Some of you might remember a few months back, I posted about my experience with postnatal depression after Olivia was born. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, feel free to go back and have a read.
So now I am only a few months away from giving birth to my second child, this whole topic is on my mind just a bit. And I’m glad it is, because it really wasn’t during my first pregnancy – I thought I was 10 foot tall and bullet-proof. I was happy. I was healthy. I had been CRAVING this pregnancy for so long. There was no chance I would suffer from PND. And yet, I did. And I was unprepared for it – for all of it – the experience, and the lack of understanding or plan of attack for how to deal with it. Not this time, my friends.
This time I am going in with quite the tool-kit, and I wanted to share it here with you. So please – if you are pregnant, if you know anyone who is pregnant or going through PND (or any kind of depression, for that matter), print this post out, and stick it where you (or other person who needs it) can see it every day. Use the tips that resonate with you, and feel free to let me know of any others that you have.
Have a list of people to call for help
And don’t be afraid to use it…at the earliest signs that something might be up. Don’t wait. Suss out some health professionals who specialise in PND, depression and/or who resonate with you, and write out their contact details now. Store said contact sheet somewhere safe (and somewhere you will remember).
I cannot stress enough how important this is. There is no shame in seeking help – from professionals, from friends, from family members. That’s what they are there for. Remember – a problem shared, is a problem halved. And sometimes, after those long days and nights spent with a crying baby who is seemingly just taking everything you have got, it’s nice to be heard by another adult. And it’s nice to have that support, and perhaps some strategies to put in place so things don’t spiral out of control.
Me personally, I have located a counsellor in town who specialises in PND, whom I would be more than happy to enlist the support of. I have also been working with Amy Crawford lately and had one of her CTC sessions a couple of months ago. It helped me work through a bit of a funk I was in, so I’ll be sure to call on her if my mood is heading south-bound.
I have also been chatting to a local acupuncturist who specialises in (and is very passionate about) PND. She’s on my list. Maybe you have someone near you who could be on yours?
**Note: if you have ANY thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please seek medical help right away. You are not weak. You are not a bad person. But you need support right away.
Let go of the “shoulds”
During the first 6 months or so of Olivia’s life, I was so caught up in what I “should” be doing, and what Olivia “should” be doing (when it comes to sleep, mostly – that ruled my life for a while). This obsession with what I “should” be doing tended to make me feel like a failure and definitely would have contributed to my low moods….because I wasn’t doing what I “should” be doing. Nor was Olivia (but she was – you see, all babies are different. Stop googling. Stop reading the baby books. Stop listening to what your friends and family are saying, and just go with what your bub is telling you, and what your natural instincts as a mother are telling you). You can read my post on letting go of the “shoulds” right here.
This is something I ALWAYS suggest to my clients, irrespective of their outlook on life. Yet, in that post-partum phase, it was something I neglected. My hubby was the one who got me back into the practice, and it truly helped me to become more positive and appreciate what I DID have (rather than focusing on the seemingly negative aspects all of the time).
So try this – write down THREE things you are grateful for every day. Don’t over-think it. Just 3 little things. Every day.
You can read more in my gratitude post over here.
Take a shower
Simple as that. Or a bath. Preferably by yourself. It can be very therapeutic – I guess it’s kind of a symbolic “washing away” of the days’ worries. I used to have a thing about having 2 showers per day. I didn’t really need them (in terms of cleanliness), but they definitely helped keep be (somewhat) sane.
Encapsulate your placenta
Yep. Sounds a little freaky-deaky, and might even gross a few of you out, but it is on my list of PND-prevention tools. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of scientific research around the consumption of your placenta reducing the risk of PND (there is more coming out, though not rigorous enough to say anything definite), but there appears to be quite a large volume of anecdotal evidence from other mums out there who have tried it. Given that there also doesn’t appear to be any risk in doing so, I’m going to give it a try!
Do some exercise
Nothing too strenuous. Especially in the early months – you don’t want your vagina to fall out (this actually a thing – it’s called a prolapsed vagina and I have known people who it has happened to because they jumped into exercise too soon). Think about getting out for a daily walk in some fresh air. Maybe do some yoga. Perhaps a short weights session. Hurl yourself at the ocean if you’re lucky enough to live near the beach (how amazing does a good ocean swim feel?! Ahhh I miss living by the beach!!)
It is well known that exercise boosts endorphins and can make us feel good. There is also research suggesting that exercise might be more effective than anti-depressants for those with depression!
Enlist the help of some essential oils
Most of you are probably well aware now that I am loving the addition of essential oils to my holistic healing tool-kit. There are some wonderful oils that can be used to support mothers’ moods in the post-partum period, such as lemon, lavender, frankincense and clary sage.
You do have to be mindful of HOW you use these oils in the first few months of baby’s life, as they can be quite sensitive to them, and you also want to ensure you’re not covering up your own “mummy scent” too much that it could interfere with optimal bonding/attachment.
I’ll be chatting more about using oils during birth and the post-partum period (along with some nutritional and lifestyle tips) with the wonderful Amy Crawford of The Holistic Ingredient in an upcoming webinar (pencilled in for 26th April 2017). If you have any questions you’d like us to address, or if you’re interested in joining us, send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS: If you want to get 25% off these beautiful oils, either email me and/or have a read of THIS POST.
Think about using amino acids and fish oils
This is something that I am getting into a lot more right now, and I will be doing a post on soon. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Certain amino acids are precursors to “neurotransmitters” (AKA brain chemicals). One in particular, 5-HTP (tryptophan to be precise) is a precursor to our happy brain chemical “serotonin”. There is research suggesting that 5-HTP may be more effective, and have less side effects, than anti-depressants.
Do chat to your health professional before heading down this path, please.
Omega 3 fatty acids, AKA fish oils, have also been shown to be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of PND. Try to get as much as you can in whole-food form (sardines, salmon, mackerel), but also consider supplementation if life is looking a little dull.
Thanks to the fabulous Julianne Taylor, a fellow nutritionist in NZ whom I am lucky to know, for reminding me of this tip.
Sleep when you can
I know everyone says this….”sleep when baby sleeps”. It rarely happened for me last time. I was writing a book and continued working on my business, despite being on maternity leave. This time I will take more time to rest, because lack of sleep will absolutely obliterate one’s emotional stability. It’s OK – the washing will get done eventually, and no-one is going to judge you for a few dirty dishes in the sink.
Catch up with friends
Schedule in time each week to catch up with your besties….preferably without bubs. And preferably don’t even talk about bubs. I know that sounds harsh, but you need a bit of “you time”, in all senses of the word. Just go and catch up on gossip. Be sure to give each other some long hugs, to boost your feel good “oxytocin” hormone.
You don’t have to always have your shit together, Not many of us mums do. So give yourself a break. If you need to have a cry, let it out babe. Go for the whole-hearted, ugly-face, sobbing kind of cry, and notice how therapeutic it can be.
PHEW!! That was quite the lengthy post, wasn’t it? I sincerely hope this helps some of you. Remember – you are not alone. And you are DEFINITELY not a bad mother. If you and your child are alive at the end of the day, you have succeeded as a parent. So much love and strength to you!