If you are feeling sad, depressed or anxious when you’re pregnant or during the first year after giving birth, know that you’re not alone. While some people may have heard that 80% of new moms experience the “baby blues” in the first few weeks after giving birth, it’s less well known that one in seven moms experience severe depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum, and one in ten dads experience postpartum depression. In addition, we are surrounded by many myths about how happy we’ll be when our baby arrives and we go home to live happily-ever-after with our new family member. If instead we experience depression or anxiety, we might feel embarrassed or ashamed and secretly feel as though we’ve failed as a parent. The good news is that you’re not alone, you’re not to blame, and with help, you will be well. Listed below are five tips for coping.
- Reach out for support.
Whether you decide to contact your OB/GYN or pediatrician, join a new parents’ support group or talk to a therapist, trusted friend or relative, it’s important to find help and not isolate yourself. Postpartum Support International (PSI) is a great place to start. Their website (found here) provides a help line, support groups, peer support, education and lots of other helpful information. Another informative resource is 2020 Mom (found here) which is a national organization whose mission is “to close gaps in maternal mental health care.”
2. Find a Therapist.
Talking through your feelings with a therapist can help normalize your experience, and learning techniques to help you cope is an important step in starting to feel like yourself again. Evidence-based perinatal therapies include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Group Therapy, Mother-Infant Therapy and Education, and Couples or Family Therapy. Visit PSI’s online provider directory here to find a list of therapists who specialize in maternal mental health or contact us at Pacific CBT for your free phone consultation here.
3. Consider taking medication.
Another fact that’s not well known is that some medications taken for depression, anxiety and insomnia during pregnancy and while breastfeeding pose no or minimal risk to the baby. Additionally, research shows that the benefits far outweigh the risk. Every baby deserves a healthy parent and every parent deserves to enjoy parenthood. If your doctor is hesitant to prescribe medication and would like to learn more, they can contact PSI’s free-of-charge Perinatal Psychiatric Consult Line here which is staffed by reproductive psychiatrists who specialize in perinatal mental health disorders.
4. Read a book.
Reading the words of someone who has gone through something we are experiencing can feel very comforting. The author’s successful recovery gives us hope. Books are also a great place to learn more about what we or a loved one are experiencing. There are many excellent books on the subject of postpartum depression and anxiety. Check out What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions From Pregnancy to Motherhood by Dr. Alexandra Sacks here and This Isn’t What I Expected by Karen Kleiman here. For an extensive list of books on maternal mental health and parenting, visit the resources page on PSI here
5. Take good care of yourself.
Although it can be a struggle when there’s a new baby in the house, if at all possible, enlist the support of your partner, family and friends in helping to provide you with regular breaks to take a nap, walk around the block, eat a healthy meal, take a warm shower or bath, meditate or engage in a creative activity such as writing or painting. Taking good care of yourself has the important added benefit of helping you have the energy to take good care of your baby.
If you, or someone you know is suffering from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, seeking help from a trained psychotherapist may be needed. The therapists at Pacific CBT are highly trained to provide evidence-based psychotherapy. Reach out to schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation to see if we’d be a good fit for you.
Written by: Dorinda Woodley, LMFT is a licensed staff psychotherapist at Pacific CBT. She works with people struggling with anxiety and depression.
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