Postnatal Depression: 5 Tips To Help New Mums Fight Back

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Tips For Coping With Postnatal Depression

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Having a baby is life changing.  Parenthood is extremely rewarding but when your little bundle of joy won’t sleep or feed its challenging to say the least.  Between 10-20% of women develop postnatal depression and to be honest I’m surprised more women don’t get it.  If you’re not feeling like yourself after having a baby it’s important to seek help. Your GP is a good start point but there are also a number of things you can do to help yourself feel better. 

Here are 5 tips to help you beat postnatal depression.

Tip #1: Make a Daily Plan

When you feel down you lose interest in activities you usually enjoy and don’t feel like doing much.  It might feel like not doing anything helps you to feel better, but it will actually make you feel worse in the longer-term.  Doing things (as hard as it feels and as much you don’t feel like it) will help you to feel better.

Newborns are adorable...they're also hard work

Newborns are adorable…they’re also hard work

Try to do something pleasant every day, like read a book or make time to have a bath, no matter how unrealistic this may sound.  If necessary ask a friend to mind your children so you can have some time out.  Doing something that gives you a sense of achievement, like finishing a load of washing or cleaning also helps, as does keeping active through exercise.

Try not to expect too much of yourself though make sure your goals are realistic and don’t forget to take your mood into consideration.  Setting unachievable goals will make you feel worse not better.  It’s not a race. Start with small goals each day and work your way up.

Tip #2: Get As Much Sleep As You Can

As unrealistic as this may sound, tiredness can make depression worse so it’s important to try and get a good night’s sleep.  When this isn’t possible (which is often during the first 3 months) nap during the day.  Try not to worry about what other things need to get done.  Your house being perfect is not important; your health needs to come first.

Tip #3: Outsource, Outsource, Outsource

As fantastic as you are you are not superhuman.  ALL women need help after having a baby.  The women who tell you they don’t are lying.  Say yes when people offer to help and don’t ever be embarrassed to ask – people like the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they help someone they care about so it’s a win-win.

Tip #4: Stay in Touch With Friends, Family, and Other Mums

You’ll probably find that depression makes you not want to see other people, but staying at home by yourself will make you feel worse.  Stay in touch with family and friends and get out of the house where you can – even if it’s just to walk around the block.  Leaving the house can feel overwhelming, especially early on.  If this is a barrier for you, take a family member or friend with you until you feel confident enough to go out by yourself.

Mothers groups are a great way to feel supported and to stay in touch with other mums.  If your mothers group is filled with mums who appear to have it all together – don’t be fooled.  If you haven’t shared your struggles they probably haven’t either.

Tip #5: Share Your Feelings

Reaching out to others can be difficult when you’re feeling depressed, but keeping your feelings bottled up can make things seem worse.  Try to sit down and talk things through with your partner, a family member, or friend.

Speak to other parents who you know won’t be afraid to speak openly and honestly about their own parenting experiences.  Most mums feel like they’ll be judged if they don’t look like they have it together all the time so everyone goes to huge lengths to hide their feelings.  The result?  Everyone feels like they’re they only ones not coping.  Speaking honestly with people you trust can help you see the truth – everyone finds motherhood challenging.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.