Postpartum depression has a measurable impact on 20% of new mothers, so expectant moms are justified in fearing the potential for it throughout their pregnancy. In addition to depression, baby blues affect roughly 80% of new mothers.
Not only do new mothers struggle with postpartum challenges, but studies show that up to 10% of their partners experience difficulties as well. New parents may take various steps to combat the impact and severity of these events following a birth.
Both postpartum depression (PPD) and baby blues are the result of the dysregulation of hormones that occurs following childbirth. Although a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels are highest when she is pregnant, peaking at 32 weeks, which is 6 times higher than her pre-pregnancy levels, these hormone levels plummet after the baby is born.
The sudden change and lack of hormones can have an extreme impact on some women. While hormones are a driving factor in PPD and baby blues, other risk factors include genetics, sleep, increased stress due to life changes, nutrition, a person’s support system, breastfeeding, bonding with baby, and other outside influences. Studies have found that younger mothers are at a greater risk for PPD.
Baby blues is most common postpartum, and typically start within a few days after birth. It can last for several weeks.
In contrast, PPD usually begins within a few weeks postpartum, or any time in the first year after giving birth. Postpartum depression usually requires treatment to improve and does not typically resolve itself.
Some of the symptoms of both include anxiousness, sadness, panic, impatience, fear of being alone, crying for no reason, a sense of hopelessness, little or no energy, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and scary thoughts. If you are struggling with any of these symptoms, reach out to healthcare professionals sooner rather than later to obtain the appropriate support.
How to combat the effects?
In addition to getting medical support and health assistance from your doctor, there are additional actions you can take to overcome the negative effects of PPD and the baby blues.
A natural way to help counteract the reduction in hormones that happens after birth is to breastfeed your child. This is especially helpful for women with the baby blues because breastfeeding releases oxytocin.
Oxytocin helps to reduce stress, blood pressure, and cortisol levels within the body. In addition, oxytocin promotes healing, trust, and attachment for both mother and infant. It is known as the love hormone, and can be released every time you cuddle, bond with, and breastfeed your child.
To better prepare you for success, a lactation consultation with an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) can provide you with tools to deal with the challenges of breastfeeding and postpartum. An IBCLC further provides you support as you navigate postpartum recovery and adapt to your role as a new parent, thus ensuring optimal lactation that promotes a positive parenting experience. Request a lactation consultation today and empower yourself with the knowledge and support you need.
One of the most important things parents can do to help combat the impact of baby blues or PPD is to have proper support from their social network. This can come in the form of assisting with household work, meal preparation, and giving the new parents a chance to catch up on sleep. Also, when loved ones provide an empathetic ear, and learn to recognize the warning signs of PPD, some risks can be mitigated.
A new mother has enough stress and change in her life, and the added hormonal changes that may result in PPD and the baby blues can be scary. By utilizing the resources at your disposal, including an IBCLC, healthcare providers, a good support network, and the body’s natural resources – including adequate sleep and nutrition – parents can be better equipped to deal with the negative impact of these postpartum changes.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.