Pregnancy and childbirth are among the most anticipated and joyful experiences for women. But for some, the birth of an infant leads to unexpected feelings of postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression (PPD). Overwhelmed by these emotions, these new moms may be burdened by guilt and find themselves unable to enjoy the first months of motherhood.
While women who experience PPD may feel isolated and alone, the fact is 10% to 15% of new moms experience major postpartum depression, a disorder that can crop up at any time during the first year. In situations like these, treatment is available, but doctors agree that prevention is still the best medicine. As it turns out, there are several healthy habits that you can incorporate into your diet and lifestyle to decrease your odds of developing anxiety disorders and PPD. These include:
- Increase your intake of the B-Complex vitamins, including vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid. These nutrients help the body metabolize the amino acid homocysteine, which is linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet (consider a quality pre-natal supplement to fill in nutritional gaps.)
- Get active. Exercise increases serotonin levels, which can minimize anxiety and boost your mood. Consider low impact activities like walking, swimming, or yoga.
- Get ample rest and sleep. You’ll miss this once the baby comes!
- Stay hydrated. The link between dehydration and anxiety is proven so grab that water bottle and drink up.
The most important way to prevent the onset of postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression is with self-awareness. Inform your doctor of any significant mood swings or emotional changes prior to or during pregnancy. It’s also a good idea to let your OB/GYN know about any risk factors you may have, such as a history of depression, lack of support from family members, fear about the responsibilities of motherhood, a stressful job, and a history of severe PMS. Keep in mind that many women have a combination of risk factors, but the biggest red flag is a history of depression.
Perhaps the most importan
t thing to remember about postpartum anxiety and depression is that if you find yourself feeling sad or anxious after giving birth, don’t pretend nothing is wrong. Seek support early and talk to your healthcare provider. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can recover and feel like yourself again.