my head, and also my husband. She made it a point to tell my husband to “watch me” and report back TO HER (or my doctor) if he noticed I was off or needed help. I think it’s super important to make someone accountable for you(whether it’s your partner/sister/friend/Mom/grandma whoever). It takes a village to raise a baby and it also takes a village to take care of Mom too!” – Liesel from www.laborteen.com
“Reach out to someone! You aren’t alone and reaching out to a friend, doctor, therapist, or family member will help more than you realize! There are SO many support groups on Facebook, as well! You aren’t crazy and you will feel better!” – Bethany Ross from diamondstocrown.com
“Diet changes, specifically adding larger doses of magnesium. It also cured my breastfeeding aversion. I take the magnesium with b and d vitamins for best absorption.” – Charisty
“Postpartum anxiety and depression can manifest in so many different ways. Babywearing was what helped me – I refused to leave my house and was super anxious if my daughter wasn’t with me 24/7. I’m talking if someone held my baby for more than 5 minutes I wanted her back and I couldn’t put her in a crib or bouncer because it seemed awful so I wrapped her to me and wore her for the first 9 months.” – Deja
“Never feel bad if you have to step out of the room from your crying baby and take a few minutes to cry it out yourself, to breathe, to eat a snack… This tip is so simple and helps so much.” – Jamie from www.jamiesmagicalsavings.com
“Getting into a daily routine as soon as possible was crucial for me (as much of a routine as an unpredictable newborn will allow, anyway). Eliminating decision fatigue whenever possible also helped, so using things like meal kit deliveries and Amazon subscribe and save are great for that.
When I was pregnant with my second, I worked with my OB/GYN and psychiatrist to minimize the risk of major problems arising again. We increased my SSRI dosage in the later part of that pregnancy to account for my higher blood volume, and I went to several therapy sessions. And then was closely followed after delivery by both clinicians so that help wouldn’t be out of reach if I needed it.” – Liz from atepidmess.com
What was the best thing you did to overcome postpartum depression?