Healthy Tahoe: Support for postpartum depression
It’s natural to feel strong emotions when pregnant and just after delivering a baby. Some may feel elated while others may feel sad, or a mixture of both. Many new mothers experience “baby blues:” feelings of sadness, impatience, or irritability after birth that last for a week or two. For some women, feelings of sadness are much more intense and elongated. These intense feelings are called postpartum depression, or PPD.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of PPD. Symptoms include unhappiness and hopelessness, feelings of distance from the baby, headaches, chest pains, and sometimes, hyperventilation. Tiredness is expected with a new baby, though extreme exhaustion, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, or weight loss may signal PPD.
PPD is more likely among women who have a personal or family history of depression, lack a support system, or are under significant stress. Though postpartum depression isn’t entirely preventable, it may be possible to take steps during pregnancy and after birth to minimize symptoms, including:
- Manage expectations for yourself and your baby — expect some good days and some bad days.
- Get outside — take a walk and get out of the house for a break and fresh air.
- Ask for help — let others know how they can help you.
- Don’t isolate yourself — keep in touch with your family and friends.
Importantly, a partner also plays a role in postpartum support. Some suggestions for partners supporting a loved one experiencing postpartum depression include:
- Acceptance and reassurance. Acknowledge feelings of sadness. Reassure the new mother they are not at fault for this condition. Tell them that they are not alone, and that they will get better and feel better. Offer simple affection and physical comfort. Be patient if they are not craving affection or sex.
- Encouragement. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and be a patient, supportive listener. Do not place judgment or try to ‘fix it.’ Encourage them to take time for themself, for self care and relaxation.
- Manage your space. Take a proactive role with housework and chores, as time allows. Maintain a clean space, reduce clutter, and keep noises and distractions to a minimum. Plan ahead to complete chores, arrange meals, and manage visits from friends and family.
- Communicate, and work together. Be realistic about your schedule and communicate what time you expect to be home; come home on time. Schedule some time together to catch up. Discuss a plan for babysitting. If feelings of sadness persist, help her reach out to others for support and treatment.
Having a baby is a unique joy, but it is also challenging and overwhelming. And for some, it can also bring profound sadness or loneliness. Don’t assume depression will go away on its own. Share these concerns with a health care provider so you can get help and begin a treatment plan.
Dr. Aubrey Demajh is a board certified adult psychiatrist with Barton Psychiatry & Mental Health. May is Mental Health Awareness Awareness Month. Dr. Demajh will host a free Wellness Webinar: “Postpartum Anxiety and Depression” on at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 11. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at BartonHealth.org/Lecture. For more information on getting help, or for a list of area resources and crisis lines, visit BartonHealth.org/MentalHealth.
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