I discussed the three categories of Postpartum Depression (PPD) and their symptoms. In this article I will take a closer look at some causes and risk factors of PPD and suggest helpful tips to finding relief.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
PPD can be caused by a combination of factors including the following:
- Changes in Hormone Levels
In the hours after childbirth, levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply. These changes may trigger depression in the same way that smaller changes in hormone levels trigger mood swings and irritability before menstrual periods.
- A History of Depression
Women who have had depression at any time, including before, during, or after pregnancy have an increased risk of developing PPD.
- Emotional Factors
Feelings of doubt about pregnancy are common. If the pregnancy is not planned or is not wanted, this can affect the way a woman feels about her pregnancy and her unborn baby. Even when a pregnancy is planned, it can take a long time to adjust to the idea of having a new baby. Parents of babies who are sick, or who need to stay in the hospital, may feel sad, angry, or guilty. These emotions can affect a woman’s self-esteem and how she deals with stress.
Labor and delivery is exhausting. It can take weeks for a woman to regain her normal strength and energy. For women who have had their babies by cesarean birth, it may take even longer. Adjusting to the demands of a newborn, including sleepless nights, will cause extreme exhaustion.
- Lifestyle and Social Factors
Lack of support from others and stressful life events can greatly increase the risk of postpartum depression. A recent death of a loved one, a family illness, or moving to a new city can all play a role. Likewise, having low socioeconomic status, or being single, divorced, or are unemployed, can increase the risk factor.
You Can Overcome Postpartum Depression
As you struggle with PPD, it is helpful to remind yourself of the following:
- You are Not Alone
One in five women will experience a postpartum depression. As you begin to speak out and find safe people to talk to, you will be able to find helpful, supportive people to walk alongside of you.
- This is Not Your Fault
You did not create this. Postpartum Depression is a real illness that is caused by a combination of the factors I shared previously.
- You Will Recover
It has been many women’s experience that they recovered after receiving proper treatment. But such recovery requires proper care and support from those around you. Please seek help from a qualified professional.
- You Are a Good Mom
The fact that you are seeking help and resources makes you a good mom. You are trying to improve the quality of your life and your family’s situation. This is proof in itself and you shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed.
- It is Essential to Take Care of Yourself
You must understand that you are not “supermom.” No mother is and you are doing the best that you can. You must realize that it is your job to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.
Things You Can Do to Prevent Postpartum Depression
- Educate Yourself
One of the best things to do is learn as much as you can about what to expect physically and psychologically during pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. This may help you develop realistic expectations for yourself and your baby. Take a childbirth education class. Also, talk to other pregnant women and new mothers about their experiences.
- Find Supportive People
Once you’ve given birth, get help from supportive friends and family, but limit visitors so that they don’t overwhelm you. Don’t be too concerned with tasks that don’t absolutely have to be done.
- Eat Healthy
It is essential to eat healthy not only during pregnancy but after. Nutritious meals are less about dieting to lose weight and more about feeling great, having more energy, stabilizing your mood and keeping yourself as healthy as possible.
It is so important to get a good amount of sleep. Try to sleep whenever the baby does. If you can’t sleep, then use that time to relax.
- Take Breaks
Taking breaks throughout the day is important. Don’t be too concerned with tasks that don’t absolutely have to be done. Don’t worry about the messes. Take breaks by trying a breathing technique, prayer, journaling, going for a walk, or reading a good book.
- Physical Activity
Exercise can help to alleviate anxiety and depression by raising the serotonin levels in your brain. Exercise can benefit your bodies in other ways as well, such as shedding lingering pregnancy weight, improving cardiovascular health, and reducing your cholesterol level and blood pressure.
- Take Care of Yourself
Don’t give up your previous interests but stay involved in the outside interests that you had before the baby came along. In taking care of yourself, you will be able to better care for your baby.
- Offer Yourself Grace
As moms, we can be so hard on ourselves when we feel inadequate or incapable. God, as our parent, offers us grace. When we rely on that Wonderful Grace we are able to learn from our mistakes and not beat ourselves up over them. Live in that awesome grace.
Christian Counseling Can Help You Overcome Postpartum Depression
If you think you are suffering from PPD, it is important to follow up with your medical doctor or OB/GYN. Individual counseling with an experienced Christian counselor can help you to more clearly define your level of PPD and help to alleviate the symptoms. If you are interested in beginning your journey toward a healthy postpartum experience, consider making an appointment with a professional Christian counselor who has experience working with PPD.
Bennet, S. & Indman, P. (2010). Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. San Jose, CA: Moodswings Press.
Bennet, S. (2007). Postpartum Depression For Dummies. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing Inc.
Dalfen, A. (2009). When Baby Brings the Blues: Solutions for Postpartum Depression, Mississauga, Ontario: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Rosenberg, R., Greening, D., & Windell, J. (2003). Conquering Postpartum Depression: A Proven Plan for Recovery. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.
Venis, J. & McCloskey, S. (2007). Postpartum Depression Demystified: An Essential Guide to Understanding and Overcoming the Most common Complication after Childbirth. New York, NY: Marlowe and Company.
“Mom is Enjoying With Her Baby” courtesy of Jomphong from FreeDigitalPhotos.net; ID #100131509; “Tired Woman” courtesy of graur codrin from FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID #10021635