One in seven new mums develop postnatal depression – a condition that can easily be missed or ignored. There are medications that can help but there are many things that you can do to help yourself manage your condition and feel better able to cope day to day
Your GP has diagnosed you with postnatal depression (PND) and may have recommended talking therapies or medication.
But there are other things you can do to help yourself. You need to look after yourself, be compassionate to yourself and think if a friend was feeling like this what would you advise.
Now, turn into your own best friend and take these steps.
1. Tell friends and family
Don’t try and deal with the diagnosis on your own. You need the support and understanding of those around you. Postnatal depression (PND) is common and with the right help, you will get better.
It can also make negative feelings less frightening to talk them through with someone.
2. Get plenty of rest
It can be really hard to get enough sleep when you’re dealing with a newborn, especially if you are finding it hard to sleep when your baby does eventually drift off.
‘If your baby is awake all night and you’re feeling very sleep deprived we would really recommend sleeping when the baby sleeps,’ says Dr Liz McDonald from the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Get your partner to help with some night feeds to give you a longer rest.
3. Eat well
Taking care of yourself means eating regularly – which is particularly important if you're breastfeeding – to keep your energy levels up. This also means eating nutritious healthy food, with lots of fruit and vegetables.
Chocolate may make you feel temporarily better but you will feel worse in the long run. Make healthy swaps to boost your mood.
4. Get moving!
No one is suggesting you run a marathon, but a regular walk or swim has been shown to boost mood and improve motivation. Your GP may recommend an exercise referral scheme so this doesn’t need to mean an expensive gym membership.
There are probably mother and baby exercise classes in your area – giving your social life a boost, too.
5. Relax and beat PND
We all have different ideas about what it means to relax but make time to do something you enjoy whether it’s listening to music, reading a magazine or book, or doing some baking. Whatever helps you feel zen – do it!
6. Get out and socialise
Life with a new baby can be a dramatic shift from your previous world, especially in terms of social life. Try to find time to meet friends and family but also spend quality time with your partner with a date night to help you reconnect.
7. Meet new mums
Getting out and making connections with other mums is important for women with postnatal depression (PND), says Dr McDonald. ‘It’s common to feel very isolated, so go to a children’s centre to join in activities such as baby massage and meet other mums in the process.’
After all, nobody can help you put what you feel into perspective like someone whose at the same place in their life.
8. Accept help
Don’t give yourself a hard time over the way you are feeling or your perceived inability to cope. It is important to seek and agree to help from those around you. It may be getting some childcare or having a friend do a bit of shopping or housework.
9. Drop the blame
Postnatal depression is a medical condition and it is important not to blame yourself or those around you for how you are feeling. Negative thoughts are part of the illness but you will feel better in time.
10. Avoid drink and drugs
You may be looking for an escape but alcohol and drugs, while having the potential make you feel better initially, can make depression worse. If you think you’ve got a problem with drink or drugs, contact Talk to Frank for help.
For further advice on postnatal depression, take a look at our guide here.