Moms have to deal with all kinds of advice when it comes to being a parent.
Many mothers with postpartum depression are told to “fake it ’till you make it” which is a common psychotherapy practice. And in many cases, it’s a great way of building up a person’s confidence and self esteem. But it’s not always the best course of action and can actually be more dangerous than good. There’s a reason why this advice is best given by a licensed therapist and not just anyone on the street.
Here’s some more information about why the “fake it ’till you make it” advice isn’t always best for managing postpartum depression.
What does “fake it ’till you make it” really mean?
It’s all about pretending. Let’s say a new mother is struggling to bond with her baby or feel any emotions other than sadness and despair. She may be given the advice to “fake it ’till you make it.” What it means is that she should pretend to be happy. She should smile and cuddle with her baby as often as possible. The theory is that acting happy will convince her brain that she actually is happy until eventually she’s not depressed anymore.
I know, right? It sounds ridiculous.
But believe it or not, there is some merit behind this advice. It falls into the same category of things like positive affirmations, self help books, pep talks, or other self esteem building activities. They all work by building up our confidence and helping us to feel positive, empowered and worthy. The “fake it ’till you make it” advice basically says that if you want to be happy, you have to do what happy people do.
Why it’s not the best advice for postpartum depression.
While the practice of “faking it ’till you make it” does work for many people, it’s not the best thing to say to a woman suffering from postpartum depression. First of all, it’s dismissive. Telling a new mother simply to “fake it ’till you make it” is kind of like a slap in the face. It can leave her feeling ignored and neglected and makes light of her suffering. Postpartum depression is a major mental health disorder and being told to “fake it till you make it” treats it as no big deal.
The “fake it ’till you make it” advice is often misunderstood.
It’s not at all about faking a state of happiness in front of other people. But this happens too often, especially among mothers. When someone asks us how we feel following the birth of our child, we hide all of our pain and suffering and fake a smile.
Instead, the “fake it ’till you make it” advice should be focused inwards.
The idea is for mothers to act happy in order to train their ownminds and not to convince anyone else. Smiling in the mirror or dancing and singing to music when no one else is around are ways that we can fake a state of happiness for ourselves and no one else.
“Faking it” can also make it difficult to gauge whether or not your condition is getting better or worse.
The lines between real and fake can start to become blurred. This makes it difficult to tell whether the symptoms of postpartum depression are truly improving or not. If you’re planning to “fake it ’till you make it” you still need to be honest about how you are feeling in order to determine if it’s working.
What to try instead.
Boosting your confidence and re-training your brain to focus on the positive are both very important for healing from postpartum depression. But there are lots of ways to do it.
Without the help of a trained therapist, it can be all too easy for a mother to get stuck in this “fake” world. Postpartum depression already has a way of isolating us from the outside world and keeping us apart from our loved ones. When it comes to mental illness, things can get out of control without warning if left untreated. If you’re considering using the “fake it ’till you make it” method for boosting your confidence, do so with caution and preferably with the help and support of a medical professional.
There are several reasons why the holidays aren’t as enjoyable when you have postpartum depression.
In order to get through the holidays with postpartum depression, most women wear a smile for the sake of their families. After all, celebrating the holidays with our children are some of the happiest memories we’ll ever make. But it’s also one of the most stressful times, especially for mothers. They tend to take the lead when it comes to cooking, cleaning, shopping, decorating and wrapping gifts.
If the thought of getting through the holidays with postpartum depression is already stressing you out, check out some of our tips for making it through unharmed.
Start Planning in Advance
The holidays have a way of sneaking up on you. It’s as though you’ve just begun to cope with sending the kids back to school and then suddenly, there are Christmas carols playing on the radio. Feeling the pressure of time running out can have a big impact on our mental health. The best way to avoid the added stress of last minute shopping and decorating is to start planning for the holidays well in advance.
Get your calendar and write out all the important dates. Mark down family dinners, holiday parties, school or work functions, vacation time and anything else happening over the holidays. Once you know these dates, you can start planning meals, gifts, outfits, babysitters, etc. Keep your calendar in sight, even if it’s still a month or two away so that you can mentally prepare for what’s coming up.
Start your holiday shopping early. You always say that you’re going to be one of those people that starts shopping early but end up leaving it until the last minute anyway. Make a list of everyone you need to shop for and carry it around with you whenever you go out. You never know when you’ll stumble across something great. Check out online sales or discount sites like Zulily and sign up for e-mail lists at your favorite stores.
Having a head start is one way to survive the holidays with postpartum depression. Making lists and planning in advance can reduce the amount of stress, sleepless nights and anxiety.
Minimize the Holiday Traditions
Special family traditions around the holidays are what makes this time of the year so memorable. When you think back to holidays as a kid, what were some things that you remember doing every year? Was it waiting up for Santa, baking cookies with grandma or watching a favorite movie? These days, there are so many different traditions that you can start with your kids (especially on Pinterest).
But be careful which traditions you choose to start with your family and don’t try to adopt them all. If you’re not much of a chef, then skip the holiday baking. Or if crafting isn’t your thing, maybe buy a special ornament each year instead of trying to make one. And take it from me, the Elf on the Shelf will use up way too much of your time and energy. (But if you must follow through on this one, here are some adorable ideas using your home security camera!)
Consider sending virtual Christmas cards this year. Buying cards, signing them all and mailing them out can be time consuming and not something a mother with postpartum depression wants to do. But sending a paperless card is both easy and good for the environment. Paperless Post has a huge selection of beautiful holiday cards and invitations, plus you can store all your contact’s e-mail addresses for next year!
If you plan to survive the holidays with postpartum depression, it will mean downsizing the festivities a bit until your symptoms are under control. Having one or two special things that you do together over the holidays is more than enough to make it memorable. Besides, your children would much rather spend time laughing together as a family, than do a bunch of baking and crafts with a stressed out mom.
Set Aside Some “Me” Time
We can’t forget about self care during the holidays. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the spirit of giving that we forget about taking care of ourselves. If you want to make it through the holidays with postpartum depression, you need to take a break every once in a while.
With all the holiday events coming up, book yourself a salon day and get your hair and nails done. If it’s something you splurge on once a year, now is the time to do it. If you’re not sure where to start, chat with a professional Esthetician and get a free serum personalized for your specific skin care needs at Beauty by Design. And don’t forget to put a massage or spa day on your wish list. Winter is also a great time to try out a thermotherapy spa.
With the change in seasons, many mothers with postpartum depression can get hit hard with the winter blues (a.k.a seasonal affective disorder). This makes self care even more important during these colder, shorter days. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep and exposure to sunlight to avoid falling deeper into a depressed state.
Find a Socializing Buddy
As much as you don’t want to do it, socializing is good for you. You may be dreading having to answer the annoying questions that everyone asks new moms, like “is the baby sleeping through the night” or “shouldn’t he be walking yet?” And the thought of having everyone fawning over your baby might be unbearable, even if they are family.
If you truly want to survive socializing over the holidays with postpartum depression, then what you need is a wing-man (or woman). Find your person, the one who is going to help you out through all the holiday socializing. It could be your spouse, sibling, a favorite cousin or friend. It should be someone that you trust and have a great connection with. Tell them what you are going through and ask them to help you out at family functions. If they notice someone annoying you, they can swoop in and save you.
You should never have to battle postpartum depression alone but that doesn’t mean you need to announce your condition at the dinner table. Having just one person who understands how hard this is for you can make it so much easier. And who knows, maybe you’ll even enjoy yourself!
Don’t Avoid the Fun
Celebrating the holidays with postpartum depression is no fun. But that doesn’t mean you should hide away or avoid the festivities. You might think that your presence will just bring everyone down or make others feel awkward and so you decline invitations or leave the party early.
Even if you don’t think you’re much fun, I assure you that others are glad you’re there. Your children, especially, are happier when you are there. So be in the pictures, sit around the fire and join in the dinner conversations, even if you have nothing to say. It’s hard to remember all the days when our kids are young. But you’ll remember the holidays, and so will they.
Ever wonder how I came to write about postpartum depression and act as an advocate for maternal mental health?
For the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with women suffering from all kinds of mental health issues after giving birth. It’s for those women that I write about postpartum depression. I spend my days creating resources, infographics and researching, all the while wishing I had access to this same information when I was heavily battling postpartum depression.
Recently, someone asked me how and why I decided to write about postpartum depression. It got me thinking about my journey to becoming a maternal mental health blogger and advocate.
And so, in keeping with the Running in Triangles tradition, here is my story.
I always wanted to be a writer.
From a young age, I knew that writing was one of my strengths. Not only did it come naturally to me, but I loved doing it. Having the ability to tell an entire story just from words felt like a superpower. The English language gets a lot of criticism for it’s wide array of spellings, meanings, synonyms and slang words. But I think having so many different words to express a single emotion is one thing that makes it great.
Throughout my life, I struggled to find the right path for my writing. Books, journals, diaries, poems, short stories… all started and forgotten about. I knew I wanted to write, I just didn’t know what I wanted to say.
My first mom blog.
In my late teens and early 20’s I took to the internet to showcase my writing on sites such as My Space (and other infamous ones that no longer exist). I enjoyed having a space to write knowing that someone else other than myself might actually read it.
I started my first, real, mom blog in 2013. At the time, I was in the thick of postpartum depression and needed an outlet for my emotions. But I didn’t write about postpartum depression. I wrote about recipes and crafts and funny things my kids did because that’s what all the other mom bloggers were doing.
The story that changed my life.
A few months after starting my fluffy mom blog, a news story from my hometown hit headlines – two young children found drowned in a bathtub and the mother had gone missing. They suspected postpartum depression (or psychosis). I became obsessed with the story and constantly checked for updates to see if she had been found. The online comments were filled with things like “I hope she’s dead” or “what kind of monster does that” and “she doesn’t deserve to be a mother.”
I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t think about anything else other than poor Lisa Gibson and her two babies. I still cry at the mere thought of it. Yes, it’s tragic and heartbreaking, but that’s not the only reason I cry. I cry because it could have been me. At 4 months postpartum, I was fighting suicidal thoughts on a regular basis and imagining drowning my colicky baby in the bathtub. But I was not a terrible mother, I was just sick.
Two days later, Lisa Gibson’s body was found floating in the river. It was a tragic ending but I felt relieved for her. She was finally free of the mental anguish she was likely consumed by. Would she have even wanted to live after finding out what happened? The story tormented me for weeks, and the public reaction was even worse. No matter what I did, I could not silence the voice in my head that kept saying, “do something about this.”
The first time I spoke up.
I couldn’t just sit by and spectate anymore. I knew why people said the things they did… they didn’t understand it. I couldn’t be mad at the online commentators because postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders are NEVER talked about. And unfortunately, Lisa Gibson would never get the chance to tell her side of the story.
But I could tell mine.
And that’s what I did. I sat down at my computer and just wrote. Tears streamed down my face as I choked on the giant lump in my throat. I would write something truthful and then immediately delete it. What would people think of me? What would others say? Would they take my kids away if they read this? I would imagine Lisa Gibson floating in the river and I would write it all over again.
Nearly every single sentence had me second guessing the decision to share my story. And every time, I would picture Lisa Gibson or repeat the hateful online comments and push onward. Finally, it was finished but I was struggling to publish it. Once I hit that button – everyone will know. Will people treat me differently? Will I get hateful comments too? I felt sick to my stomach as I hit the “publish” button, but it was done. There was no going back now.
The reaction to my story.
Once my story went live, I thought I would feel better. But it was the opposite. I was consumed by anxiety. I couldn’t sleep. Was this a mistake? Is it too late to take it down? I waited for the mean comments, for the misunderstandings and the judgement.
I got nothing but love.
Those who knew me reached out with complete empathy and the sincerest praise. Friends that I saw in person told me how moved they were by my story. I started to get comments and emails from women who experienced something similar. They all said one in thing in common… “me too.”
Fast forward 5 years later.
After sharing my story, I finally felt fulfilled and stopped writing for a while. I couldn’t go back to blogging about nothing when I had just said so much. I decided to take control of my postpartum depression and began treatment. I even had another baby without experiencing a postpartum depression relapse.
Five years after hitting the publish button on my postpartum depression story, I found myself as a stay at home mom looking for a side hustle. Mom blogs had not disappeared, in fact they seemed to be taking over the internet. Moms were replacing their full time jobs running their own blogs from home. Could a blog be a way for me to turn my writing into a full time career? I had to give it a try.
The Early Days of Running in Triangles
Running in Triangles was initially targeted towards moms of three kids (hence the name). I had learned that, in order to be a successful mom blog, I should write posts that were helpful. So I started by sharing my best advice for sleep training and breastfeeding. They quickly became popular and are still some of my top articles.
Since the blog was now seeing a steady amount of traffic worldwide, I was able to reach a lot more moms with postpartum depression. They started emailing me and commenting about how they related 100% to what I wrote in that post. They said they wanted to speak up about postpartum depression but were too afraid and didn’t know how to begin. So I launched The Postpartum Depression Guest Post Series, making it possible for moms from any background to share their stories in a safe place. The following year, I featured 10 Questions About Postpartum Depression in order to allow even more women to open up about their experience.
The Reason Why I Write About Postpartum Depression
Throughout this journey, I have finally discovered the true path for my writing. I write about postpartum depression to help educate others on what it’s like living with this mental illness. I write for all those mothers who are unable to find the words to say it themselves. I write for those who can’t tell their stories anymore, like Lisa Gibson and countless other women who lost the battle to postpartum depression.
I write about postpartum depression because not enough people do. It needs to be talked about more, to be included in regular conversation. It’s not a bad word or something to be ashamed of. I write for future generations, in the hopes that they will take the time to learn about it and put an end to the stigma of it.
I write about postpartum depression in order to empower women. New mothers should be able to access facts and information, find resources and support groups and know their treatment options. But too often, the medical system fails them. There’s not much I can do to change that, but I can give mothers the tools they need to take their mental health into their own hands.
And at the end of the day, if I’ve saved even one mother from drowning in the river, then it’s completely worth it.
It’s not easy to love a woman with postpartum depression.
We know that it’s tough on the husbands of women with postpartum depression. The same goes for all of the boyfriends, fiances, significant others and baby daddies. Not only are they thrust into this new role of caring for a child, but they’ve had to watch the woman they love suffer, possibly for 9 long months followed by intense labor. And then postpartum depression on top of all of that?
It’s common for new fathers to feel completely helpless when it comes to pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding . If they could carry some of the burden for us, we know they would.
Here are some things that we wish we could say to the husbands of the women with postpartum depression.
We say it all the time, nearly everyday, in every possible situation. But this time, we truly mean it. Thank you from the depths of our soul. Thank you for giving us this incredible gift of motherhood, even if we’d like a refund some days. Thank you for noticing that something wasn’t right. Thank you for cancelling those dinner plans when you knew we didn’t want to go. Thank you for being in our corner. Thank you for completely understanding, without understanding at all.
We need you.
We act like we don’t need you, like we can do everything ourselves and say that we’d be better off on our own. But it’s not true. That’s the postpartum depression talking. We need you now more than you will ever know.
It’s okay if you don’t get it.
How could we ever expect you to understand what it’s like? We know you don’t get it, but we love that you support us anyway. You don’t need to say anything clever or important. Even though it might go against your nature as a man, you don’t need to fix us. It’s okay that you can’t make it better or make it go away. We don’t think any less of you for feeling helpless.
Your role is important too.
Dads simply don’t get enough credit when it comes to parenting. Moms are normally at the forefront of the physical, emotional and mental battle that comes with bringing up children. But we want our husbands to know that their role as fathers are just as important as our roles as mothers.
You may not be able to breastfeed the baby, but supporting us in doing it(or deciding not to do it) helps more than you realize. The way you play with the children when you get home from work makes us feel a little less guilty about ignoring them all day. Your ability to pick up the slack and not make us feel bad about it takes a huge weight off our shoulders. The truth is, we couldn’t do any of this without you.
We’re sorry for yelling at you.
Sometimes you’re just an innocent bystander and sometimes you’ve done something to deserve it, but we get angry a lot these days. It’s harder to control our emotions and it doesn’t take much to make us frustrated, angry, irritated or annoyed. Our crowded, heavy minds don’t even realize how irrational we sound most of the time. We only take it out on you because we trust you. We know that you can handle it and hope you don’t take it personally.
You are our safe place.
All day long we have to be strong and put on a fake smile. And when we finally see you, we let it all out because you are where we feel the safest. We are not afraid to be vulnerable around you because we know how much you love us. It may sound like we’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but really, it’s just emotional vomit. We need to get it all out to feel better, and thankfully you’re there to hold back our hair.
We are trying to save you.
We feel like we’re drowning and we don’t want to drag you down with us. We push you away, not because we don’t love you, but because we love you too much to see you suffer. There is no point in both of us being miserable, so instead we keep you at a distance. We are trying to push you further and further away from the dark cloud that follows us.
We really need that self care time.
It doesn’t seem fair because we know everyone enjoys alone time. After a long day of work, we’re sure you need some alone time too. It’s not that we don’t understand that. It’s that working a job and raising kids are two different types of work for you. But for us, it’s the same job over and over and over again, without escape. So being away from the constant chatter of our world is like taking a breath of fresh air after holding it in all day long. Having that time away to do what we need to do makes such a huge difference for us.
None of this is fair.
Why me? Why us? None of this is fair and we both deserve better. Our dream of having a family was so much brighter than this. If we could reverse time and re-do it, would it turn out any different? We don’t know why or how we got postpartum depression. And it wasn’t anything you or I did wrong. But here we are. These are the cards we’ve been dealt.
Please don’t let go.
Somewhere along the path to parenthood we got lost. We will eventually find our way back but it will be so much easier if we do it together. We don’t want you to feel sorry for us, and we don’t want you to treat us any differently. We’re still somewhere inside of here and with a little help, we can be us again. We just need you to hold our hands and never let it go no matter what we do. Because we may do some pretty horrible things that we will come to regret (and please don’t remind us of or punish us for those things once we’re better.)Just stay and be here and listen and love us.
To all the husbands of the women with postpartum depression…
You are our heroes but we don’t treat you like one. We say demeaning things in fits of rage. We confess shocking intrusive thoughts and threaten to do things completely out of character. Perhaps you have a suicide hotline on speed dial or keep a closer eye on us these days. Yes, we are struggling hard to cope with our mental illness and yet, you remain our rock and our beacon of light. We love you for that. We love that you have our backs and that we will never be alone, no matter how lonely we feel. You are important to us, even if we don’t say or show it.
Postpartum depression can be hard to recognize and often goes undiagnosed.
If you think you have postpartum depression, it usually means you’ve noticed that something just isn’t right. This is a great first step, and perhaps the most important. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information or conversations happening about postpartum depression among new and expecting mothers. So they’re not all to blame for not knowing the signs and symptoms.
If you think you have postpartum depression, here are some of the first steps you should take.
Perform a self assessment
You may be used to relying on a doctor, nurse, midwife or doula for treatment during your pregnancy and afterwards. But it’s a little bit different when it comes to mental illness. Unlike physical illnesses, there is no blood test to determine if you have postpartum depression. The standard questionnaires that you fill out after giving birth are designed for more extreme cases and they don’t give you a chance to express how you really feel.
So instead of simply rating how you feel on a scale of 1 – 10, sit down with a pen and paper and perform a more detailed self assessment.
Keep track of your sleeping and eating habits over the course of at least one week or more.
Write out all the thoughts you’ve had, whether they were welcome or not.
Keep a calendar of your social activities and make note of how you felt being around people.
Document your mood changes in detail, either with a journal or mood tracker.
Take note of your connection and relationship with your baby, your other children and your significant other.
Focus on your energy levels. Have they significantly decreased or increased?
Write down anything and everything that you feel might have changed or is out of the ordinary for you.
After a week or two of taking notes, go back and look it over. Look for anything that might be a red flag or that seemed really out of character for you. If you feel comfortable enough, share your notes with a loved one or your doctor or therapist.
Adjusting to life with a new baby is tough for everyone. Just because you don’t quite feel like yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have postpartum depression. Before you think the worst, see if it will go away with a few lifestyle changes.
If you haven’t had the chance to sleep for longer than a 3 hour interval since giving birth, then consider getting some help. Ask your spouse or a family member to watch the baby while you sleep. Hire a postpartum doula or nurse for an overnight shift. If baby’s sleep habits are keeping you up, consider sleep training or hiring a sleep training consultant.
Try yoga, meditation, aromatherapy or another natural remedy to help with mood swings, anxiety or intrusive thoughts. Focus on eating healthier and make time to socialize and connect with your spouse and baby. Spend some time initiating these simple changes into your life and take note of whether they’ve made a difference in your overall mood.
Click here to get the full version of this Postpartum Depression Self Assessment Workbook in the Free Resource Library.
Speak to a Professional
If you’ve completed a self assessment, made some lifestyle changes and still haven’t noticed an improvement, then it’s time to speak to a professional. This is the part that most women avoid because the mere thought of admitting it can be terrifying. But because you’ve done your self assessment, you can feel confident walking into your doctor’s office with proof of what you’ve been going through over the past few weeks. Plus, there are more options that you think when it comes to who to talk to:
Once you have a treatment plan in place, it’s a good idea to find a support group to help you through it. You don’t need to battle postpartum depression alone. Your medical professional may be able to recommend a local group that you can attend. Or you can join a Facebook support group or download an anonymous chat app like CARA Unmask. Speaking to other women who know what you are going through is so helpful and important to your recovery.
Postpartum depression will not go away on it’s own after the postpartum period is over. As your baby grows older and some of the challenges such as sleep deprivation and breastfeeding become easier, the symptoms may ease up. If you are on prescription antidepressants to treat your symptoms, then make sure to speak to your doctor about stopping them. Stopping antidepressants abruptly can cause side effects. Slowly weaning off of them is usually best.
But even if you stop taking the antidepressants and attending therapy sessions, you should always take care of your mental health to try to avoid suffering a postpartum depression relapse. Self care should become your number one priority, including things like eating right and getting enough sleep. Remember that your mental health will always be in a more delicate state, even when you start to feel better.
What NOT To Do
Do NOT wait!
Don’t ignore the symptoms or brush them off as no big deal. The worst thing you can do when it comes to postpartum depression is to do nothing because untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. No matter how strong you think you might be, don’t ever underestimate mental illness and the damage it can do.
Postpartum depression symptoms can be triggered by different factors, making the recovery process much longer than it needs to be.
With a proper treatment plan, postpartum depression can go into remission. But postpartum depression triggers are internal or environment factors that can cause symptoms to flare up again. These can continue to affect mothers for years after the postpartum period.
It can be frustrating to battle symptoms of postpartum depression for years, and it might even feel like it will never go away. Identifying your specific triggers can help you to avoid them, which means you’ll be less likely to experience a postpartum depression relapse.
Here are some of the most common postpartum depression triggers to watch out for.
Our brains need sleep and there isn’t an acceptable substitution for it. No amount of caffeine, medications, diet changes or exercise can replicate what sleep does for our bodies. If our brains don’t get the chance to reset each night, they don’t function very well during the day.
Sleep deprivation is an especially big factor for postpartum moms. Babies have much shorter sleep cycles than adults do. This means that a mother’s brain isn’t getting the chance to fully “reboot” because it’s constantly being interrupted by a hungry baby. So it’s no surprise that sleep deprivation is one of the most common postpartum depression triggers.
Sleep deprivation is also not synonymous with the postpartum period. It can occur at any time in our lives. It can be caused by a baby’s sleep regression or teething, illness, stress, interrupted schedules or sudden changes, anxiety or even daylight savings time.
In order to get the most undisturbed sleep possible, enlist the help of your spouse, a family member or hire a postpartum doula for a night shift or two. You may also want to work on getting your baby into a good sleep routine, which can help you avoid sleep deprivation in the long run.
Breastfeeding is another one of the more common postpartum depression triggers. In fact, many mothers report feeling more stressed about breastfeeding than they did about labor and delivery. Breastfeeding can be a struggle and it can cause pain, frustration, shame and embarrassment.
Mothers who struggle with breastfeeding can feel guilty, unworthy, judged or end up feeling resentful and full of regret. All of these feelings certainly contribute to symptoms of postpartum depression. But some mothers found that breastfeeding eased their symptoms and helped them to bond with their babies. Each woman’s experience is so different, but if this is a trigger for you, know that you are not alone.
Education can be key to successful breastfeeding. While it’s promoted as “all-natural,” it doesn’t come naturally to the majority of mothers. Consider hiring a lactation consultant, or take an online breastfeeding course from home. If all else fails, know that it’s perfectly okay to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula for the sake of your mental health.
When we think of pregnancy and childbirth, we associate it with some form of pain. This is often thought of as a rite of passage and many mothers spend a lot of time preparing for it. But in some cases, the pain of childbirth can trigger unexpected feelings and suppressed memories.
A painful delivery or recovery can be one of the first postpartum depression triggers, but pain is a trigger that can linger long after the recovery period. When we experience pain in another form, such as menstrual cramping, pelvic pain, back pain or migraines, it can trigger the symptoms of postpartum depression again.
This trigger can be especially difficult to avoid due to the fact that pain comes in so many different forms. Identifying that pain is a trigger is a good first step. Experiment with different pain treatment options, such as CBD oil, and try to deal with the root cause of any chronic pain, in order to avoid being triggered long term.
The weight issue is another trigger that affects expectant and new mothers. During pregnancy, a woman can gain 20 – 40 lbs in the span of 9 months. And then immediately following childbirth, her body can look unrecognizable. There will be pressure to lose all the extra weight as fast as possible. She may also have to deal with a c-section scar, stretch marks, loose skin and sagging breasts.
These weight and body changes can have a significant effect on our mental health. Even if body image was not an issue for us prior to becoming a mother, postpartum depression can take a hit on our self esteem.
While maintaining a healthy weight is important, embracing our new bodies is equally as important to keep weight changes from triggering postpartum depression symptoms.
The fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy and in the postpartum period are completely normal. They are responsible for the extreme mood swings, weepiness and other symptoms referred to as “the baby blues.” It’s not unusual for hormones to also take all the blame when it comes to postpartum depression, however we know that there’s much more to it than that.
Certain hormonal imbalances can be postpartum depression triggers. Some women find their symptoms are triggered upon the return of their menstrual cycle or with another pregnancy. Certain illnesses can also cause hormonal imbalances, such as thyroid problems or diabetes.
Marriage and relationship problems can begin or get worse following the birth of a child and they are a major cause of stress and anxiety for both parents. Postpartum mothers are extra sensitive, irritable and sometimes prone to rage. They can be extremely difficult to communicate and reason with.
In addition to the lack of communication and mood swings, it can be really difficult to open up about all of these scary thoughts and feelings. Instead, women tend to shut down, retreat away from their spouses, and have difficulty with intimacy.
Despite how hard it might be, try your best to talk to your loved one about what you’re feeling. Getting an official diagnosis may help you both to understand what’s going on. Couples therapy is also a good option to help break down the barriers.
Grief is a major depression trigger that can affect postpartum moms. Pregnancy and welcoming a new baby are symbolized by joy, happiness and new life. It can be shocking when these actions cause an opposite effect, but sometimes they do.
A mother who previously suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth or the loss of a child may be triggered by grief upon giving birth to a healthy baby. Postpartum depression symptoms may also be triggered when a woman thinks of someone who previously passed away and isn’t present to meet their child.
Grief is a part of life and there’s really no avoiding it. If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, talk about them openly. Talk to your baby about them, look at an album full of pictures or share stories about them. Try not to keep all that pain inside, and instead, memorialize the ones you have loved and lost.
Special occasions can actually be quite difficult for a mother with postpartum depression. Certain dates or holidays might stir up traumatic memories that are postpartum depression triggers. Plus, social anxiety and the desire to withdraw from conversation are common symptoms of postpartum depression. This makes it very hard to get together in large crowds, even if they are all people whom you love.
As these dates approach, try to be proactive about your condition. Take the day off work, scale down the festivities or plan a vacation instead. Changing your memories about that day might be hard, but not impossible.
Cold weather and rainy days can make anyone feel depressed but it’s much deeper than that. Depression thrives when a person feels isolated. And there’s nothing better at keeping a mom with a new baby locked up indoors than some bad weather. Hot weather can also encourage a new or expecting mother to seek out the cool air conditioning instead of a muggy back yard.
All this time spent indoors can deprive a mother of enough fresh air and sunshine. Combined with the other effects of seasonal affective disorder, the weather changes should never be underestimated as postpartum depression triggers.
Keeping a journal or mood tracker can help to identify if your postpartum depression symptoms are being triggered by the weather. If they are, then there are several easy therapies and common practices you can do to help avoid it.
Money problems are high on the list of depression triggers. For parents, adjusting to the financial strain of adding a baby to the budget can be difficult. In addition to the cost of diapers and daycare, a mother has to battle with the financial stress of staying at home instead of working – or feeling guilty for working instead of being home with baby.
Changes in finances are just one of the many overwhelming adjustments that a new mother will need to make, and it can be a big trigger for postpartum depression.
One of the best ways to avoid this is to prepare for the financial stress prior to giving birth. Meet with a financial advisor and make a plan for the future. To save some money, research which baby products are worth investing in, and which ones you can probably do without. And most importantly, stick to a budget to keep financial stress under control.
Changes in Treatment
To help fight all of these different postpartum depression triggers there are several different treatment options available. The variety of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications available means that you should be able to find one that works well for you, even if you have to try out a few first. Considering online therapy? Check out this detailed review of online therapy companies to help with your decision.
But beware when making changes to your treatment plan. Sudden changes to any of your medications can trigger symptoms of postpartum depression again. The same goes for stopping therapy sessions or another supplemental form of treatment. If money is the issue for stopping, you can find out more information about the cost of online therapy here.
Consider weaning yourself off slowly instead. If you plan on switching to a different medication, slowly wean off of the first one and gradually begin the second one. Obviously, speak to your doctor about any and all changes in your treatment plan. And make sure to be open about the symptoms you are experiencing, so that you can find the treatment that works for you.
There seems to be a significant connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression.
Many women who have been diagnosed with postpartum depression also report trouble breastfeeding. Their struggles include latching problems, not producing enough breast milk, or an overall aversion to breastfeeding in general. With this being such a common concern, it seems there must be a connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression.
A connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression is not an easy one to decipher, however. It’s likely caused by a number of different factors, both physical and psychological. And the fact that postpartum depression also affects women who have no issues breastfeeding makes it even more complicated to figure out.
Let’s dig deeper into the connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression.
The “Unnaturalness” of Breastfeeding
The only thing that’s natural about breastfeeding is that it feels so completely unnatural. It may have been natural hundreds of years ago, when people lived more closely among animals and watched them raise their young. In the days when daily life consisted of fetching well water and hunting for food, breastfeeding was the norm. But modern civilization has taken the “naturalness” out of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding exposes a woman, making her feel vulnerable and embarrassed. Most women have never walked around bare-breasted before. And now, suddenly, other people are inspecting and staring at her breasts, even grabbing them like hamburgers. Plus, there’s the added feature of getting used to another human being sucking away on them in a completely asexual way.
But instead of admitting that breastfeeding feels unnatural, the message mothers are given about breastfeeding is that it’s what’s best for her baby, that it’s completely natural and instinctual, and that if she’s doing it right, it shouldn’t hurt. Perhaps the connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression stems from the gross misinformation that new mothers are given.
some truths about breastfeeding:
It’s painful.Yes, even when you’ve got a proper latch, it can still hurt.
It doesn’t happen instinctively. Babies will root around, looking for a nipple, but the majority of them don’t know what the heck they’re doing.
It’s embarrassing.And others will make you feel guilty for being embarrassed and say insensitive things like “we’ve seen it all before.”
It’s annoying. Newborns eat often and can suck for a long time. Having to feed a baby on demand means you barely have time to do anything else, let’s not even talk about pumping.
It gets easier? Yeah, sure, once you get the latch figured out, it might seem like things are going smoothly. Until you have a 6 month old who likes to shove their feet in your mouth, pull your hair and scratch your chest while they nurse.
The Guilt of Not Breastfeeding
Despite all of this, the majority of mothers will attempt to breastfeed their child because “breast is best” and what kind of mother would they be if they didn’t at least try to give their child the best? This overwhelming pressure on mothers most definitely plays a part in the connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression.
A mother who is unable to breastfeed, regardless of the reason, will feel guilty for not doing it, despite the fact that it is not her fault. She may even be embarrassed to admit to other mothers that she is not breastfeeding for fear of being judged.
Stress Inhibits Breastfeeding
All of these misconceptions about breastfeeding can set a new mother up for failure. Instead of experiencing something she hoped would be beautiful and natural, she feels frustrated and stressed out. Stress then inhibits breast milk production, and not producing enough breast milk stresses a mother out even more. So it becomes nothing but a vicious cycle.
We know that stress can cause all kinds of symptoms in our bodies, both mentally and physically. Stress leads to anxiety, insomnia, poor eating habits, weight gain or loss, neck and back pain, headaches, depression and more. So it’s no wonder that stress is the primary culprit in the connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression.
Breastfeeding in Public
Breastfeeding in public may be legal, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward for a new mother who is already feeling exposed and vulnerable. We’ve all heard the horror stories of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public. While we applaud those who do stand up for themselves, that level of courage is not in all of us.
Even if we are never actually confronted about public breastfeeding, we often take additional measures to prevent it from making those around us uncomfortable. This comes at the cost of our own comfort, and that of our baby, usually resulting in an unsuccessful public breastfeeding experience. Therefore, the mere thought of having to breastfeed a screaming, hungry baby in a public place can cause high levels of stress and anxiety.
A new mother struggling to breastfeed may avoid spending time outside of the house for this reason. Eventually, this feeling of being trapped in the house can have an effect on a mother’s mental health and the longer it persists, the more dangerous it becomes.
Breastfeeding with D-MER
If you’re not familiar with the breastfeeding condition known as D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex)you can read about in this post. D-MER can cause a mother to have an overall aversion to breastfeeding and develop negative thoughts and feelings towards it. While D-MER is a physiological response as opposed to a psychological one, I believe that it can play a part in the connection between breastfeeding and postpartum depression.
For a mother with undiagnosed D-MER, she may associate extremely negative thoughts and feelings towards breastfeeding, which could transfer over into negative thoughts towards herself or her baby. This constant weight of negativity creates an environment where mental illness thrives.
It’s important for mothers who have negative feelings while breastfeeding to speak up about them and seek help. It could be D-MER or it could be postpartum depression. Either way, help and information are available.
Ultimately, a lot of different things can affect a breastfeeding mother and prevent her from being successful at it. If breastfeeding is causing you to feel stressed, anxious, vulnerable, embarrassed, ashamed or creating a negative experience altogether, then it’s worth weighing the risks and benefits. While there are so many wonderful benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers, forcing yourself to breastfeed at the cost of your mental health is not worth it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think this is incredible forward progress for maternal mental health and commend all those who put so much effort into creating it. But after researching more about this postpartum depression drug, I have to admit that I am not nearly as excited as I was when I first heard about it.
Here’s some more information about the new postpartum depression drug.
It takes 60 hours to administer.
That’s two and a half days. For a mother with children who are a bit older – that might sound like a welcome vacation. But for a women who has recently given birth? Not so much. Since the postpartum depression drug is recommended in the first 6 months postpartum, spending two and half days away from a new baby can be a difficult task to pull off.
The good news is that Brexanolone (Zulresso) can work within 48 hours, so if you are able to manage the time away, then it could be worth it.
It can only be administered in a hospital setting.
The postpartum depression drug is given via an IV, which means that a woman will need to stay in the hospital for the full 60 hours and possibly longer if she experiences any adverse side effects. Considering that the US only has one perinatal psychiatry inpatient unit(a.k.a. mother and baby unit) in the entire country, this means that a woman will need to be separated from her newborn baby for an extended period of time. The hospital stay is necessary because a woman receiving the drug can suffer from such side effects as suicidal ideation or a loss of consciousness and therefore would need to be closely monitored.
This could be a major setback for a mother who may have had a traumatic hospital delivery that triggered her postpartum depression to begin with.
The price range for the new postpartum depression drug is between $25,000 to $35,000. And that’s not including the cost of the hospital stay for 2 – 3 days (or possible income loss and childcare cost during those days). For a family with accumulating medical bills after the labor and delivery, this is another burden on top of all of that. Even with a great insurance plan, Brexanolone (Zulresso) is such a new drug that you’d have to make sure it’s covered by your insurance, which is yet another hurdle to overcome.
The high price tag and insurance red tape make the postpartum depression drug seem inaccessible to the vast majority of suffering women.
It can obstruct breastfeeding.
The postpartum depression drug has not been tested in breastfeeding mothers, however it is confirmed that the drug does pass through breastmilk. It’s likely that, until further testing is done, mothers who choose to take the postpartum depression drug will be discouraged from breastfeeding.
This is just a temporary situation, as mothers can pump and dump while being administered the drug in order to keep up their supply. But time away from a newborn baby before breastfeeding has been properly established can have a big impact on the overall success of breastfeeding in the long run.
For a mother who is already overwhelmed by the pressure to breastfeed, this can cause an added amount of guilt and regret.
It hasn’t been extensively tested.
The clinical trials for the postpartum depression drug was run on a group of less than 250 women. Considering what we know about the different symptoms and ways that postpartum depression manifests, it just doesn’t seem like enough. In addition to the low number of women in the trial, there was only a slight difference in the effects felt by the women who received the dose of Brexanolone (Zulresso) versus the women who received the placebo. Read more details on the trials here.
It’s great that the drug trials were conducted in such a timely manner, but it leaves me to wonder if there isn’t something they’ve missed.
It can discourage other forms of care.
A drug specifically to treat postpartum depression is not a cure for postpartum depression. I feel like a lot of people will be confused by that. Just like all other forms of treatment, certain things work for different people. In addition to medication, therapy is also important to help avoid relapses and tackle the root cause of the symptoms. And let’s not forget about the importance of self-care.
As of right now, Brexanolone (Zulresso) has only been tested in single doses and the women who participated in the study haven’t experienced a relapse of symptoms. So there’s no evidence available yet on the long term effect of the postpartum depression drug.
While the news of this new drug is fantastic, it’s not the one and only solution.
It first requires diagnosis.
Before a woman can even receive the postpartum depression drug, she needs to get a proper diagnosis. This is one of the biggest problems surrounding postpartum depression and should be where our focus lies. The screening process for maternal mental illness is not nearly thorough enough. And too many women slip through the cracks because their symptoms are not being taken seriously.
So while a new treatment option for postpartum depression is wonderful news, it also shines a light on all the other places where our medical system is currently failing new mothers.
The postpartum depression drug is just one step.
Obviously, I am excited that progress is being made in the field of maternal mental health. Brexanolone (Zulresso) is hopefully the first in a long line of treatment options and better care for women with postpartum depression. While we may not be able to walk into our local pharmacy and buy a bottle of the magic postpartum depression elixir to cure all that ails us – it’s still a step in the right direction. And I look forward to a future where maternal mental health care is a top priority.
Seven years. That’s how long I have personally battled postpartum depression. I’ve tried all kinds of different treatment options over the years and it regularly fluctuates between better and worse. There was a time in my life when I thought I was cured. But now I know better. I know that it will never go away. I have accepted that managing my mental health is going to be a lifelong journey.
Yes, postpartum depression can last longer than a year or more. Here’s what you need to know.
Postpartum depression is a form of a major depressive disorder that happens to women after they give birth. Something along the journey into motherhood triggers the brain to revert into a depressive state. Sometimes the cause is obvious, such as a difficult labor or a history of trauma, abuse or mental illness. In other cases, the cause lies much deeper and is harder to pinpoint. Regardless of the cause, a mental illness has now been triggered and that means it’s here to stay. While similar in symptoms, there are a few differences between depression and postpartum depression.
Hormones have a lot to do with it.
Creating a life is unlike any other event in the world. Women’s bodies go through immense changes that we can’t even begin to understand. We’re all too familiar with the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy, causing an expectant mother to feel everything from uncontrollable weepiness to pure rage. After giving birth, those hormones now have to work overtime to regulate themselves and it’s not an easy process.
The majority of women will experience some form of the baby blues, which is not a mental health disorder, but rather a normal response to the hormonal and environmental changes. It’s easy to blame all these new and scary feelings on the baby blues, but those only last for a couple weeks. Postpartum depression can begin anytime in the year after giving birth, and long after hormone levels have regulated.
Depression can be triggered by trauma.
In addition to those 9 months of changes, there is the trauma of childbirth. No matter what your labor and delivery story was like, it was traumatic on your body. Like a soldier going to war, you will come out of it a changed person. For some, their body adjusts to the trauma and they are able to move on, at least to some degree. For others, however, the trauma leaves it’s mark.
Bear in mind that what is considered traumatic to you, may not be considered traumatic to others. Just because you had a smooth delivery without any major problems doesn’t mean you’ve escaped unscathed. Birth has a way of uncovering deep feelings and vulnerabilities that we didn’t even know we had. Speaking to a therapist or using cognitive behavior therapy can help to discover the root cause of your postpartum depression.
Maternal postpartum care sucks.
There is no elegant way to put this, it just plain sucks. A lot of emphasis is put on prenatal care, but not nearly enough on postpartum care. Once a mother becomes pregnant, she is seen by a doctor monthly, then bi-weekly, weekly and sometimes even daily until she gives birth. Then there is a whole lot of commotion surrounding the birth and the 3 or so days afterwards.
And then she is sent home with a follow up appointment for 6 weeks later. She’ll have to haul that baby in to get checked out on the regular, but now that the baby is on the outside, her body doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Unless there is a physical postpartum complication, then she will get the care and attention she needs. But mental postpartum complications are never treated with the same sense of urgency.
What [actually] happens in the 4th Trimester?
Here is a woman who’s physical, mental and emotional state has just gone through the roller coaster ride of it’s life. She is in pain everywhere as she’s literally just been ripped open and had a part of her removed. A brand new person is now completely dependent on her for their survival but there is a major communication barrier.
Despite feeling the highest levels of exhaustion, she’ll be unable to sleep for longer than a 3 hour stretch… for months. The pressure to breastfeed weighs heavily on her. She will feel vulnerable, exposed and judged every time her baby is hungry, and that will be a lot. She will lose all confidence in herself as a woman if she is unable to produce enough milk.
The first three months postpartum (or 4th trimester) should be the time when a mother rests and gets to know her newborn. She should have support and help. She shouldn’t need to worry about anything other than herself and baby. But this rarely happens. A lot of people will “visit” but only the odd few will actually be of any real help. Many mothers even have to return to work before they have time to properly heal.
Years Later and Still Depressed.
When we take into account the terrible state of maternal mental health care, it’s no wonder that more and more women are battling depression long after giving birth. Postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders should be treated with much more respect. Mothers need time to heal, they need help and proper support. The level of care for a new mother should be just as important as it is for a newborn baby.
But the blame is not solely on the health care system. Take my story, for example. I am fortunate that I live in Canada and was able to take an entire year of paid maternity leave. I also delivered by midwives and the postpartum care that I received from them was far superior to anything I got in the hospital. They came TO. MY. HOUSE. for days and weeks afterwards just to check up on me and baby. They stayed for hours and drank tea and helped me breastfeed and changed diapers. But I still got postpartum depression, despite all of that.
What it comes down to is that mothers need to take better care of themselves. They need to understand the importance of rest and accepting help from others. And most importantly, they need to speak up if they feel like something isn’t right.
There is no cure for postpartum depression. Treatment will make the symptoms manageable but it will never go away.
This will be my seventh year fighting against postpartum depression, so I can confirm that this is a long term battle. But I say this not to make you feel even more depressed, but to encourage and inspire you. Talk to you doctor, fight for your rights, demand better treatment and speak up about postpartum depression to everyone who will listen.
Most importantly, seek treatment. With the right treatment, you can live symptom free for the rest of your life. All it takes is that first step.
With the variety of different online resources available to moms with postpartum depression and/or anxiety, how do you know which one is the right choice for you?
Thanks to the internet, moms suffering from a postpartum mood disorder can find help from the comfort of their own homes. From their cell phone or computer they can quickly and easily get in touch with someone who understands their situation and can offer advice and counseling. It might be a game changer for the mental health community but is online therapy the right choice for moms with postpartum depression or anxiety?
One company, eVideo Counselor, is looking to make sure of it. Their success in helping veterans with PTSD and substance abuse patients find hope again, has led them to reach out to the maternal mental health community. I had an opportunity to check out their services for myself and discovered just how beneficial their services can be for moms with postpartum depression.
Here are some tips to help you figure out if this is the right choice for you.
Finding The Right Therapist
Moms are nothing if not thorough. When we got pregnant, we made sure to find the right doctor to deliver our baby and the right pediatrician to take care of them. And by “right” I mean someone that we trusted, were comfortable with and could talk openly to. So it’s a no-brainer that we look for the same qualities in a therapist.
One of the biggest hesitations that moms have when it comes to online therapy is who their therapist will be. How can we trust this person on the other end of the screen who could be who-knows-where? Will it be awkward? Do they have real credentials? Is this all a scam?
Thankfully, eVideo Counselor has taken away that uncertainty by guaranteeing that their counselors are all well trained and licensed, undergo thorough background checks and are consistently monitored to ensure high-performance.
Most importantly, their video conferencing sessions make sure that you get the personalized face to face contact that a mom with postpartum depression so desperately needs. Your therapist will be able to read your body language and facial expressions in order to understand all the things that you want to say but just don’t know how to. At first, it might feel a little bit awkward. But eventually, video conferencing with your therapist will feel no different than meeting with them in person.
All eVideo Counselor sessions are also HIPAA compliant, which means you can speak freely and openly with your therapist and know that everything you say is private and confidential.
What If It Doesn’t Work?
Therapy does not work for everyone.And sometimes it does work, without you even realizing it. At my very first therapy session nearly 7 years ago, all I did was cry for the entire hour. I felt like I had wasted everyone’s time. Little did I know, having a safe place to let all my emotions go was exactly what I needed. It was part of the healing process and put me on the path to recovery.
One of the best things that eVideo Counselor offers is a system for measuring whether or not online therapy is working for you.
Prior to beginning online therapy with an eVideo Counselor, you’ll be given a short online questionnaire. This is similar to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) that is normally used by doctors and care providers in the first few weeks postpartum, but more detailed. You will also be asked the same questionnaire halfway through your therapy sessions and at the end, to see how your answers have changed.
There are additional and more extensive tests offered as well, but this system of metrics offers something that mothers with a postpartum mood disorder desperately need – validation.
The tests can determine whether you are suffering from clinical postpartum depression or anxiety, or a combination of the two. For mothers who aren’t 100% certain of their diagnosis, or who might still be in denial about what they’re feeling, this is a huge benefit and step in the right direction.
Your therapist will also go over your test results with you in detail. This additional step is unlike anything offered by a doctor’s office. Explaining why and how you answered the questions the way you did will give your therapist a better idea of how to care for you. They will also explain the significance of the questions and provide you with a plan on how to manage your symptoms.
Getting Your Doctor Involved
A legitimate company that wants to help you find healing and success will want to involve all aspects of your healthcare. Mental illness can cause a combination of physical and psychological symptoms. It’s important to have a team of medical professionals working together to provide you with the best care possible.
eVideo Counselor has already thought of that and makes it possible for your therapist to coordinate with your healthcare provider. This additional service means there won’t be any surprises when you go into your doctor’s office, and you won’t have to repeat everything over and over again.
This care co-ordination service is something that can help put an end to stories like Jessica Porten’s (a.k.a. the mom who had the cops called on her when she went to the hospital seeking help for postpartum depression). Having a licensed therapist vouch for your symptoms, plus have the test results to show for it, can make a difference in how you will be treated by the medical system.
In addition to the more common benefits of online therapy, such as convenient scheduling, anonymity and cost, eVideo Counselor offers extra perks that make therapy sessions more well-rounded. Because of this, they have lower no-show rates and higher success rates.
But the truth is, if you really want to know if online therapy is the right choice for you, you need to try it out yourself.
All it takes is a few short steps to get started with an eVideo Counselor right now. Click here to begin.