1 in 5 women will experience some sort of Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) while pregnant or in the postpartum period.
I am 1 in 5.
And it happened to me after both of my births.
If you know my story at all, you know that I experienced Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) after the birth of my first son, Postpartum Depression (PPD), and some PTSD after the birth of my second son.
I had always been an anxious child and even an adult, although it presented itself in different ways as I grew. And when I became a mom, the anxiety was crippling. I was constantly worried about my baby’s wellbeing, obsessed with tracking every detail of his days and nights, and was so uncomfortable feeling when someone else wanted to hold him. I even had some intrusive thoughts in the form of dreams…more like nightmares, actually.
Then, 16 months later, I had my second son. Our delivery and initial hospital stay was a dream.
We were discharged a few days after a routine c-section (he was breech) only to return in an ambulance a few hours later when he started turning blue around his mouth. You can read more about our experience here.
You can imagine why, as hard as I tried to prepare my mind and body again for newborn life 2.0, I experienced PPD and PTSD this time around.
We had a high-needs health baby, the world had just shut down (March 2020, IYKYK), and all of the follow-up appointments we had scheduled in the coming weeks to make sure our little guy was going to be okay were getting canceled by the minute. Add in recovering from a c-section, an unexpected NICU stay - plus all the bills that came along with that, and caring for a toddler and newborn without the support we had planned on those first few weeks…yeah…PPD happened.
It was a lot all at once. I was overwhelmed. I was struggling BIG TIME.
I called my OBGYN’s office in the middle of one of my breakdowns. I remember talking to a nurse, and I somehow blubbered, “My baby had a stroke and I think something’s wrong with me.” She immediately had my doctor call me back to chat. She did the PPD screening that they normally do at your 6-week postpartum appointment, and yes, that confirmed things.
I started on a low dose of meds later that day.
She also recommended therapy and gave me a few resources.
So, obviously, those are a few things on my list. Let’s get into it - 5 Things That Helped Me Overcome Postpartum Anxiety and Depression:
Identify Your Support System
This system should include multiple people. People who know you and people who care about you. And people who you maybe don’t know yet, but have been through something similar. And a therapist.
Here’s my list of support:
My in-laws who helped a ton with childcare or bringing us food
A good friend
Someone who’s been through something similar - it’s nice to know you’re not alone
Do Something for YOU Daily
As a mom, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that you have to do it all. But you don’t. And you certainly should sacrifice yourself - don’t be a martyr - just because you feel like you have to.
It can be as easy as taking a 10-minute walk every day. Or popping in your Air Pods and doing a 5-minute meditation. Take a minute to do some deep breathing. Go read a book.
“But what if my baby is crying?”
If you’re alone, and there’s no one else to relieve you for a bit, here’s what you can do if you feel like you just need a minute: If you know that you’ve tended to your baby, all their needs are met, and you are about to lose it, it’s okay to set your baby in a safe space and take a few minutes to yourself until you feel better.
Set them in their crib - you know they’re safe there - and take a few minutes to calm down.
A few things I did to help me on a daily basis - walking around our neighborhood and meditating during my bedtime routine every night.
Occasionally I would take a bath or a really long, hot shower.
And, unsurprisingly, SLEEP.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Sleep deprivation, especially in those first few weeks when your hormones are all out of whack, can play a rather large role in your mental wellbeing. And as the sleep debt builds, you may experience more heightened symptoms of depression or anxiety.
But how do you prioritize sleep when you have someone to care for around the clock?
Here are a few suggestions:
Sleep when the baby sleeps (I know, I know…and do laundry when the baby does laundry…as long as your clothes are clean, right??).
Pump and take “shifts” with your partner - you do a final feeding in the evening…pump about an hour later, and go to sleep. Have your partner give a bottle the next time the baby wakes so you can get a solid 3-5 hours of sleep at the beginning of the night.
Offload other tasks for a while (meal service, grocery shopping, house cleaning, etc.) so you don’t have to do them, giving yourself more time to rest.
Focus on your baby’s sleep foundations early on so you set them up for success. This will, in turn, set you up for sleep success, too! Grab our Lake County Sleep Newborn Sleep Guide to start you off on the right foot.
Sleep is a pillar of our health as human beings. We need it to function safely.
Find a Therapist - and See Them Regularly
My therapist gave me some tools that I could use to help me in the moments when my anxiety was rearing its ugly head.
It was also nice to just have someone I could talk to on a regular basis without judgment for the intrusive thoughts I wqas having.
What if you don’t vibe with your therapist?? Try another one. I found my therapist through the PSI website. I should note too - no shame! - I called them multiple times when I was struggling before I got connected with a therapist. They are a great resource for anyone experiencing PMADs.
Take Medication if Necessary
There’s also no shame in taking medication if it’s needed to stabilize the imbalance of hormones during this time of your life.
Be in touch with your physician, because they can prescribe and review your dosages, and make recommendations and changes as needed.
Sometimes it takes a while to figure out exactly what you need. It’s a long game, but it’s also incredibly helpful, especially when the feelings of depression lessen and lessen over time.
I pray this list helps you in one way or another. I’m here if you ever need to chat or need some resources.