The first thing to do if you are concerned about potentially having Post Natal Depression (PND) is talk to your partner first and then your GP and/or Health Visitor. Don’t feel like you are being silly. My mantra is always ‘It is better to be safe than sorry’. Your health care professional will discuss treatments with you, this may include medication and/or talking therapies. There are however some things that you can do to help yourself alongside any prescribed treatment, or even if you are just feeling a little frazzled by motherhood, see below for some ideas. I have also included a list of links to various organisations etc. at the bottom of the page that are mentioned throughout the blog.
Having a baby changes not just your body, but your life. You will feel different, your hormones are still settling down and your social life has completely changed. But this does not mean that you have to just sit at home being a mum, you are still a person in your own right. I know what it is like to not want get out of bed, to not even want to be awake and you may snort when I suggest that you do some exercise. I can however, promise you (from personal experience) that you will feel better after some of my below suggestions. I am not suggesting that you will be cured, but you will feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.
We all know the old saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. Talk to your partner or friends and family about how you are feeling. Sometimes, just saying it out loud will relieve some of the tension. Some people may not even be aware that you are struggling, therefore by letting them know, they will be able to offer whatever support they can.
- Acceptance It is ok to not be ok. Acknowledging to yourself and to others that you may be suffering from PND is nothing to be ashamed of and definitely does not mean that you are weak. In fact, accepting that you are suffering with PND means that you have the strength to admit something isn’t going as you had planned.
- Just be good enoughYou do not need to be supermum. As long as your baby is cared for (i.e. fed, nappy changed and not in distress) it is ok to let them cry for a few minutes while you finish what you are doing and it is ok if they have a dirty bib on. Your baby needs you to be the best mum that you can be, not a perfect mum.Too many of us compare ourselves to other mums, but we do not know what is going on behind closed doors. For all you know – the mum with the perfect children down the park, or the perfect family pictures on Facebook – cries when she closes her front door and feels lonely while her partner works away from home.
Just focus on you and your baby, as long as your baby is content then you are being a fabulous mum.
- Support groupJoin a support group with likeminded mums as it always helps to hear that other people are feeling the same way as you are. The obvious choice is your local PANDAS support group, however if there is not one in your area, I have included links to other peer support networks at the bottom of this blog post.
- Baby and toddler groupsIt is important that you don’t feel like the baby is your entire life and that you have no other purpose. Spending all of your time alone with your negative thoughts will only exasperate them. We are social beings and crave social interaction.If you are feeling nervous about not knowing anyone, do a class that is based around an activity like baby sensory or a swimming class, rather than a drop in ‘stay and play’ where you may find it difficult to start a conversation with strangers. Baby classes can be very expensive therefore find your local children’s centre as they will offer free activities and classes for mothers and babies, you will also find that the same mums go to many of the classes, therefore you will be able to build a rapport with them.
- Do not try to be the perfect housewifeCaring for an infant is not a part-time job, therefore it is not realistic to expect yourself to be able to clean the house top to bottom every day and have dinner on the table for your partner by 6pm every night. Make sure that your partner is on the same page.It is ok to ask for help; in fact, I encourage it. Ask your mum (if she lives nearby) to pop around and give the place a hoover, ask your partner to load the dishwasher before he goes to bed and do your food shopping online or one-handed using an app on your phone. Discuss with your partner the possibility of getting a cleaner in twice a month to give the place a proper clean, I know that this can be expensive, but it can also be a temporary solution until you are feeling a bit better.
- ChildcareYou may want to consider putting your child into nursery part-time or finding a local childminder if you can afford it. By doing this, you are taking the pressure off of yourself a few hours of every week. Use this time to rest and recuperate and do not underestimate the value of sleep (see below). Watch a film or paint your nails, anything that you feel you would not be able to do while caring for your baby.This was the hardest decision that myself and my husband had to make. I felt guilty for even thinking about putting my daughter into nursery when she was 6 months old and not spending every minute with her. But, I can honestly say that it is the single best decision that I made in my recovery. I now use this time to not just have a lie in, but to do the things that I enjoy, like writing a blog. I now know that by allowing myself to have this time I am then able to be the best mum that I can.
- Sleep is vitalOne of the biggest exasperators of depression is lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation makes anyone feel rubbish, after all it is used as a form of torture. Unfortunately, as a mother it is not always possible to get 8 hours of sleep a night, therefore it is important to find other ways of catching up on lost sleep.
- Can your partner help with night feeds? I know that is more difficult when you are breastfeeding, if it is possible to express then maybe this will help…
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. Forget the housework, lay down even if you are unable to actually fall asleep. This one is obviously more difficult if you have an older child.
Make the most of people when they come to visit (ok only friends and family, not the gas man). Ask them if they wouldn’t mind looking after your little one while you have a nap, you will only be in the other room so you don’t need to worry about anything going wrong.
- ExerciseI know that this is the last thing that you want to do when you are exhausted and you have a baby screaming the place down. However, I can assure you that it will help. It doesn’t have to be anything major, just power-walking with the buggy for 30mins three times a week. The fresh air will also help calm a cranky baby.If you feel that you want to do more than a little power-walking, there are some options for working out with a baby;
- There are classes dedicated to you working out WITH your baby; mother and baby yoga, classes where you ‘wear’ your baby in a sling whilst working out and classes using the buggy.
- Many gyms now have a crèche, where you can leave your baby whilst on site. Check out your local leisure centre as they are usually family friendly.
N.B. Only start to exercise after giving birth once you have been cleared by your health care professional to do so.
- Do not skip meals
When our blood sugar levels are low our moods are low. I know that it is difficult to eat when you are trying to juggle a baby and the housework, but it is vital that you do not skip meals. Have plenty of healthy convenience foods in the fridge and cupboards (yoghurt, fruit, nuts and bread) and have an afternoon in the kitchen with your partner bulk cooking some of your favourite foods for the freezer when your partner is around. Then instead of having to cook a meal from scratch or ordering a take-away, you can just defrost a bolognaise or a curry.
- RelaxEasy said than done when you have a baby. The more relaxed you are, the less anxious you will be. Try one or some of the following when either your baby is asleep or there is someone there to look after them.
- Have a bath. The hot water physically relaxes your muscles which will ache after lifting and carrying your baby most of the day. Try adding some lavender essential oils as this will assist the release of tension.
- Pour yourself a glass of wine. Even if you are breast feeding, one glass won’t hurt.
- Have a massage
- Practice mindfulness
I hope that at least one of the above ideas helps you. It is hard enough navigating the world of parenthood without feeling the added strain of PND. Look after yourself and I promise it will get better.
Baby and toddler groups
Exercise classes that you can do with your baby