Tips for Coping with Postnatal Depression

As a healthcare student, I'm a big advocate for looking after yourself. Today, I'm collaborating with Aishah from "Grains & Gains", a junior doctor and personal trainer using her blog to share tips and tricks to help encourage people to lead a happier and healthier life. Together, we wanted to share some tips on dealing with something that can be very common after pregnancy, postnatal depression.

Pregnancy is a time when there is so many different emotions. Excitement, fear, worry, anxiety and happiness are just some of the feelings that a mother to be may be experiencing. During the ten months of pregnancy , a mother’s body changes to allow for the growth of a new human. Some women find this is a difficult period because suddenly your body is no longer just your own – it is now home to someone else for a long period of time.

Once the baby is born, the roller coaster of emotions does not automatically end. Many women adjust slowly to their new life with a baby. Baby blues is the common name given to the period after giving birth where the new mum may feel sad, anxious and teary. When this last longer than 2 weeks, postnatal depression is the condition many healthcare professionals will be concerned about.

1 in 10 women develop postnatal depression in the first year of their child’s life. Symptoms typically include feeling low, finding no enjoyment in activities, difficulty bonding with baby and poor concentration.
The post-baby body image is something many women struggle with. Weight gain, stretch marks and breast changes are all common things women experience during both pregnancy and the postnatal phase. Here are some tips on how to deal with postpartum body blues.

1. Be kind
It took 9 months for your baby to develop, grow and be born. In that time, your body changed. It is really important to remember this journey have to you have gone through. It was not something that happened overnight and therefore you should keep in mind it will take time to get your pre-baby body back. You didn't just put on weight because you were stuffing your face with do doughnuts or sweets. This weight gain and the associated stretch marks are as a result of carrying a baby for 9 months. With that in mind – be kind to yourself!

2. Dietary importance
If you do feel you need to lose some weight, focusing on your diet is the first important step. Not only will having a healthy, balanced diet help with losing additional weight, it will ensure you are producing the best quality breast milk for your baby. Having an unhealthy diet has been linked to increased risk of maternal depression so this is another reason why ensuring your diet is full of the nutrients you need is essential.

3. Exercising 
You may want to grab yourself a gym membership as soon as you give birth to help you work on you postnatal body. It is really important you wait until your 6-8 week postpartum check before making any decisions about the form of exercise you want to take. The best way to stay active before then is by taking regular walks as this is a low impact form of movement. Again, maintaining regular exercise after giving birth is known to help combat postnatal depression.

4. Pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor refers to the muscles around the bladder, vagina and back passage. After giving birth, these muscles can become weakened which can lead to incontinence and problems during sex. Some simple exercises require you to:

  • Squeeze and draw you in your bum muscles (as if you are holding in a fart)
  • Squeeze the muscles around your vagina (as if you are holding in urine)
  • Repeat this squeezing motion, holding for no more than 10 seconds
  • Aim to build up to 10 repetitions, up to 4-6 times a day

5. No pressure
Don't put any pressure on yourself. Everyone wants to be the perfect mother and realistically, no one is. Sometimes that's hard to realise because everyone puts on such a picture-perfect front (especially on social media), but honestly - and trust me on this - no one shares the truth of what goes on behind closed doors.

6. Get out 
It's one of the hardest things to do with a new baby, and it can often be the scariest, but simply getting out of the house can be incredibly rewarding. Getting ready for the day can change your whole mindset for the day and being able to change environments is very refreshing. It's important to make plans and not say so cooped up indoors all day. Even if it's just a short walk in the afternoon, every little helps.

7. Take the help
Don't be embarrassed to take the help offered. Sleep when baby sleeps and leave the housework to friends and family. If they offer to come over to do a load of washing, say yes! If they offer to cook a nice meal for you, say yes! If they offer to watch baby for a couple of hours, say yes!

The postnatal blues are very common so don't be ashamed if you suffer and if that turns into a more severe form, tell someone. Don't suffer in silence or alone. I hope these 7 tips help you in some way, even if it's just reminding you what you already know.

Don't forget to go and check out Aishah from "Grains & Gains" and be sure to follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even her YouTube channel.