What can I do to help myself?
Postnatal depression usually gets better in time, although it may take up to a year. Where you feel you can, ask for and accept help from those around you. Love, practical and emotional support from family, friends and community can be vital in helping you to cope.
Meet other parents
Talking to other new mothers and fathers, and finding that other new parents share the anxieties and frustrations you are experiencing, can be very reassuring. It can also give you a chance to share skills and experiences, to realise you are not alone, and above all to get some emotional and practical support. It can help to affirm you in your new role.
You can develop your own network of support; for example, by keeping in touch with people you may have met at your antenatal classes, and going to parent-and-baby groups locally. There are many organisations that can put local mothers in touch with each other, having a baby can be a wonderful way to make new friends.
“I suffered badly from postnatal depression, I felt very lonely and frightened. My doctor suggested a baby massage class to help me bond with my baby and also meet other mums suffering. It really helped to meet and talk through our experiences. it made me realise I was not alone.”
Get help to shop and cook
Difficulty in concentrating and lack of appetite are common symptoms depression. The first can make it difficult for you to prepare food; the second can make it difficult to eat. Lack of food can make your condition worse. You may also be anaemic, which will make you feel tired and make it harder to relate to your baby. You may also be lacking vitamin B, calcium and magnesium.
Accept offers of help from relatives and friends to help you prepare or buy food. People often like to do something practical to help you and this is one great way.
Get help with feeding your baby
If your baby takes a bottle, you could ask your partner or other family member or a domestic helper to take over the night feeds, if only for a night or two. If you are breastfeeding only, you can have the baby’s cot next to your bed, so that you can feed with the minimum of disruption. In time, you and the baby are likely to fall into a more natural rhythm of sleeping and waking, and this will make the night feeds much less stressful and tiring.
Do less housework and rest when possible
It can help if you don’t try to do too much round the house; you and the baby are much more important. If you are having many broken nights, you can try to sleep when the baby does, and, if at all possible, have people to help you out with daily responsibilities, or hire a domestic helper to help you out.
“The postnatal depression seemed to go on forever, but I did sleep more eventually, and my ‘depression’ magically lifted. I think a lot of new mums just need more help – and definitely more sleep – than they get!”
It might seem impossible to find the time, but if you can, physical activity can work as an antidepressant, especially if it’s enjoyable. Do anything you find fun, e.g. walking fast with the pram, dancing to the radio at home. Or try to arrange for a time for yourself to go to a class or for a hike, while your partner or friend looks after the baby.
Learn to relax
- Learning simple breathing or relaxation techniques, such as those you learn in antenatal classes can be helpful
- Giving yourself a relaxing bath with candles and scented foam while the baby is asleep or is being entertained by someone else, can help recharge your batteries
- You can try to find something to do, just for the fun of it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s five minutes with your feet up and cup of tea, reading a book or listening to music, as long as it gives you pleasure