Postpartum Depression Doesn’t Just Affect Mothers Who Give Birth
Biological mothers aren’t the only mothers who are affected by PPD. Adoptive mothers have the same stressors and life challenges as biological mothers, and they can experience the same symptoms of PPD that biological mothers do.
Adoptive mothers with a history of infertility may have an increased risked for PPD, this according to researchers out of the University of Iowa. The researchers noted, “the effects of infertility are thought to be long-lasting and may continue during the post-adoptive period.”
There is a belief only mothers can get PPD and men cannot experience similar depression because they have not given birth or been pregnant. However, research shows men’s hormones can shift when their partner is pregnant and also after the birth of their child for reasons not understood.
Can a Man Get Postpartum Depression?
Paternal postnatal depression (PPND) is common in new fathers. And according to researchers from Cornell University, PPND affects up to 25 percent of new fathers.
Stress, little sleep, financial problems, relationship and health issues and history of depression are all risk factors for the development of PPND in new fathers.
Postpartum Care for New Moms
Here are some things you can do during pregnancy and after your child is born to reduce your risk for PPD:
Prioritize Your Needs
A well-balanced diet plays a significant role in your emotional well-being. There has also been evidence showing a connection between mood and dehydration, and anyone who is pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding has an increased risk of dehydration.
Your baby needs you to be well so taking care of your needs is important. Take breaks and baths, spend time with adults, and do anything that helps your brain and body to feel grounded.
Sleep might be in short quantity with a newborn at home, but you should still try to get as much as you can. Studies have shown the quality of sleep in new mothers is the biggest predictor of PPD.
As a general rule, try to sleep anytime you can get a block of sleep. For example, most healthy babies sleep for about four to five hours chucks of time, and if you can get a nap in as well, go for it.
New mothers who get some mild to moderate exercise throughout their day are less likely to develop PPD.
Obviously, you cannot make time to go to the gym or take a yoga class, but something as simple as taking a walk around the block with your baby in a stroller or a carrier does wonders for increasing feel-good endorphins and reducing stress hormones.
New mothers need all the support that they can get, and inadequate social support is a leading risk factor for PPD. Connect with family, friends, your church, and other pregnant mamas before the birth of your child, so you have these connections available when you need support, help or a listening ear.
Know Your Risk
Women who understand what PPD is and who know their risk factors are less likely to find themselves dealing with unexpected episodes of PPD. Knowing what your risk factors are, your vulnerabilities and triggers, and what you need to do to feel better will make a difference in your PPD recovery.
And because fathers have similar risk factors, it is important they are aware of those too, so they are not surprised when they arise and affect emotional health.
Lean on Your Partner
Research has shown couples who discuss emotional struggles and fears and the responsibilities of their children before the birth of their baby and after are more equipped to deal with the challenges that come their way. Lean on your partner and keep the lines of communication open.
Being a new mother is stressful, and there is nothing you can do to change that. What you can do is find ways to manage stressful emotions.
Moms who practice stress reduction strategies – anything from relaxation to visualization to deep breathing and yoga – are less likely to become depressed than mothers who do not.
How New Dads Can Help
New fathers can help by stepping up and helping with the baby’s care, coordinating outside help from family and friends, giving emotional support to their partner, and making sure the new mother is eating and sleeping. While new fathers can be a great support to their partner, it is important for them to take care of their own needs as well.
If you suspect your partner might have PPD, don’t wait to get help. There are warning signs and symptoms of PPD, but the number one sign is not acting like themselves.
If you feel that something is wrong and has been going on longer than two weeks, ask your partner about what they are feeling and encourage them to get help.
With treatment, most mothers recover from PPD within six months to a year. Not getting treatment or stopping treatment may cause a relapse or turn into a chronic depression.
The best thing you can do for your family and yourself is to get help. Talk to someone and get the help that you need and deserve.