On average, every fifth woman experiences postpartum depression after childbirth. This staggering number is one of the reasons why this complicated medical problem has been categorized as a major public health concern and something that clearly needs treatment.
Until now, coping with postpartum depression has been everything but easy and too many new mothers feel ashamed to even find help, not to even mention get treatment.
Researchers from Louisiana State University, however, are one step closer to finding a new treatment option for not just postpartum depression but many other mental health disorders, including anxiety.
The key is the “love hormone” oxytocin which seems to be responsible for the maternal instinct most women experience.
In a new study, researchers found a group of cells, activated by oxytocin, that seem to be present only in a female brain, leading the researchers to consider this phenomenon to be the so-called maternal instinct. These cells are active in the brain area that's related to maternal behavior and therefore, the researchers consider them to be largely responsible for inducing maternal behavior.
This finding is especially important since it finally confirms how oxytocin is related to postpartum depression. Based on this study, researchers believe it's an indication of possible new treatments that would involve targeting oxytocin receptor cells.
In other words, this research proves that postpartum depression is related to one particular part of the brain and it's more than possible to treat the condition. Postpartum depression is nothing more than an imbalance in the brain.
How to treat postpartum depression
Despite being a very complicated and delicate issue, there are already plenty of treatment options and lifestyle changes a new mother can opt for. As Andrea Chisholm, MD mentioned in Harvard Health Publishing, a strong support system can decrease the chance of developing postpartum depression or it can treat milder symptoms in those who haven't been formally diagnosed with postpartum depression yet. Early treatment is the key.
As an early intervention, mainly emotional support is used via home visits, interpersonal therapy or other similar ways. The main point is to establish a support system around the mother to avoid her feeling alone or helpless.
If the symptoms are stronger or the initial support system didn't help to pull the mother out of the depression, the treatment gets a notch more serious in the form of psychotherapy or antidepressants.
As Chisholm stresses: “Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first choice to treat postpartum depression and minimal amounts of the drug are found in breast milk,” so women don't need to worry about the medication messing up their breast milk.
Taking care of yourself should be the priority
Midnight-feedings, endless diaper changes, barely enough sleep in the middle of all that mayhem – negative feelings come easily when you're exhausted. That's why taking care of yourself should be your priority and even a bigger priority than your child.
Sounds selfish? Think about it this way: when you take care of your own mental and physical health, you'll be positive, vibrant and filled with energy that you can direct to your child. In the end, your child benefits from you feeling good about yourself.
Whenever your baby is sleeping, take some time for yourself and do something relaxing: read a book, take a nice warm bath, watch your favorite show. In addition, don't forget taking care of your health overall as well. This is not the time to opt for junk food or unhealthy processed meals – keep your diet healthy and packed with nutrients.
Even a 15-minute meditation session each morning or writing down positive notes in a journal might help to fill your days with more energy. Whatever you do – don't neglect yourself. You come first!
Take time to enjoy your newborn
Due to the heavy influence pushed on women often both by the media and the family, many women feel like they're “failing motherhood” if they aren't completely smitten of their newborn right away. In reality, they hate being mothers and might even wish things would have turned out differently.
However, due to the common stereotypes and influence, women might feel awful about themselves for even thinking this way. A mother should love her child right away, isn't that so?
No, it isn't. Having a baby is an incredibly huge responsibility which will clearly change your life forever. And as with anything else, it's something you need to get used to – as you would get used to a new home or a new car. Nothing comes as easily as snapping fingers together and neither does the motherly love.
Some women have those emotions right away, some don't and that's completely okay. Sometimes, it might take some time before you'll actually start enjoying this new role, but until that, it's okay to give yourself some breathing room, not enforce yourself into a stereotype.
An essential part of getting used to your new role is bonding with your baby. In the middle of feedings and diaper changes, it's hard to enjoy your newborn – initially, it seems like a big chore that was suddenly pushed on you.
To get rid of those negative feelings, find some quiet moments to enjoy your baby. Embrace your newborn's amazing “baby smell”, her tiny fingers and toes and admire your handiwork. After all, your baby is one of your most amazing creations and that's something to be proud of! You might be tired but take some time each day to be proud of yourself.
By changing negative feelings into pride, self-confidence and, of course, love, you'll find motherhood an enjoyable new chapter in your life – something to embrace, not fear.