With your hospital bag packed and ready to go, you can’t help but feel a surge of excitement each time you have a contraction. But as your physical body prepares itself for childbirth, areyou mentally prepared for the postpartum challenges ahead?

Postnatal blues (or baby blues), a common postpartum challenge, affects up to 80% of moms. If left unchecked, postnatal blues can lead to a more severe condition known as postpartum depression.

What is Postpartum Depression?

It is defined as a range of complex emotions that have a negative impact on a new mother’s experiences because of social, chemical and psychological changes that take place after the birth of her baby.

Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression include: –

  1. feelings of hopelessness that do not get better with time;
  2. Extreme anxiety over baby’s wellbeing;
  3. Insomnia;
  4. Inability to bond with baby;
  5. periods of overwhelming sadness followed by frequent crying spells; and
  6. in severe cases, these negative emotions may lead to suicidal thoughts.

These symptoms typically last longer, are more severe in nature than compared to postpartum blues and can manifest anytime during the first year of her baby’s life.

6 ways to defend yourself against postpartum depression

A good defence is always the best offence. Before things take a turn for the worse it is important to set up a supportive framework with pre-emptive measures put in place to defend yourself against this illness.

  1. Attend a prenatal class with your spouse. Learn everything you can about caring for baby and for yourself. Speak about this openly with your spouse and brainstorm ways he can show you the support you need when the time comes.
  2. Identify and assemble your support system before baby is born. Decide on a secondary caregiver – will it be a confinement nanny, your mom or mom-in-law? Show the caregiver where baby’s clothing and items are kept, so that she would know what to do when the time comes. This helps to minimise your stress.
  3. Get help with breastfeeding early. If you are planning to breastfeed, attend a breastfeeding class. Be sure to ask for the contact information of a lactation consultant for you to get in touch with if you require more help. A lactation consultant is essential in helping you address the difficulties of breastfeeding and can help you to establish breastfeeding earlier than if you were to attempt it alone.
  4. Read, read and read. There is nothing more enlightening than arming yourself with the knowledge of what is to come. The right information can help you overcome the difficulties of dealing with new-borns especially when they are going through bouts of crying.
  5. Assess your mental health. If you have a history of mental illness or have suffered from depression previously, inform your doctor early so the right management and treatment can be recommended for you.
  6. When in doubt, seek help. If you feel that despite your best efforts, your negative emotions do not go away, please seek medical attention immediately.

Whatever worries or concerns you may have mommas, please remember that maternal instincts do not develop overnight. They take time to emerge and can only get better with sufficient rest and lots of practise.

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