Surviving and Thriving Through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Charles Dickens famous opening line for A Tale of Two Cities could just as well have been written about the postpartum experience. Many of us have absorbed cultural expectations that it should be a blissful time and sometimes it is. But even under the most ideal circumstances, it is an intense time, challenging a new mother's ability to adjust, adapt and cope.
About 70% of women who give birth go through a brief, temporary period of intense emotions and heightened sensitivity. This is often referred to as "baby blues" and may be characterized by periods of crying, sadness or irritability. This is very normal and usually occurs in the first weeks after birth and resolves on its own.
However, a significant number of women find themselves experiencing longer-lasting feelings of depression or anxiety that may be more difficult to resolve. Many factors can contribute to a more difficult postpartum experience, including:
- A difficult birth experience
- Relationship conflict
- A colicy or high needs baby
- A previous history of depression
- Unrealistic expectations
- Isolation or lack of support
- Sensitivity to hormonal changes
- Breast-Feeding problems
- Other stresses or losses
- Extreme sleep deprivation
If you find yourself struggling, don't let pride or embarrassment keep you from asking for help. Talk to your healthcare provider. Individual therapy, group support, and/or medication can be very helpful.
In my work with postpartum women, we often start with a very practical focus on how we can make things better and easier right away. It helps simply to have a safe place to express the whole range of one's feelings, whether they seem acceptable or not. Stress reduction tools, including hypnosis, meditation and/or behavior changes can be personalized for each individual. Some women benefit from a cognitive approach of learning to witness and understand helpful and unhelpful thinking patterns. The important thing is to know that with support, patience and persistence, you can start to feel better and become more present and connected to yourself and your baby and regain your ability to find enjoyment and meaning in your life.