How to beat the Postnatal Blues without drugs? This is a serious topic and putting a serious topic in a light-hearted way is difficult. But, I will try.

UNDERSTANDING POSTNATAL BLUES

Not all women get post-natal blues after delivery but it is common to slip into some form of baby blues or post-natal blues during the initial period subsequent to childbirth. It may just go away on its own, or could develop into more serious postpartum depression (PPD). PPD commonly known as post-natal depression, is a clinical depression which affects women after childbirth. Some significant symptoms¹ would include tearfulness, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, sadness, guilt, low self-esteem, social withdrawal, overwhelming feeling. It could possibly hit the daddies as well. Apparently, there were many researches done to identify the causes of PPD but seems like the aetiology of PPD is still not well understood. Some studies tend to show more likely culprit to the changes in woman’s hormones during pregnancy. But, why would some men got it too? hmmm… Certain studies say, it is likely to be due from significant lifestyle changes in caring for infants which first-time parents are going through. Nah, PPD hits women who didn’t have PPD for her first and second deliveries but developed PPD in her third childbirth.

Prevalently, PPD can be avoided or alleviated if we are able to manage the emotions and seek treatment if necessary as early as possible. Nonetheless, we are not going to identify postpartum depression and provide any medical treatment advices in this article. The purpose of this article is to describe certain situations post delivery and how it could be managed. In fact, I did suffer slight baby blue post delivery, and was fortunate that I had read up and sought advices from friends. And, most importantly, I have adequate family and friends support to help me get through it.

So, how to beat the postnatal blues without drugs?

WHO SHOULD READ?

First-time mummies-to-be – To better manage some possible situations.

First-time daddies-to-be – To avoid stepping into a potential war zone unknowingly!

Second, third, forth time parents – who knows you may need it?

Any individual who may not a parent – Your close ones, or friends may need your help.

SITUATIONS

1. Everyone has an advice or two including strangers and whoever

When a new baby arrives, in particularly to a first-time parents, someone or everyone is surely to have an advice or two for you. Possibly, you have already read up thousands of books on “becoming a parent” or google millions of pages telling you how to take care of new born, and do not require further (conflicting) advices. Do not fret! You cannot escape. Probably, you are already tuned to such situation since pregnancy. Congratulation!

You probably may get overwhelmed by the care and concerns from people surrounding you, till you wouldn’t want to hear more. It may even make you feel helpless towards caring for your own baby. In certain manner, you may feel some level of kaypo-ism from these people. Selective listening with your own judgement is what you really need to tackle such situation. Trust your maternal instinct with your baby. The most common word of advice you get is always, “Your baby is crying. I think your baby is hungry, you must feed him/her (now).” “Alright, I won’t starve my own children. I know when to feed them. Thanks for your concern!”

2. Everyone wants to visit you and your baby

Suddenly, you realise you have given birth to a star. Oops, I have two stars! And, we received requests to visit my babies and me. For me, I love to chat with friends especially when I had to be confined for a month at home, and most glad that my friends were so willing to visit me, knowing that I might be bathing very little (this is a Chinese custom that straight after delivery, we go into the confinement mode which does not allowed us to bath and have to be wrapped up like a mummy to avoid wind getting into our body, for at least a month. Nevertheless, I did not follow these rules strictly). I was eager to show off my gems to them as well. One of the best methods to beat any blues, is to talk to people. Through talking to people, you gain emotional support. When I say talking to people, I don’t mean talking to any person. You should be talking to people who can give you positive influence and not to people who just pissed you off.

Withal, I was breast-feeding my babies every other hour, it may not be convenient or sometimes i was simply feeling tired. Just inform your visitors, most people will understand.

At times, if you feel any social withdrawal, turn down all visitations, pick up a magazine or watch your favourite TV programme. My babies indeed kept me very busy, but I still have time for my favourite TV programme while breast-feeding them. But, my luxury of time only lasted for a month before I became part of the slavery thereafter.

3. Hello! Mummy needs tender loving care (“TLC”)

Not only the newborn needs this, mummy needs the TLC too! When everyone was overwhelmed with the infant, some attention should also be given to the woman who painstakingly carried for nine months and delivered the cuttiepie. This is for the daddy to read: “Your wife needs you more than anyone else. It is the utmost support in anything and everything. Always be around or try to be around when your wife needs you.” I often saw cases where mummies feel that daddies do not care about her nor the baby, and negative thoughts just spiral and become a vicious cycle.

4. Hey! Daddy needs to be told

Be fair to daddy too, they aren’t mind reader nor baby expert. You can drag your husband to the pre and post-natal courses, throw him hundreds books on caring for newborn, a new baby is just like a new toy to the male domain. Perhaps, a soft toy that needs to be fed, clothed, and cried a lot. (This is how my husband described our twins during their first month) Please tell your husband Exactly What you need him to do and How you want him to do. And, not once. Some reminders would be very much appreciated by them.

5. Mummy needs a break too!

Mummies: Don’t feel guilty when you are taking a nap or having a break from your baby. As a new mummy, it is never easy to manage the guilt part. “We just met our little one, and we want to care for him/her ourself. It will make us bad mummies if we leave our babies with someone else.”

Mom’s maternal instincts are very strong and sometimes, it could overpower many things around us including undermining our own feeling. However, the stronger the maternal instinct, the more anxiety a mom would feel towards her baby. It could be anxiety over caring for our baby, breast-feeding issues, baby’s cries etc.

When you have guilt and anxiety, you tend to want to do many things for your baby. This leads to stress. You may also experience fatigue due to lack of sleep. Fatigue, anxiety and guilt are bad combination. Try to dissent them. One Chinese physician actually told me this, “You know, child birth to a woman is as good as passing by the Hell gate.” Errr… I don’t like this statement, but how true is it. We all know, growing a human being (or two) inside our body for nine months, going through heartburn, nauseous feeling, vomiting, etc, then the labour pain and post delivery recovery aren’t easy. We need to be in a shut-down mode to recover from the child birth, and gain the strength to care for our baby. Leave your baby with your husband or someone you can trust, and rest. When you have adequate rest, fatigue will go away, you will feel more energetic to take care of your child!

When you feel overwhelming by your new born, it is also a time to take a break and have a kit-kat! (if that’s allowed in your confinement).

6. You, You and You

In addition, some significant symptoms like crying episodes, irritability, sadness, low self-esteem can be very real. At times, you may feel like crying. Just cry! At times, you will feel irritated. Just express your emotion. At times, you could feel sudden sadness like the world is collapsing and have really low self-esteem. Just say out. Confide in your significant other or close friend or even your trusted doctor, about how you feel. Hi, people who the mummies confide in, please have a good heart to listen, give support and if necessary, encourage her to seek medical treatment.

Another good method is to get out of the house, I find. Go to a park for a walk. If you aren’t staying near a park or doesn’t want to make a trip to any park, walking around your vicinity helps too! Just get out of the house. Else, like some of my friends did, go for some retail therapy or facial or something you usually like to do to de-stress.

7. In-laws

“I feel that my in-laws are snatching my baby away from me.” , “It is frustrating to always hear my mother-in-law telling me that this is the way she raised her son.”, “I am not allowed to do this and that!” – Recurrently, I hear such complaints. To rank the top complaint, “my in-laws are trying to snatch my baby away from me!” This could well be real or possibly a symptom. Well, this is sensitive and difficult subject to broach. You could have more conflicts if you are staying with your in-laws. So, what can you do? a. Let your husband knows about your feeling and get him to manage his parents. b. If you are in very good relationship with your in-laws, speak with them directly. c. Turn deaf ears. d. “you have raised your son well. Now is my turn to raise my own kid.”

By the way, this could well be applied not only to in-laws but to our own parents too. I personally feel that when we start to develop some weird thoughts, we should speak up. The fear of offending should not outweigh our well-being. Honesty with tact is still the best policy.

IN THE NUTSHELL

In the nutshell, mummies should trust your intuition about how you feel and believe that your symptoms are real enough to talk to your partner, close friend, own parents or even a trusted doctor. People who the mummy confide in, should take her feelings and symptoms seriously. It does not necessarily mean when a mummy complains, she has the PPD. At least, acknowledge her expostulations and aiding her with support and suggest treatment if necessary. It is always better to err on the side of caution in such circumstance. Apart from medical and psychotherapy treatment, we could help the mummy by encouraging her to develop more consistent sleeping patterns, take as much rest, talking and listening to her and maybe, indulge with her in good food, shopping whatever that would take her mind off any negative feelings. In any case, baby blue may go away on its own.

Enjoy your journey of parenthood! It can be frustrating at times, the fun time always outweighs the hair tearing time!

You may refer to this link for further information on PPD – http://www.singhealth.com.sg/PatientCare/ConditionsAndTreatments/Pages/Postnatal-Depression.aspx

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