By Shannon Smith
Certified birth and postpartum Doula
Owner of Fit4Mom Placer
December 23, 2018
A Doula’s Look Into Postpartum Depression
The transition to motherhood can often be a difficult journey. A new mother is trying to discover who this person in her arms is, and trying to identify with the new person she has become. When a child is born, so is a mother…and often this process is far more difficult than the birth itself. A woman’s body will change more in the nine months she carries a child than a man’s will in his entire lifetime. This is not an easy feat! It often comes with great challenge.
What is Postpartum Depression(PPD)?
PostpartumDepression.org defines PPD as “a serious mood disorder that affects women after childbirth. Postpartum depression creates feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression and exhaustion that can greatly inhibit their ability to care for their newborn child.”
PPD is common, and should not be a source of shame
Many new mothers experience Postpartum Depression. In fact, it can affect up to 20% of new mothers anytime in the first year after delivery. Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a real illness that has many possible causes, but the main factors usually contributing to PPD are changes in biology, psychology, environment, and hormones. PPD is the most common complication of childbirth.
Something important to note is that the mother is not to blame. PPD can affect any new mother regardless of age, race, income, education and/or marital status. Many times new mothers are ashamed and embarrassed to admit they are having a hard time adjusting to motherhood. At what many believe should be the happiest time in a mother’s life, she may be feeling miserable. She may feel incredible love for her new child, but anguish over her new life. She may begin to doubt that her marriage can survive such a strain or maybe have feelings that having a baby was a mistake. Often new mothers with PPD will feel like a failure and wonder why they just can’t shake these feelings. A sleep-deprived mother may dream of everything getting better once she’s had a good night’s sleep.
All of these feelings and thoughts are normal, and should not cause shame in the mother.
Signs of PPD
Some of the signs and symptoms of PPD include feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed. Feelings of anxiousness or panic, or a regret of having the baby may also be signals. Having trouble sleeping, even when the baby sleeps, or thinking that her family would be better off without her are symptoms that may need further exploration. A fear of leaving the house or being alone, and then isolating herself from friends and family are signs that a woman needs help. PPD can even present itself as unexplained anger or irritability, a fear she might harm herself or her baby. A new mother having trouble coping with daily tasks, difficulty concentrating, or making simple decisions may feel “out of control” and then guilty for feeling this way. Experiencing any of these symptoms could indicate Postpartum Depression and warrant a conversation with a doctor and/or therapist.
Help is out here!
There is hope! A new mother can begin to feel better with help. PPD can be treated with things like social support, counseling, and medication when necessary. Paying attention to the good feelings, taking each day one step at a time, keeping expectations realistic, and coping with anxiety attacks can offer healing. Eating nutritious whole foods, getting physical fitness daily, and developing a support system can all aid a new mother tremendously. When a mother’s own needs are met, she in turn can better meet the needs of her baby and her family.
Below is a list of Sacramento area resources that are available for moms looking for support. I’m the owner/instructor of FIT4MOM Placer, which is how I’ve had the privilege of meeting the SacWellness team. I met Angela Borders when she started taking Stroller Strides fitness classes. I’m also a certified birth and postpartum doula. I have a passion for mothers and my heart is tender towards each individual child and the amazing gift he or she is to our world. Mothers need each other throughout their journey in motherhood. Finding a tribe of like-minded mamas can make all the difference!
Places to get active
There are many resources for helping moms get active, such as postpartum yoga, play groups, and exercise groups, and all promote good mental and physical health!
Teaching mothers that health and wellness are a priority and supporting those changes in their lives is crucial to their well being. A healthy lifestyle is good for body and mind! During exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in the brain that reduce the perception of pain and trigger positive feelings. All of this can increase positive mood and overall better mental health.
Our Village, Fit4Mom
FIT4MOM is the nation’s largest fitness organization for prenatal and postnatal health and fitness. We’re dedicated to the strength in motherhood, providing education, fitness, and support to mothers in every stage of motherhood. Helping a new mother find her support system, her “village”, can make all the difference. Women who find friendship through fitness also find motherhood to be more fulfilling. Mothers realize that they are normal, that sometimes being a mother is challenging, and that they don’t have to go through their motherhood journey alone. All mothers are welcome at FIT4MOM and can find a village in their communities by visiting www.fit4mom.com
Getting personal support from a doula
Enlisting the service of a postpartum doula (or professional trained in childbirth) can also help intercept the downward spiral of PPD. Having a woman come side-by-side with a newly postpartum mother can make all the difference between a peaceful transition and one that is overwhelming. A postpartum doula is the calm voice in a storm of chaos often felt by a new mom during the first few days, weeks, months, even years after childbirth. Postpartum doulas mother the new mother. A doula may offer breastfeeding guidance, prepare meals, do light housekeeping, offer gentle and soothing touch or massage, and encourage confidence in a new mother to help her navigate through motherhood. Many times, new mothers just need a caring friend to hold her baby while she takes a shower or naps. In the times of the past, our villages accepted this role. As our society has become more isolated and fragmented, the need for doulas is prevalent. New mothers can ask for doula referrals from their midwife, OBGYN, birthing center, childbirth educator, or even a friend. Capital City Doulas in the Sacramento area and DONA International are great places to start a search for a doula match.
Postpartum Support International
Postpartum Support International (PSI) is the world’s leading organization in advocating, educating, and providing support for women experiencing Postpartum Depression and other perinatal mood disorders. PSI volunteers offer support, encouragement, information, and local resources to mothers in need. Postpartum Support International’s website includes state-by-state listings of volunteers who provide one-on-one support (via telephone and email) and group support.
FIT4MOM® and Postpartum Support International are partnering to address postpartum depression. Both groups have a nationwide network, have frequent interaction with new mothers, understand the transition to motherhood can be challenging, and are able to provide social support.
Remember, you are not alone
A mother doesn’t need to go through motherhood alone. Resources are available, and help is within reach.
About the Author
Shannon Smith is a doula, exercise instructor and Fit4Mom franchise owner, and mother, and describes herself on the Fit4Mom website with the following:
I’m married to the love of my life and best friend. I’m also a home schooling mother of 6, ages 8-26 years; 3 are grown, 1 in college, and 2 in grammar school. Before I was a mama I was a preschool teacher, summer camp counselor, daycare provider, and Early Childhood Development student. I’m a certified birth and postpartum doula. I have a passion for mothers and their incredible journey. My heart is tender towards each individual child and the amazing gift he or she is to our world. Currently, I own the FIT4MOM Placer franchise in Placer County, CA where I have the opportunity to empower and encourage mothers. I teach fitness classes for all stages of motherhood: prenatal, early postpartum for mamas with babies in tow, and later postpartum for mamas who are looking for high intensity interval training. But it’s more than just a great workout; it’s an awesome community of mothers helping mothers. I enjoy writing and sharing my heart; I want to listen, support, and empower mothers to be their very best physically, mentally, and spiritually for themselves, their families and their worlds.
If you or someone you know is affected by Postpartum Depression, therapy might help. Check out our listings for therapists who specialize in working with new parents, parenting, pregnancy, and depression.