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Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, Explained

The arrival of a newborn brings the joy and happiness you eagerly anticipate. However, the postpartum period can present a lot of unexpected challenges, including the onset of postpartum depression and anxiety. This is potentially due to hormonal changes and pressure arising from your new maternal responsibilities. These mental health conditions, while not uncommon, can cast a dark shadow over what should be a precious and joyous time for you. It can greatly affect your ability to enjoy daily activities and take on your new role as a mother.

By acknowledging postpartum depression and anxiety, you can recognize the signs, seek help, and find the path toward healing and well-being in time. As you are preparing yourself for the possible experience of these mental conditions as a new mother, it is vital to understand the symptoms, causes, and available treatment options, in order to learn about the support and care you need to navigate this delicate phase.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a form of depression that can significantly impact you in the weeks, months, or even up to a year after childbirth. While some new mothers may experience “baby blues”, which describes a short phase of mild and temporary mood swings, crying spells, and anxiety right after childbirth, postpartum depression is a far more severe and persistent condition. It is characterized by a prolonged and overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, and emotional exhaustion.

Mothers experiencing postpartum depression often struggle with a profound loss of interest or pleasure in activities they once enjoyed, including caring for themselves and their babies. It can further manifest as physical symptoms, negatively affecting all facets of a new mother’s daily life.

When and Why Does Postpartum Depression Generally Start?

Postpartum depression can emerge at any time within the first year after you give birth, often beginning in the early 2-3 weeks or months. While the exact causes are not fully defined, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and the added stress of caring for a newborn are some of the most common causes that contribute to the development of postpartum depression.

What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression can take a toll on both your mind and body as you become a new mother. If the condition persists, it will likely have an adverse effect on your physical well-being. Common symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

How to Treat Postpartum Depression

While “baby blues” is likely to last for only a short-term period and resolve on its own, treating postpartum depression is more complex, requiring a combination of therapy, alternative approaches and, in the worst case scenario, medication. Psychology or talk therapy offers a safe space for mothers to discuss and process their traumatic feelings and emotions. Other therapeutic approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal psychotherapy help mothers develop coping strategies, problem-solving skills, and positive adaptations. Alongside these, the following alternative treatments can be considered:

  • Meditation: A practice focusing on bringing about a deep state of peace and heightened awareness by calming the mind.

  • Sound Medicine: Uses varied frequencies and rhythms to promote shifts in brainwave states, leading to relaxation.

  • Massage: A physical therapy focusing on relaxing your body and pain relief.

  • Acupuncture: An ancient Chinese technique of inserting thin needles into specific points in the body to balance energy and alleviate stress.

  • Breathwork: Controlled breathing exercises aiming to promote relaxation and emotional bonding positively.

  • Foot Reflexology: A therapy using pressure on specific points of the feet to promote healing and relaxation in corresponding body areas.

  • Sleep Therapy: Addresses and treats sleep disturbances with a recovery plan to improve your sleep quality for overall well-being.

If these approaches are ineffective and the depression seems linked to more profound or underlying causes, medical professionals might prescribe antidepressants as a last-resort measure for postpartum depression treatment.

What Is Postpartum Anxiety?

Postpartum anxiety is an anxiety disorder that can arise in new mothers following childbirth. It is characterized by persistent and intrusive worries, fears, and feelings of panic. Similar to postpartum depression, these negative emotions can make it challenging for you to navigate daily responsibilities and care for both yourself and your baby.

When and Why Does Postpartum Anxiety Generally Start?

Postpartum anxiety can develop at any point within the first year after giving birth, with onset commonly occurring in the early weeks or months. While the exact causes are not fully understood, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and the pressures of caring for a newborn are believed to contribute to the development of postpartum anxiety.

What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety?

Postpartum anxiety can consume your thoughts with unwavering intensity. Symptoms may manifest in a range of ways, flooding your mind and body with worry and fright while creating a constant state of unease. Common symptoms can include:

  • Excessive worry about the baby's health and safety

  • Racing or intrusive thoughts that are difficult to control

  • Frequent panic attacks or feelings of overwhelming fear

  • Physical symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, or hot flashes

How to Treat Postpartum Anxiety?

The treatments for postpartum anxiety, similar to those for postpartum depression, usually include a combination of therapy, alternative approaches, and, in severe cases, medication. Therapy options, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal psychotherapy, allow new mothers to develop coping strategies and positive responses to challenging situations. The following alternative approaches can also be considered to improve the symptoms:

  • Psychology/Talk Therapy: Offers a supportive environment for mothers to express and process emotions and traumatic experiences.

  • Energy Medicine: Focuses on balancing the body's vital energies to reduce stress and anxiety.

  • Breathwork: Controlled breathing techniques designed to facilitate relaxation and emotional well-being

  • Sound Medicine: Uses different frequencies to create brainwave shifts, leading to relaxed and meditative states.

  • Dorn Therapy: A gentle manual method that realigns joints and releases blockages, restoring normal movement and freeing the nervous system.

  • Meditation: A focused practice to achieve deep peace by silencing the mind, promoting presence and calmness.

  • Sleep Therapy: Addresses sleep disturbances, focusing on improving sleep quality which is essential for mental well-being.

If these approaches do not sufficiently manage symptoms and the anxiety appears to be tied to deeper or underlying issues, medical professionals may consider prescribing antidepressants or anti-anxiety agents as a last-resort treatment for postpartum anxiety.

Reach out to Sentosa for help and support

If you experience any signs or symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, and are seeking professional advice and support for your conditions, do not hesitate to reach out to Sentosa for help.

Located in Switzerland, we provide specialized postnatal wellness services, including meditation, sleep therapy, sound and energy medicine, breathwork, psychology therapy, and more related services, with guidance from certified professionals. Sentosa can help you improve overall mental well-being and offer the therapeutic support you need during this transformative phase of motherhood. Allow us to support you through your journey by contacting us today.

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