Are you a pregnant or newly postpartum mom worried about the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression? Here are ten effective, natural ways to combat postpartum depression – from someone who has had it.
Once you become a mom, staying healthy is more important than ever.
This is something that took me two years to fully understand after I became a mom.
It seems like a hard thing to do – staying healthy after having a kid.
Moms tend to lower themselves on the totem pole and put their health on the back burner after having kids. But I’d argue that taking time for yourself is more important than ever once you become a mom.
In this post, I’m going to talk about my own history of depression and how I chose to combat postpartum depression after two kids.
I hope that it will help new moms combat postpartum depression, or maybe even ward it off together.
This topic is so important to me – it’s actually a large part of why I became a certified personal trainer wanting to work with moms.
So let’s get started.
I have had a long history of depression. It “runs” in my family along with a few other mental health disorders.
I first started seeing a counselor for major depression in middle school (about the age of 12).
My parents thought I was depressed because I didn’t hang out with people from school, I didn’t engage with family at home, and I locked myself in my room all day every day when I wasn’t at school. I had no extracurriculars and basically did nothing but read and do schoolwork.
I am a stubborn person and was very uncomfortable talking to the counselor my parents picked for me – so I didn’t talk at my sessions. In fact, I felt very betrayed by the fact that my parents had scheduled me to see a psychologist without discussing it with me first. I was forced to go and was carried in kicking, crying, and screaming each time.
My parents gave up.
Looking back, this period of time has taught me a lot about what I want in my relationships with my own kids. I also feel it has prepared me for dealing with potential depression or mental health issues that they may have, even though I wouldn’t wish for them.
Life went on.
In high school, my parents thought I was still depressed (to be honest I don’t remember why) and decided to go the medication route.
My doctor put me on some sort of anti-depressant, which I took for about 6 months before quitting. I didn’t want to need them, and I didn’t feel that they changed anything for me.
From then until I got married and had a baby, I had many life changes and really enjoyed my life for the most part.
Also see: 21 Awesome Ways to Help a New Mom
But after having my first baby, what started out as your typical “Baby Blues” quickly turned into severe postpartum depression.
Aside from the whirlwind of hormonal changes, I’d been through a lot of changes in life in general. Of my friends, I was the first to get married, and at 22 years old, I was the first to have a baby. I was no longer working towards an amazing career, and I was definitely not spending my weekends bar hopping and doing things most 22 year-olds do.
I went from full-time college student and full-time employee with a busy, social lifestyle, to basically a stay-at-home hermit.
It was important for me to stay home with my daughter, however, so I did.
I didn’t realized how hard it would be to transition to full-time homemaker – or really – how lonely it would be.
My depression got worse than ever before, and I suffered for a whole year before seeking help from my doctor.
It’s hard to explain depression to people who don’t have it.
But imagine being in one of the most beautiful seasons of your life and having everything you need on a human level yet not being able to enjoy any of it.
I had looked forward to becoming a mom for basically my entire life, and I loved my daughter. But I was shocked and saddened by the fact that I didn’t like it.
I wasn’t as natural at motherhood as I’d imagined I’d be, and I’d had too high of expectations going into it. My failures in motherhood made me feel guilty and everything I’d failed to balance contributed to my postpartum depression.
Looking back, I think that my expectations of motherhood and the pressure of societal expectations played an important role here. But hindsight is 20/20, right.
Anyway, I was so bad at being a homemaker (read my tips on how to rock homemaking) and to top it off, I felt extremely guilty for not being able to contribute to my family in a financial way.
Basically, I had a lot of feelings of inadequacy all across the board.
It made my relationships crappy, my home life crappy, and my life as a mom pretty crappy too.
I knew I needed to combat postpartum depression so I got on antidepressants. With one medication, I experienced extreme fatigue as a side effect. I felt better mentally and emotionally but I was sleepy way too much.
I switched to a new antidepressant, but quit using it after about 6 months because I didn’t feel different.
There had to be another way for me, so I stopped using medication altogether and focused on positive thinking and researching other ways to combat postpartum depression.
I spent the next few years digging myself out of a hole so that some day I could actually enjoy my life again. I finally feel like I’m getting back to my old self again thanks to the work I did myself.
AND, I can proudly say that so far, at almost five months postpartum with my second baby, I don’t feel depressed. So I’m pretty sure that my tools are effective!
The following natural ways to combat postpartum depression are things that I’ve spent years figuring out. I hope that you don’t experience PPD, but if you do, know that there are ways to combat postpartum depression in a natural way.
As you consider these things, I encourage you to be self-aware. The things I am sharing with you are things that worked for me, but may not work for you. I would still advise you to see your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of depression (of any kind). Good luck!
10 Natural Ways to Combat Postpartum Depression
If you haven’t been to the site before, you might not know that I am also a certified personal trainer. I became a personal trainer specifically to work with pregnant and postpartum women. I chose to do this because after many years of being a yo-yo dieter and inconsistent exerciser, I have learned how incredibly powerful one good workout is for me.
The days that I exercise are starkly different than the ones when I don’t. I am mentally, emotionally, and physically a better human being on the days where I exercise. Becoming a personal trainer was just one way for me to help other women combat postpartum depression while holding myself accountable for regular exercise.
I have a ton of info about exercise/fitness on this site. I am going to list some of those posts here, but the biggest tip I can give you is to try new things until you find something you love. Exercise should be enjoyable, not punishing. I personally love gardening and weight lifting for exercise. You can also try my home laundry day workout!
My second biggest tip is that if you can make exercise a social thing, it’s going to have an even greater impact. You’re more likely to stick with it and it leads to my next point…
On Exercise: 5 Reasons Moms Need Fitness
Being alone all of the time (even if you’re never alone, aka a parent) is not healthy for someone experiencing depression of any kind. If you are homebound most days, it can be really harmful. You need to get out of the house.
When I began to hit the gym regularly after becoming a mom, I realized that while the exercise itself was important, there was a lot more to it.
I needed to see other adults, smile and say hello, or maybe make a little small talk. Also, I needed to see other moms prioritizing health and towing their babies to the gym. I needed those little things to make me feel a little more human and remind me that before becoming a mom, I was also a friend and social human being.
Get out of the house, even if you don’t go out with big plans to make new mom friends. Go to the library, the gym, heck, even the grocery store. Try it just once and see how it changes your day. It’s important!
It takes quite some time to get into a good routine when you’re a new mom. Especially because there are so many books and resources telling you how you should do things. Plus, babies change so much that they need new things all the time.
But having a little structure for yourself and your child goes a long way. I don’t recommend having rigid schedules when you’re trying to combat postpartum depression. This will just set you up for disappointment, because you will quickly learn that babies don’t stick to schedules. However, doing things in a similar fashion, at similar intervals throughout the day, can help everyone in your family.
Helping yourself and your children know what to expect is a great way to ease your mind and get some rest. For example, with this last baby, I have made sure to stick to a pretty general routine of wake, eat, play, sleep. While we don’t have specific times that we do this (expect for bedtime, which is consistently between the hours of 8-9PM), my baby goes down without a fight every time.
That means that I can expect my baby to nap after being awake for about two hours, and I can expect at least a few hours of rest beginning by 9PM consistently.
This is mentally and physically very important.
Get yourself into some sort of routine with the things that are important to you – cleaning, resting, eating, etc. – and it will do wonders for you.
This is a supplement that I just discovered recently in my research on how to combat postpartum depression and other mood-altering disorders. (I will say that it’s not recommended if you are nursing, so definitely check with your doctor on this one.)
After many years of trying medications, I have become an advocate for natural healing. There are many healing herbs and supplements out there, and I have just discovered Rhodiola. It is known for normalizing cortisol production and leveling hormones, therefore affecting mood in a positive way. I just bought some and plan to take it after I am completely done breastfeeding, because it’s definitely worth a try.
It is easier said than done when you become a new mom, but you should still be spending time taking care of yourself in ways you used to. The first month after having a new baby is pretty much a free-for-all of survival, so don’t worry about anything but trusting your instincts during this time.
Once you feel like you know your baby and have spent some time healing, however, you should get back to whatever you were doing for self-care before. I made the mistake of abandoning much of what I did as far as self-care when I had my first baby because I thought it made me selfish.
That’s just silly.
If all you do is put mascara on or take a long hot shower, that might be enough. But make sure that you do something for yourself every day. Get out of you PJs, put some lipstick on, take a spa day – whatever. It will do wonders for your self-esteem and remind you that you are not in fact an alien under cover as a hot-mess mom.
Doing something nice for another human or cause is a great way to combat postpartum depression because it feels good. Yes, you can help other people in a selfish way. 😉 For me, feel-good endorphins and the “warm-fuzzies” are involved when I help others. But on top of that, volunteering can help you feel important again, especially if you have transitioned to being a stay-at-home-mom.
I personally struggled with purpose after being a SAHM, but now I am able to lend a helping hand because of it. I have time to support others and it makes me feel like I’m doing more than changing dirty diapers and washing dishes all day.
Try volunteering for something and see how it makes you feel. Just don’t over-commit and overwhelm yourself.
There are times when you just need to distract yourself from your own life and thoughts. It’s just a temporary fix, but sometimes we need those short-term things to get us through.
So watch a funny movie, download that addicting game on your smartphone, or do a little retail therapy. As time goes on, you’ll get more rest, the sun will start shining, and you’ll be able to focus on other things. But if you’re finding yourself in really negative thoughts, distracting yourself temporarily can help to give you a small mental break.
Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, abandon your hobbies after becoming a mom. Like I said before, I thought that it made me selfish to do things for myself after becoming a mom. Sure, my baby needed me a LOT. But more importantly, my baby needed a happy, competent me. By abandoning everything I’d once done, I was crabbier and did things with resentment. DON’T BE ME.
It will be harder to do many of your hobbies after having a baby, but there are ways! Find some way to involve baby or let someone you trust babysit so you can enjoy things.
My tip: start with little things like crafts, DIY, writing, gardening, or other things that can be done in short bouts of time. Then as baby gets older, you can go on those weekend hiking trips or wine tasting tours.
Perhaps this should have been #1 on the list, because it’s important for everyone. If you want to truly combat postpartum depression, you need to be self-aware. You need to learn your habits and learn what’s effective in changing your mood and self-esteem. For example, I learned that daily exercise was important for me. I also learned that I have cycles of depression and I can now tell when I am going to slip into a depressive state before it even happens.
I am so self-aware now that I can stop my negative thinking and help myself avoid some negative behaviors.
How did I do this?
First, I started thinking about the things that made me happy growing up. I thought about the seasons of my life in which I was happy and healthy, then found the common denominators. Then I could identify the changes I’d made during times of depression.
I realized that during my happiest times historically, I was social, moving my body a lot, using my brain, and doing a lot of things with my own two hands. In times where I am depressed, I am under-stimulated. I don’t get out of the house, I am sedentary, and I am not challenged intellectually. So now I am able to remember those things and get myself to a playdate with other moms, get to the gym, get out in the garden, etc.
Also, knowing that I had pretty bad PPD with my first baby, I was able to remain self-aware when I had this last one. I was able to go back to my tool-box and feel a lot more capable this time. I’d say that’s thanks to my own self-awareness.
The takeaway: Reflect on your own behavioral patterns and be honest with yourself.
10. Blogging or Journaling
This has become super important for me. I have always been a writer, but blogging has brought me new challenges and adventures. I found out that you could make money blogging after becoming a SAHM and searching for ways to supplement my family’s income from home. It’s been intellectually challenging to learn something new, but I have also used my blogs for venting and making money.
Blogging isn’t for everyone, so at the very least, I recommend journaling occasionally. It will help you reflect, but if nothing else, it will help you vent your feelings somehow. This is especially important if you feel that you don’t have anyone to talk to or anyone who can relate to you. Try it!
I hope that I have given you some tips that will truly help you combat postpartum depression. Know that you are not alone!
Please feel free to tell me your tips or story by leaving a comment below!