We hear a lot about postpartum depression these days. What it is, what it isn’t. Not everyone agrees on the definitions, even healthcare providers demonstrate variable degrees of knowledge in this specialized field.
If you are pregnant or if you recently have had a baby, and are not feeling well, try not to focus on the specific terms or contradictory opinions of what you may or may not be experiencing. What is most important now is that you address how you feel and get the help you need.
Let’s break it down so you know what to do.
1. Trust Your Instincts. If you do not like the way you are feeling and you have been feeling this way for a period of two weeks or more – you must let someone know. If the statement, “I just don’t feel like myself” rings true for you, it is a sign that you need to talk to someone about the way you are feeling.
2. Be Your Own Best Advocate. Do not wait for someone to ask how you are doing. Do not wait for it to go away on its own. Do not hope that a good night’s sleep to make everything better.
3. Stop Diagnosing Yourself. Your specific symptoms don’t matter as much as you think they do. Really. No matter what you are feeling, no matter what you are thinking, no matter how scared you are or how much you would rather not deal with this, your symptoms are your body’s way of letting you know you need something. What that something is will depend on your level of distress and how much the symptoms are interfering with your ability to get through the day.
4. Tell your Partner. Tell them even if you think they won’t understand. Even if you think they won’t be supportive. Or, if you are concerned it might worry them, or disappoint them. Even if you are ashamed or embarrassed. If you do not get the response you seek, try another tactic. When talking about this, try to remove other distractions and find a time when the two of you can focus on what is being said.
5. Tell your Doctor. Your doctor is the one in the best position to provide or refer to appropriate interventions if your symptoms require treatment.
If your doctor does not respond the way you want him or her to, let this be known in no uncertain terms. If your doctor says you are fine, tell them they are mistaken.
If your doctor offers empty reassurance, tell them precisely what you need. Tell them you feel dismissed and you need more information so you can begin to feel better.
If your doctor hands you pills, ask for a referral to an excellent therapist.
If your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, reflect this back to them and restate your message with new conviction.
You have a right to let your doctor know that you do not feel sufficiently listened to or cared for. If you have a good relationship with your doctor, speak clearly on your own behalf and help your doctor understand what is happening. If your doctor does not understand that postpartum emotional disorders are the most common complication of childbirth, you have to decide whether you want to educate your doctor or find a new one.
6. Do Not Stop. Postpartum emotional disorders are painfully difficult to reconcile when you have a new baby. The guilt is monumental. The anxiety is debilitating. The thoughts can incapacitate you. Remember, the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety can feel like who you are. But they are not. They are symptoms. And they respond well to treatment. Continue to move forward until you feel you have been adequately heard. Do not retreat until you believe you are in the right place to get the help you need. If you are not sure, check it out with someone you trust. Do not let your fear hold you back.
7. Express Yourself. If you are in treatment and do not think your symptoms are improving, speak up. Let your provider know, challenge your treatment plan, educate yourself on the options available to you, be proactive. If you have questions, ask. If you do not get your questions answered, ask someone else. Fight for yourself and your right to heal with the best information and resources available. Do not settle for less. Recovery is within reach.
- Follow your treatment plan.
- Journal your scary thoughts so you can disempower them.
- Talk about your postpartum depression.
- Be gentle with yourself.
- Take your medication if prescribed.
- Avoid alcohol during treatment.
- Avoid caffeine during treatment.
- Avoid people who make you feel bad.
- Avoid isolating yourself.
- Keep your expectations realistic.
- Accept your current state.
- Take a walk outside.
- Breathe deeply.
- Sing, laugh, hug, touch, draw, play, listen to music.
- Reach out.
- Make eye contact.
- Eat well.
- Rest whenever possible.
- Believe in your ability to heal.