One of the hardest things for any expectant mother is that when the baby arrives, there is a chance that instead of feeling joy and happiness, they can feel sad, down, and even like they’re not connecting with their baby. When you’re pregnant, that is one of the last things that you want to be thinking about. Enjoying those precious moments with your newborn is what it is all about, right? Well, as much as it can be for some, it isn’t that way for a lot of people. In fact, that newborn stage can be a little stressful as life has completely changed as you know it.

Post-natal or postpartum depression as it can be known is a very real thing. Like the name suggests, it is associated with a new mother experiencing some form of depression after the baby is born. It is important to not to mistake it for the ‘baby blues’ which happens to pretty much everyone (around 80% of new mothers), a few days after birth or up to a couple of weeks after. Baby blues is where you may feel emotional for no apparent reason; team hormones all over the place with sleep deprivation and you’ll begin to see why. The symptoms for baby blues can come and go and your mood can change quickly. But the good news is, that it doesn’t last for long. If it feels like your is lasting, then it could be postpartum depression.

PND (postnatal depression) occurs in around a fifth of new mothers. So although it isn’t the majority of people, it still means there is a chance that it could happen to you. It can also occur at any point up to the baby’s first birthday, so it doesn’t have to all come at once in those newborn days. Which is why it is so important to pay attention to how you feel and get help if you feel like you need to. Timeout, talking to a friend, or seeing your doctor can all help. Some women will need to take medication; others will not. So just pay attention to how you feel all through those first years being a mom.

As it doesn’t sound like something that you would choose to have, you might just be wondering to yourself, how can you make sure that it doesn’t happen to you? Studies have shown that there is no one factor that can determine if you will get depression after pregnancy or not. There are several things that can have an impact, from a history of depression and family history to worries about working, unhealthy diet, PMS, to an unsupportive partner.

So while there is no one thing that has an impact and can make it likely to happen, there are some steps to take to try to reduce your chances of getting PND. Getting into some good habits in pregnancy and in the early days with a newborn can help, even if it feels like the last thing on your mind. But at the end of the day, what will happen will happen. You just need to make sure that you are able to get the support that you need.

Increase Number of B-Complex Vitamins

Folic acid and vitamins B12 and B6 are good to increase during pregnancy. Not only do they have benefits for the baby (especially folic acid), but they can help you. What they can do is to reduce the level of homocysteine in your blood, a hormone that has been shown to be a trigger for postpartum depression. You can find Vitamin B12 in animal-based products. So if you are vegetarian or vegan, then taking a supplement can be a good idea (just check with your doctor first). But for an increase in Vitamin B6, foods like eggs, whole grain bread and pasta, fruits, veggies, and dairy are the best to eat. Folic acid is in leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and cabbage.

Reduce Guilty Feelings

When you are pregnant it can feel like such a wonderful time as you pick out strollers and nursery furniture, and get ready for the baby’s arrival. And then if you end up feeling like it wasn’t what you were expecting, then it can make you feel guilty. You may even find people telling you that you just need to love these early days and how wonderful the bond with your baby is. But if you are not feeling it, then you can instantly feel guilty, making it worse. And if you’re feeling guilty, are you likely to get help? The chances are much lower. So don’t feel bad if things don’t go as expected. Speak up and get help; talk to people and it will make a difference. One in five women reportedly get PND, so you’re not alone at all.

Eat Balanced

It has been discussed above about some of the vitamins and minerals that could help you to reduce your risk of PND, because of the hormone homocysteine. When levels of this are high, it has been shown to make depression more prevalent. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal-based products, but having said that, you are likely to have more homocysteine in your blood if you eat a lot of animal products. So that is where balance really comes in. Animal products are fine as long as you are having plenty of fruit and veggies too. These can help the balance, along with whole grains and legumes.

 

Exercise

Having a healthy pregnancy can be one way to help you during labor and in that postpartum new world. Exercise can help to reduce levels of anxiety, as well as help you to just feel better overall. You can feel stronger and healthier too and mean less weight gain in your pregnancy (though some is inevitable). Just look for something that will help you to feel good, without pushing yourself to the limit too much. Think of wellbeing rather than calorie burning, and don’t start a new exercise program during pregnancy without speaking to your doctor.

Getting Sleep and Rest

During pregnancy, if you are pregnant with your first baby, then you have plenty of time to rest and relax; make sure that you take advantage of it! Pregnancy can make sleep uncomfortable, but it is important to get as much rest as you can. Even when the baby has arrived, it can feel like a bit of an oxymoron to get as much sleep as you can. But the old adage of sleeping when the baby sleeps is so true. You and the baby are the top concerns, so take the chance to sleep when the baby does. If you try to do too much or don’t have support around you, then that is when it can be tricky and lead you to feel anxious or depressed. You want to avoid getting to a point where you feel anxious or overwhelmed.

Hydrate

When you’re pregnant, there seems to always be a bit of a feeling of needing to pee. So although it may be uncomfortable, drinking water all of the time is what you need to do (even though you may need to pee even more than before)! Staying hydrated has a lot to do with how energetic you feel, as poor hydration does lead to you feeling sluggish and that can make you feel reluctant to do anything. If you don’t have the energy to leave the house, then it can lead to you to feel anxious or depressed.
Once the baby is here, it is just as important to keep hydrated. If you plan to nurse your baby too, then you are more likely to get dehydrated. So make sure that you are drinking even more water than normal if that is the case.

Reduce Stress

Having a baby and becoming a parent is a pretty life-changing thing. So there will be some elements of stress that you will have in your life. But cutting out the unnecessary stuff will help a lot. You can also look for ways to deal with the stress that you have, as not all of it can just be cut out of your life. Meditation or practicing mindfulness techniques can be a good way to reduce your stress levels, and even help you to deal with them. These can all be done in pregnancy and once the baby is here too, so it is a good habit to get into. When you have a way to cope with the stress in your life, which can be amplified when a new baby comes along, then you will feel less anxious, less worried, and overall less stressed.

If you are reading this and have already had your baby, and are feeling overwhelmed, unsupported, or finding it hard to bond with your baby, then banish the guilt. Then you can speak out for help and get the help and support that you and your baby need. Self-care is not selfish.

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It's Brittani & Adenike (a.k.a. Nikki), we hope you are enjoying our blog. We are just two sisters sharing our experiences in order to encourage other women who have experienced depression. We'd love to stay in touch. Join our email list for our latest advice and exclusive resources. 

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