Steps to Feeling Better
When you experience depression and anxiety, it affects how you feel, your thoughts, what you say and what you do. It may also affect your relationship with your partner and others. Taking care of yourself and your baby can be difficult.
Understand Your Illness
Postpartum Depression is the most common medical problem after having a baby. You can increase your ability to care for yourself and your baby by having a better understanding about:
- the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety
- anxiety disorders that you may experience after birth
Speak to Your Doctor or Nurse
There are different ways to treat depression. When depression is left untreated, it can have serious effects on you and your baby. You may need counselling and/or medication to get better.
- Talk with your partner when thinking about treatment.
- Discuss the pros and cons of each treatment option with your doctor or nurse and make an informed decision.
- You may need to try a few options until you find what works best for you.
- Be prepared for a long recovery; postpartum depression cannot be fixed overnight.
Take Care of Yourself
There are a number of things you can do to help yourself feel better faster.
Eating well is important during pregnancy, after birth and while breastfeeding. For some individuals eating well can be difficult, as during these times your body goes through many physical and hormonal changes. These changes can impact your appetite, your mood and how you cope with daily stress.
If you are not eating regularly or not eating enough nutrient-rich foods, it could be affecting your energy and mood. If eating well feels like a big challenge, focus on small changes:
- Eat often or about every 2-3 hours- try at least a few bites.
- Carry healthful snacks with you when going out.
- Prepare quick, easy meals, or enjoy a healthy take-out meal.
- Eating and cooking with family and friends can help.
Eating Well Is More than the Foods You Eat
Paying attention to where, when, why and how you eat can make a difference:
- Be mindful of your eating habits:
- Recognize when you allow emotions and stress to affect your appetite.
- When you feel hungry, don’t ignore it, make time to eat.
- Prevent overeating when stressed by taking the time to enjoy your food, and be aware of what you eat, and when you feel satisfied.
- To help you feel better and regulate your appetite, manage daily stress by going out for fresh air, taking a walk, talking to someone, relaxing, etc.
- Make eating a pleasant experience, even if you are eating alone.
- Enjoy your cultural food traditions.
- Be patient and be kind to yourself.
Sleep can affect your mood, short term memory, and your ability to manage stress. It is important to make time to sleep and get rest after your baby is born. You may have difficulty falling asleep or you may wake up after a short while and not be able to get back to sleep.
What to Avoid Before Going to Bed
- heavy meals
- drinking too many fluids
- bright light
- smoking and alcohol
- watching television, reading, doing work in the bedroom
- caffeine after 4 p.m.
Ways to Unwind and Relax Before Going to Bed
- Have a light snack like milk and toast.
- Have a warm bath/shower.
- Create a good sleep environment: comfortable, not too warm or too cold and minimal light and noise.
- Listen to soft music.
- Practice breathing exercises and meditation.
- If breastfeeding your baby keeps you up at night, try nursing in the side-lying position or have a partner/caregiver feed your baby at night. This may mean pumping and feeding expressed breast milk.
- When you are ready to sleep, remember that babies under six months old should be placed on their back in a crib or cradle close to your bed. It is important that cribs and cradles meet current Canadian safety regulations. Learn more about safe sleep for you baby.
If none of these tips help you sleep, please see your doctor or a nurse.
Getting support from others can help you cope when you feel stressed. Support can come from your family, friends, community members and organizations. It is helpful to understand who you have in your life that can provide support after you have your baby. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This circle can help you identify who provides support in your life. It shows the four areas of support with examples for each area to help you build the supports that can help you.
Helping hand from others to allow you to focus on rest and feeding your baby.
- helping parents get more sleep
- childcare support
- help with cooking and cleaning
- breastfeeding support
Include the support you receive from others when sharing your feelings and emotions.
- friends and mother to mother support
- partner and family support
- religious and spiritual support
- talking to supportive people
Health and Wellbeing
Support from a doctor or nurse when treatment is needed.
- public health home visiting
- exercise, being active, relaxation, meditation
- counselling and therapy
Learn more about postpartum depression and anxiety.
- books, pamphlets, DVD’s, online links
- information sessions
- postpartum depression support groups
- parenting classes
Tell your partner or caregiver how you are feeling and what you need from them. They can play an important role in how you may be feeling and the amount of anxiety you may have. Attend doctor and therapy sessions together.
Remember: You are not alone, there is help.
Physical activity can help with depression and make you feel better both physically and emotionally. It may feel like you have no time or energy to be physically active but regular activity can help you feel better faster.
Benefits of Exercise
- releases chemicals in the body that make you feel happier
- increases your energy level
- helps you sleep
- decreases your stress
- makes you feel better about yourself as you get out of the house and meet new people
- takes your mind off of your daily worries and negative thoughts and gives you something else to think about
You can build physical activity into your everyday routines. Every little bit counts. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, stretch a few minutes every hour, play with your children, walk instead of driving for short trips, work in the garden or shovel the snow.
Physical activity is cheap, easily available, fun and a good way you can spend time with your baby.
The Toronto FUN Guide has many programs and activities that may interest you.
Consult with your doctor or nurse before you exercise to make sure there are no medical reasons keeping you from being active.
Video: Road to Recovery.Couples discuss the support they received from the health care team in their road to recovery.