Birth is a powerful event. After nurturing and carrying a life inside of you, then birthing it into the world, you might feel open and vulnerable. It’s like you’ve been turned inside out. And now it’s time to begin piecing yourself and your world back together, but fitting it all around the new little baby. Postpartum depression is a very real and, by some estimates, common component of this major life change.
If you’re feeling the pull of postpartum depression, do not think you’re alone. As much as your baby needs care and your body needs to heal, your mind and spirit need care as well. Catch the signs of postpartum depression and reach out for help to move through it.
Know the Signs of Postpartum Depression
Birth is not the end of the pregnancy journey. You might not have anyone kicking your bladder anymore, but you’re still entrenched in a major life transition. Add in major hormonal shifts and sleeplessness and you can imagine how hard your body and mind are working to find a new normal.
While we dream of a perfectly happy time after birth all throughout the pregnancy, some level of “baby blues” is to be expected, especially after a difficult birth. You might feel mood swings and weepiness or lose the ability to sleep, eat, or focus well. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have postpartum depression, and some attention to nutrition, self-care, and community postpartum care support may to the trick.
However, when the symptoms begin to escalate, consider the possibility of postpartum depression and make relief a priority. Consider these warning signs of postpartum depression:
- Mood swings and sadness are severe
- Bonding is hindered
- Sleeplessness feels overwhelming
- Sleep patterns are abnormal (insomnia or, alternatively, can’t wake up)
- Anxiousness or panic attacks
- “Numbness” emotionally
- Thoughts of self-harm, suicide, or harm to your baby
The months after pregnancy are often called the 4th trimester. And there’s no hard and fast rule as to when this 4th trimester ends. We often treat the 6 week mark as the end of the postpartum phase, but in reality it can extend to even a year before you feel back to yourself. For postpartum depression, you may feel fine initially but begin to see symptoms months after birth. So don’t write the signs of postpartum depression off just because your baby isn’t brand new.
Support for Postpartum Depression
There are lots of things you and your family or community can do to help you move through postpartum depression. However, do note that severe postpartum depression or the next level, postpartum psychosis, are serious conditions. Take care of yourself and your baby by seeking professional help.
For baby blues and basic postpartum depression, it is hard enough to take care of every day needs, much less a “regimen” to help you move through it. Keep it simple by keeping a few basic approaches in mind. Share these tools with your friends and family members who can help, so that they know what you need and how to provide it.
No doubt you are wrapped up in the care of your baby and putting one foot in front of the other to get through the postpartum depression fog. Good nutrition and hydration are often the first to suffer. But without fueling your body, how do you expect to keep going? Nutrition is a top priority after having a baby.
- Keep lots of fresh produce on hand, as well as foods high in “good fats” and protein. Think avocados, nuts, jerky, crackers and cheese, and other easy foods close by.
- Fill a gallon jug of water and pour from it, so you can see how much you’re actually drinking.
- Supplement for good emotional and mental health with b-vitamins, vitamin D, and fish oil. Spend time in the sun wherever possible.
- Cook with medicinal herbs to boost health benefits even more.
Take showers. Nap when baby naps. Read. Find a creative outlet. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. I wrote more about this in How To Nurture A New Mother.
It’s also important to note that now is not the time to isolate, as much as you feel like insulating yourself from the world. Allow your community, however big or small, to step in and be there for you.
Consider pairing up with other moms for “Mom dates.” Meet up, trading childcare, to take time to have adult conversations, shower and pamper yourself, take a walk outside, etc. Next date, another mom can keep an eye on the little ones while the mama of the day takes care of what she needs to.
Of course, as an herbalist, I love to turn to the plants that can support us in wellness of all sorts. From nourishment to helping the body adapt to stress, herbs are an excellent and easy way to support the postpartum depression healing process.
Nettles and lemon balm are go-tos for nourishment, and ashwagandha is a favorite for emotional support. The Birth Song tea for Women’s Balance is an easy, calming way to take herbs no matter your experience or knowledge level.
Motherwort is prized for it's ability to help mothers manage stress, anger and depression with out making them feel out of sorts. Motherwort is one of the primary herbs in Nurtured Mother Afterbirth Cramp Relief and Blues Support.
Taking a few moments to meditate and clear your mind can help tremendously. Journals and breathing exercises can be calming, promoting focus and easing your worn out nerves. I have recorded a guided nidra meditation for times like this, if you need a place to start.
If you don’t have community in person, feel free to lean on our community. Reach out in the comments for support. We are here for you!
What was the hardest part about your postpartum transition?
You aren’t alone. You aren’t the only one. And you aren’t going to be in this space forever. Reach out for whatever help you need, and make your mental and emotional wellbeing a priority.