Does Self-Help Work?

Self Help

Women and families who struggle with anxiety and depression after the birth of the baby can feel out of control and helpless. We know that feeling vulnerable can make it difficult to ask for help. But we also know that reaching out for support can empower a family by providing information, understanding and tools for intervention.

Psychotherapy for postpartum depression is a well established treatment, but for a number of women, it can be hard to attend weekly sessions. Additionally, some women hesitate to take medications while nursing or at all because of the side effects or because they would rather not be on medication for many personal reasons. When considering other treatments, families should remember that the evidence continues to support he efficacy of psychotherapy and/or antidepressant drug therapy for the treatment of postpartum depression. The use of alternative treatments however is becoming increasingly popular due to the fact that they are readily accessible and generally well-tolerated. Again, we caution families not to rely on alternative therapies as the sole course of treatment for anything other than a mild depression. Alternative approaches are best used as adjuncts to methods such as therapy and/or medications in which effectiveness has been well documented.

In order for any kind of self-care or self-compassion work to help, check in with yourself and remind yourself that you are worthy of this attention and you deserve to take care of yourself.

Some options include:

Preliminary evidence shows Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may offer health benefits to pregnant and nursing mothers.

Light therapy, often used for seasonal affective disorder, is another intervention that may be preferred by women who are interested in non-medical treatments.

Massage therapyacupuncture, and relaxation techniques can be useful ways to improve mood.

Exercise has been shown to reduce mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

Hypnotherapy, a longtime useful tool for childbirth preparation, can be an effective intervention for an agitated postpartum depression.

Support groups can decrease the isolation and stigma that depressed mothers often feel and can provide an important outlet for self-expression and unconditional support.

Perhaps most important, practice self-compassion skills. Find ways to allow your suffering to be, while you find ways to ease the discomfort. Pushing back can increase distress. Acceptance is hard, but it will help you lean into the healing process.

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