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10 Things to Do If You Think You Have Postpartum Depression or Anxiety

You’ve recently had a baby.

You are more than three weeks postpartum.

You do not like the way you are feeling.

You wonder if you are too anxious or too depressed.

Your family, friends and health care provider have tried to reassure you, but you wonder if they really understand how bad you feel.

You worry that this is what being a mother feels like and you might never feel better.

Here’s what you should do.

1. Ask for help.

Any feelings of depression and anxiety that interfere with your ability to function are not OK right now. Tell those closest to you that you are worried about the way you are feeling. If you know what they can do to help, ask them. If you are not sure, tell them you are not sure, but you need their help regardless. Then, let them help you. No one is asking that you diagnose yourself. If you are not sure what is going on, you should err on the side of “be cautious and healthy” by letting someone you trust know how you feel.

2. Contact your doctor or health care provider.

Be specific and clear about how you are feeling so you can discuss options. If you feel dismissed or misunderstood, make the effort to clarify and reiterate.

3. Do your best to locate a therapist.

This should be a therapist who specializes in the treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety. You can find one here. Or, here. Call one or two or three therapists and talk to them directly. See how that feels. Do not let feelings of guilt or anxiety get in the way of reaching out for the support that you need right now. Therapists who are trained to treat postpartum depression and anxiety understand how difficult this first phone contact can be. Take the risk and let someone help you. You do not have to go through this alone. If you cannot find a specialist in your area, call one of the perinatal specialists listed and talk to them about finding someone closer to you. They will help you do this.

4. Take your partner with you.

When you make your first appointment, ask your partner to accompany if that feels better for you. Most therapists will welcome that and it is highly probable that you can bring your baby to that session, also. Your family is an vital part of your healing process.

5. Stay off of the internet until you get some relief from your symptoms.

While there may be numerous outlets for support available online, you will inadvertently be exposing yourself to random and unpredictable anxiety-provoking, shame-inducing triggers. Social media, in particular, can be both incredibly supportive and unexpectedly provocative. It is best for you to protect yourself from all possible triggers for a while.

6. Practice acceptance.

Accept the fact that you are not feeling good right now and that it will not always feel this way. Self-compassion will help you feel better faster and better than blaming yourself or beating yourself up. Do the best you can and be kind to yourself.

7. Take care of your physical self.

Rest when you can. Eat nutritiously. Avoid substances that you may rely on for self-soothing that can make you feel worse, such as alcohol. Try to get out in the sunshine and walk. Breathe.

8. Avoid all triggers that make you feel worse.

That includes people who are unsupportive, and events or obligations that increase your anxiety. Self-compassion is essential. Pay attention to what you need and do your best to express this to your partner and helping professionals. Surround yourself with people and things that make you feel safe and supported.

9. Do not stop until you find the right help.

This means you should feel comfortable with the support you are getting. This means your health care provider, your therapist, your support group, your medication and your adjunctive recovery team must all be appropriately responsive to your needs and it is important that you continue to communicate with those caring for you. If the level of caring you receive feels insufficient or inauthentic, you can decide to either let someone know how this feels, or find an alternative professional or additional treatment.

10. You do not need to suffer.

Not even a little bit. There are more and more health care professionals who understand that new mothers are at risk for serious postpartum disorders. Help is out there. Do what you need to do to help yourself get the help you need and deserve.

You will feel like yourself again.

Photo by Hollie Santos on Unsplash

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