Here are some tips for you to take care of yourself if you have Postnatal Depression.

• It’s important to remember that postnatal depression is not a sign of personal weakness or failure or that you are a bad mother so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. If you are experiencing postnatal depression and would like to talk to someone in Nurture please click here to see how to contact us.

• Talk and be honest with your doctor or health nurse. Remember you are not going to shock them with your feelings nor will they think you are a bad mother. They speak with postpartum women all the time and are the best to evaluate how you are doing and how they can help, if you are honest about where you are at.  It is important to remember that you are not alone in your feelings, postnatal depression is a very common illness.  Your doctor or health nurse will probably order medical tests first to ensure there is nothing physically wrong with you as some medical conditions can cause depression like symptoms.  It is vital you get correctly diagnosed so that you can get the correct treatments.  It is very important that you comply with any medical treatments, remember it can take 4-6 weeks for antidepressants to start working fully.

• It is important to treat depression and anxiety as early as possible and also not try to deal with it alone because these conditions not only cause distress for you but also influence your ability to cope with your baby, and your developing relationship. Partners and young children can also feel stressed when a parent is anxious or depressed.

• A balanced lifestyle for all parents means that all parts of their lives are being attended to, particularly time spent for themselves as individuals.

• Many new parents put on hold their own needs as they deal with the changes and the needs of their baby.  Diet, exercise, sleep, timeout, pleasurable activities, socialisation, relaxation, meditation, spiritual, work, intellectual, routines and emotional needs all need to be built into your lifestyle.

• Although it can be difficult for a woman with PND to make changes to her daily life when she is feeling very depressed or anxious making small changes that bring about a more balanced lifestyle can be important.  Sometimes it is not possible to make even small changes but on a better day you will be able to try something different.   Approaching these things realistically is important.

• Talk with an understanding and sympathetic member of your family or a friend about how you are feeling.  Bottling it up will not make you feel any better and getting as much support as possible is important.  If you feel like crying then have a good cry.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and if it is offered don’t refuse it.

• Get plenty of rest.  Being tired will only make you feel worse.  Take a nap when your baby is napping.  Don’t be afraid of shutting off your phone and putting a do not disturb sign on your door.  If you and baby are tired don’t be afraid to ask visitors to leave.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone to look after baby while you take a nap.  You should try and relax in your bed even if you can’t go asleep.

• Maintain a well balanced diet and drink plenty of healthy fluids. Coping with a new baby may cause you not to eat proper healthy meals, and a bad diet with sugar and too many simple carbohydrates can make mood swings more pronounced.  If you are breastfeeding, a nourishing diet is important for both you and your baby. Healthful foods, eaten in frequent meals, can provide the nutrition you need to cope with postnatal depression and give you the energy you need to handle your new role and recover from your illness. And don’t forget to drink water and other healthy fluids, especially if you’re nursing! Dehydration can cause fatigue and headaches.  Ask family and friends to cook some healthy meals for you that you freeze and reheat.  There are now plenty of places that make healthy tasty takeaway meals like coffee shops, delicatessens and healthy restaurants so this is another way of eating well if you have limited support from family and friends.  Now is the time to be building up your strength and recovering from the birth, don’t be worrying about your weight.  If your weight is upsetting you then limit or cut out very fatty or sweet foods.  Good quality Omega3 has been proven to help with depression so if you don’t eat fish regularly take supplements.

• Ask for help.  Family and friends are often happy to help if you just ask.   Help with meals, house cleaning, laundry, time for you to take a bath or have a shower, other children, any help that allows you to focus on the joy of having a new baby and not just the pressure of juggling it all.  Have a list posted with things people can do. Anyone who comes over to see the baby can also do something off the list.  Household duties are not your top priority now — in fact, nothing aside from getting better is.  Simplify, prioritize, and delegate routine tasks, errands, and obligations.  If you can afford it pay someone to do some house cleaning until you recover.

• Grant yourself permission to take the time you need to become a mother.  There is no such thing as the perfect mother so don’t expect perfection from yourself. Give yourself time to heal from the birth and time to adjust to your new “job”.

• If something physical is really bothering you, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your GP may be able to suggest treatment or refer you to a specialist or an obstetric physiotherapist, who can help with back and bladder problems and other birth effects.

• Get outside to enjoy fresh air and life outside the confines of nappies, feedings and spit up. Sometimes just a different view for a few moments can make a huge difference. With your doctors approval and if you are physically able take a walk outside every day or go for a swim.  Activity can relax you; exercise has been proven to help with depression, it can help your body recover after childbirth and make you feel better and more energetic.  When you are physically ready then look to take up more energetic exercise or sports, it is important however to choose an activity that you enjoy, if you choose an activity that you don’t enjoy it becomes a burden or chore to do it and more than likely you will not keep it up.

• Parenting a new baby is an enormous responsibility, but things will fall into place for you and everything will seem easier given time. Organise a positive daily treat for yourself, however small. Simple joys like reading a magazine or a book, a bubble bath, going out to lunch or a coffee with a friend or other ways in which you nourish your spirit can help you feel happier.  It is important to find time to have fun. Accept offers to baby-sit and get out for a meal, the cinema or simply to visit friends.  Alcohol is a depressant so you should avoid it, it will only make you feel worse especially when the intoxication effects have worn off.  Be careful about eating fatty or junk foods, you may end up putting on extra weight which in turn can upset you more.

• Last but not least tell Daddy what he can do to help. It’s very important that your partner be there for you right now. He may want to help you, but he may be unsure of how.  Ask him to do some of your normal household chores. Show him how to look after baby, it is important for dad to know how to take care of baby too as well as being a great way for dad and baby to bond.

If you are experiencing postnatal depression talk to your GP and/or please click here to see how to contact us.

Useful Reading:

Book of Post Natal Depression
By Heather Welford, National Childbirth Trust

Coping with Post Natal Depression
By Mary Pigot, Columba Press

The Year After Childbirth
By S Kitzinger, Harper Collins, Toronto, 1993

Coping with Post Natal Depression
By Fiona Marshall, Sheldon Press 1993