Becoming a first-time mother is a bittersweet experience. It is both joyful and stressful to welcome a newborn and the changes that come with it. For some mothers, what is supposed to be one of the most important and miraculous experiences in life, turns into a dark chapter and they slip into postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a medical condition where a woman who just gave birth suffers from some form of depression. It is not to be confused with “baby blues”, which manifests during the first week following birth and are necessarily part of the adjustment it takes to having a baby. Irritability and anxiety are a few of the common symptoms of baby blues and are only temporary and usually resolve with supportive treatment.
However, studies have shown that 10-15% of women experience postpartum depression within the first year of birth giving and they often need medical attention. While the primary cause of postpartum depression has not yet been discovered, doctors say it might be because of a drop in hormones. Women with hormonal imbalances are more susceptible to developing postpartum depression. You might want to check this list of 9 warning signs you should look out for to see if you may be suffering from hormonal imbalances.
As with any other medical condition, prevention is better than cure. If you’re currently pregnant, or are planning to sometime soon, here are 8 healthy habits you can adopt to help reduce your risk of developing postpartum depression:
- Increase intake of B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamins B6, B12 and Folic acid aid the body in metabolizing homocysteine, an amino acid that has been identified to cause inflammation and cell damage – increasing your risk for postpartum depression. Rich sources of Vitamin B6 are whole grains, meat, eggs, veggies, fruits, dairy, and legumes. Vegetarian moms should consider taking B12 supplements as this vitamin can only be found in animal products. Increase your intake of green leafy vegetables too to meet your folic acid needs.
- Switch to a healthy, balanced diet
Like in many things, balance is key. Homocysteine levels hike up in people who eat a lot of animal protein and no fruits and veggies. Remember that a colorful plate is a healthy plate and we’re not talking about candies here.
During pregnancy and postpartum, exercise should remain to be a priority. Working out increases your blood’s serotonin levels, helping decrease anxiety and making you feel better emotionally. Keep in mind that it’s more important to be regularly moving and feeling active rather than pushing hard and burning calories.
- Get enough rest and sleep
I know it sounds impossible to do this when you have a crying baby at midnight, but getting enough sleep makes a world of a difference in preventing postpartum depression. Accept all the help you can get so you can avoid feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
- Drink plenty of water
Dehydration often triggers anxiety or lack of energy. If you’re breastfeeding, be sure to hydrate enough as you are of greater risk for dehydration.
- Reduce stress
Learn how to manage your stress responses by adapting stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, and breathing exercises. If you don’t know where to start, you can check out our 4 tips to help you destress in your postpartum ‘chaotic’ world.
- Speak up
Having mood swings during or after pregnancy is not something to be ashamed of. It’s perfectly normal to be sad, anxious or exhausted. Talk to your husband, friends, and family about how you feel and seek help.
- Don’t feel guilty.
Guilt is the common uniting factor among women who suffer postpartum depression because they feel opposite to what normal mothers usually feel after giving birth – happy and fulfilled. Here’s something you should know – self-care is not selfish. And if taking care of yourself helps you become the healthy, happy mom that your newborn needs – then by all means love yourself. If you already have postpartum depression, talk about it with people you trust and be open to help.
Postpartum emotional distress is real, but not incurable. If you or anyone you know is suffering from this medical condition, don’t be afraid to seek help from your doctor, family, and friends. If you’re pregnant and have any of the risk factors, proactively apply these 8 healthy habits to lower your risk of developing postpartum depression.
Read the original article by Chopra here.