About half of women have mild depression after giving birth. You may have difficulty sleeping, feel irritable, cry more often, or feel overwhelmed, typically peaking 4 days after birth due to rapid hormone fluctuation. Many women will begin to feel better after 2 weeks, but women can experience “baby blues” episodes throughout the first year of your child’s life.
You may be feeling:
- guilty, like you aren’t a good mom
- irritated or angry for no real reason
- hopeless, like it will never get better
- empty or numb
- unable to concentrate, sleep, or eat
- like running away
- like you can’t snap out of your depression
- like you have “gone crazy”
If you feel these symptoms strongly, or for more than 2 weeks, seek help. Call your doctor or your child’s pediatrician and ask for a referral to a doctor that can help you develop a plan to address postpartum depression. You can do things that will reduce the frequency and severity of these feelings and increase your happiness.
If you ever want to hurt yourself or your baby, call 911 immediately to receive care. Professionals can help you stay safe for the short-term and connect you with resources to help you heal.
Postpartum Depression is typically addressed through one or more methods:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to assist you in managing anxiety, including instruction on deep breathing and relaxation techniques.
- Interpersonal counseling focusing on relationships in your life and helping you make strategies for coping with the changes that a new baby brings to your life. You will learn strategies to ask for emotional support, solve problems, and set goals for the future.
- Antidepressant medicine is available, ideally in conjunction with the methods above. You can take certain antidepressants even if you are breastfeeding.
You can take certain steps at home.
- schedule frequent outings with friends and family
- get outside into the sunshine
- eat a balanced diet
- prepare snacks that are easy to grab while breastfeeding
- ask for help with meal preparation and house cleaning to reduce stress
- rest and sleep when your baby does
- listen to upbeat music during the day
- listen to calming music for nighttime
- join a parents group or class, like PEP
In addition to baby basics classes and regular new parent groups, Postpartum Education for Parents (PEP) offers a free 24-hour service with confidential one-on-one support from trained volunteers, parents just like you. From basic infant care to breast or bottle feeding issues to postpartum adjustment, the Warmline can be a great source of information and support. Call (805) 564-3888 for support in English and (805) 853-1595 in Spanish. You can also join their Facebook group.
Santa Barbara City College’s Center for Lifelong Learning offers classes for parents and their children, including yoga and stretching, music, parenting skills, and infant development. Review the schedule for the next session of classes, which can start at any time during the semester.
Child Abuse Listening and Mediation offers the Great Beginnings program in English and Spanish to help new parents with postpartum support, including Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, home visitations, mental health consultations, and other strategies.
Don’t suffer alone. A doctor can help you develop strategies to care for yourself and help you enjoy being a parent.