Postpartum depression (PPD) has been described as a disease of loss.
Typically, PPD begins with loss of vitality, with fatigue that morphs into chronic exhaustion. This is actually somewhat normal for new parents, considering sleep-deprivation and 24/7 caring for baby.
But PPD doesn’t stop with exhaustion. It goes on to include loss of joy, enthusiasm, hope, engagement, loss of being in touch with one’s own feelings, and loss of a positive “sense of self.”
It is very important that mothers get help and support at the early signs of postpartum depression. When we respond early to symptoms, full-blown PPD can often be avoided.
It is also important to understand that PPD doesn’t always develop in the first weeks or months after birth; it can develop any time in the first year or two!
Causes of Postpartum Depression
Many things can contribute to PPD.
For instance, hormones.
Katharina Dalton, MD, the pioneer of PPD, discovered that women who have exceptionally high levels of progesterone during pregnancy (women who feel fabulous during pregnancy) are at higher risk of PPD.
That’s because after childbirth, progesterone levels rapidly fall. For these “fabulous pregnancy” women, their mood tends to fall along with their progesterone. Dalton recommends low-dose progesterone after birth to prevent PPD in these women.
Any constant stress or concern can contribute to the development of PPD: relationship problems, workplace tension, financial stress, pregnancy problems, birth trauma, breastfeeding challenges and infant colic or health concerns — all contribute to PPD. Previous history with depression also increases the risk.
But beyond these factors is the fact that mothers are frequently nutritionally depleted. Getting a handle on diet and nutrients helps mothers feel better and in many cases, helps them avoid full-blown PPD.
I’ve felt depressed before, how is this different?
Saying, “I feel down today,” is not the same as true depression. Feelings of sadness usually pass after a few days. But with true depression, sadness and other feelings of loss do not pass.
Many cases of depression are “self resolving.” That means that with time (6 – 12 months), a person will recover without treatment.
But a mother doesn’t have the luxury of time to see if her depression might go away on its own. Her baby needs her now.
The medical response to postpartum depression is antidepressants. Talk to your doctor about medication; your trusted healthcare provider’s oversight is important.
Yet, it is also important to understand that when mothers catch the symptoms in their early stages, they can often shift out of these feelings without medication. See the next section for more information.
From Being Helpless to Feeling Hopeless
If a mother feels helpless – because she does not have the information, solutions, support or resources that she needs – she can easily slide into feeling hopeless, as though she is worthless, a failure. These feelings can contribute to the development of postpartum depression.
But when a mother learns that she can actually do something to improve her situation, she no longer feels helpless or hopeless. She begins to feel empowered.
Doctors do not always know the best resources to help mothers feel empowered. It is not their area of expertise.
It is important that mothers put together a “postpartum team” to help them with shopping, cleaning and cooking after childbirth, a team of experts who can help with feeding concerns, that they be referred to appropriate experts if problems develop, and that they reach out to self-help groups or mothers groups.
And again–it is important to note the role that nutrition can play in how we feel.
What a World, What a World
We tend to blame ourselves if we do not feel well or function optimally. But in the United States, families have it tough. We have very little paid time off from work, and few resources to enjoy the kind of support that young families need. So give yourself a break — you are not the problem, you are living in a world full of problems and doing the best you can in the circumstances.
Hypnotherapy for Postpartum Depression
Hypnotherapy can help lighten a mother’s mood, build hope and inner strength, and it can encourage coping strategies.
However, a hypnotherapist is not able to diagnose or treat depression. If a mother has clinical depression or is suicidal, hypnotherapy can only commence with the permission and oversight of your healthcare provider.
Number of recommended sessions
Hypnotherapy for postpartum depression starts with a few sessions that are scheduled once or twice weekly. If a mother and her healthcare provider agree, the sessions can then continue to be scheduled once or twice a month for as long as helpful or needed.