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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Morran

Healing Postpartum Depression with Good Community and Professional Care

Updated: Jan 16

Happy mother with her baby

Welcoming a new life into the world is a miraculous experience, filled with joy, hope, excitement, and endless possibilities. However, for some parents, this transformative journey can also be accompanied by an overwhelming emotional battle known as postpartum depression (PPD).

Babies require a lot of care and attention, and mothers require a lot of support to be able to provide for the baby’s needs. In this blog, we delve into the depths of postpartum depression, shedding light on its causes, symptoms, and how to support those affected, especially through community care.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression, is a mood disorder that affects mothers in the weeks or months following childbirth. Research has also suggested that postpartum depression can affect the non-birthing parent as well.

Postpartum depression is different from the "baby blues," which are transient feelings of sadness, overwhelm, or irritability that typically resolve within a couple of weeks.

Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is characterized by more intense and persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Causes and Risk Factors of PPD

While the exact causes of postpartum depression are not fully understood, it is likely a complex interplay of physical, emotional, and hormonal factors.

Some of the common risk factors associated with PPD include:

  • Hormonal changes: The dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone levels after childbirth can contribute to mood swings and depression.

  • History of depression: Personal or family history of depression or other mental health disorders before or during pregnancy.

  • Lack of social support: Isolation and limited support networks can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and increase the difficulty of adjusting to caring for a newborn.

  • Sleep deprivation: The demands of caring for a baby often lead to disrupted sleep patterns, which can negatively impact mood and emotional well-being.

  • Stressful life events: Financial difficulties or unexpected challenges during pregnancy or after childbirth can contribute to postpartum depression.

  • Relationship problems: Having problematic relationships with your partner, including verbal or physical abuse or psychological trauma.

Even if you don’t have any one of the above-mentioned contributors of postpartum depression, you can still get depression as having a baby is a life-changing transition that can be exhausting and stressful.

Happy family with their new baby

Prevention of Postpartum Depression

Preventing postpartum depression (PPD) is a complex task as it involves a combination of factors, including biological, psychological, and social aspects. While it's not always possible to completely prevent PPD, there are several strategies that may help reduce the risk or minimize its impact.

Here are some ways to promote emotional well-being and potentially lower the risk of postpartum depression:

  • Pregnancy, Birth, and Infant Classes: You can join classes on your own or with your partner or family members and meet other people or make friends with other expectant mothers and parents to expand your community and build friendships with peers. Alberta Health Services has several resources online that are of no cost.

  • Establish a support system: Building a strong support network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals before and after childbirth. Having people you can rely on for emotional support, assistance with childcare, and practical help with household responsibilities can make a significant difference. Having friends drop off meals can be a huge support!

  • Communicate with your partner or family/friends: Foster open and honest communication about your feelings, fears, and expectations surrounding parenthood. Discussing potential challenges can strengthen your relationships and reduce stress. Find people who share positive stories with you about parenting, while also being realistic about the struggles.

  • Prioritize self-care during pregnancy: Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being during pregnancy can have a positive impact on your postpartum experience. This can be very hard to do, having your support system help you prioritize your self-care can be a game changer! Practice self-care activities such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

  • Plan and prepare for the postpartum period: Discuss and plan for postpartum care, including health appointments, emotional wellness, and self-care. Educate yourself about the challenges and changes that occur during the postpartum period. Understanding the physical and emotional adjustments can help you feel more prepared for the fluctuating feelings of sadness, anxiety, or overwhelm.

  • Talk to a family doctor or therapist: If you have a history of mental health concerns or are at higher risk for developing PPD, consider seeking support while you are pregnant or after childbirth, even before any signs develop. Therapy can provide a space to explore your feelings, develop coping strategies, and build resilience.

  • Address relationship issues: Prioritize addressing any personal or relationship issues before the arrival of your baby. Seek professional help if needed to work through unresolved conflicts, unhealthy relationship patterns, or past traumas that may contribute to difficulties regulating with a newborn child or to developing postpartum depression.

Happy mother with new baby

Recognizing Postpartum Depression Symptoms and Signs

PPD manifests in various ways, and the symptoms may vary from person to person. It can be difficult for individuals who are struggling with PPD to recognize that they are in fact experiencing PPD. Familiarizing yourself and your support system with the signs of PPD can help identify PPD sooner and seek treatment.

It is essential to recognize the signs and seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent sadness, irritability, or a sense of emptiness after childbirth

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

  • Fatigue, exhaustion, or difficulty sleeping, even when given the opportunity

  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or excessive self-criticism

  • Changes in appetite or weight (either unusual loss or gain)

  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things

  • Anxiety, restlessness, or intense worry

  • Feeling irritated towards your partner or baby or any other family member

  • Feeling overly anxious that something bad will happen to your baby

  • Feeling like you are a bad mother, or you are unable to look after your child

  • Having difficulty bonding with your baby or feeling no enjoyment after becoming a mother

Another symptom of PPD is thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Please seek immediate help if you or someone you know is experiencing these types of thoughts.

Seeking Support and Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a treatable condition, and seeking support is important for recovery and for the well-being of you and your baby. If you suspect you have PPD, you can reach out to your healthcare provider or a friend or family member who can guide you through the process of seeking support.

Common treatment options for postpartum depression include:

  • Professional care: Consulting with your nurse, midwife, or family doctor can help normalize the struggles and connect you with a variety of resources and tools. In some cases, medication may be prescribed and it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to take into consideration the potential impact on breastfeeding if applicable.

  • Therapy: Therapy can be highly effective in managing PPD symptoms, addressing underlying issues, accessing supportive resources, increasing self- and co-regulation, learning to tune in to your own body and emotions, bonding with baby, and improving your overall well-being.

  • Support groups: Joining support groups or connecting with other mothers including those who have experienced or are experiencing postpartum depression can provide valuable emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation.

  • Community care: The involvement of a whole community around new mothers and parents is an essential component of support for both prevention and healing of PPD. Community care might include meal trains, cleaning, childcare, transportation, playgroups, and emotional support (see below).

  • Self-care: Practicing self-care is essential for recovery. This includes prioritizing rest, engaging in activities that bring relaxation, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and managing stress through techniques like mindfulness, meditation, or relaxation exercises.

Moms and their babies

The Importance of Offering Community Care for Parents

Communities can play a vital role in supporting families and babies by providing practical support and creating a nurturing and safe environment for mothers and their children. It really does take a village to raise a baby and your community is part of your village.

The care and attention required by infants can be overwhelming for individual mothers, especially in the early stages of parenthood. A strong community support system helps distribute the responsibility of caregiving, ensuring that mothers and parents have the necessary support to meet their baby's needs.

Community care offers emotional support, understanding, and encouragement, creating an environment where caregivers can share their joys, challenges, and concerns.

Practical assistance from the community, such as helping with household chores, meals, or babysitting, allows mothers to have much-needed respite and focus on their own well-being.

By embracing community care, we create a network of support that uplifts mothers, strengthens families, and fosters a nurturing environment for both babies and their caregivers.

Here are some ways communities can care for mothers:

  • Meal Trains: Organize meal trains within the community or friend group, where individuals or groups sign up to provide prepared meals for the mother and her family. This can be especially helpful during the early postpartum period when meal preparation may be challenging.

  • Household Chores and Cleaning: Offer to help with household chores, such as cleaning, laundry, or grocery shopping (even utilize curbside pick up). Taking care of these tasks can relieve some of the burdens on the mother, allowing her to focus on self-care and bonding with her baby.

  • Childcare Support: Offer to watch the baby or other children in the family, especially if the mother has older children who require attention and care. This allows the mother to have dedicated time for self-care, rest, attending appointments, bonding with the baby, or spending one on one time with older children.

  • Emotional Support: Provide emotional support by offering a listening ear, understanding, and empathy. Simply checking in on the mother regularly and expressing genuine care and concern can make a significant difference in her well-being.

  • Establish Playgroups or Parenting Support Groups: Create opportunities for mothers to connect with other mothers in the community through playgroups or parenting support groups. These gatherings provide a supportive space where mothers can share their experiences, seek advice, and build relationships with others who are going through similar experiences.

  • Transportation Assistance: Provide transportation assistance, especially for healthcare appointments, therapy sessions, or support group meetings. Lack of transportation can be a barrier for some mothers to access necessary services, so offering rides can greatly support their well-being.

  • Flexibility and Understanding: Cultivate a community culture of flexibility and understanding towards mothers, particularly during the postpartum period. Recognize that their schedules and routines may be unpredictable, and be patient and accommodating when plans need to change or when they require extra time for self-care.

  • Education and Awareness: Promote education and awareness about postpartum mental health within the community. By understanding the challenges mothers face and the importance of support, community members can be more responsive and proactive in providing care.

  • Partner with Local Organizations and Services: Collaborate with local organizations, such as family resource centers, community centers, or religious institutions, to provide additional resources and support for mothers. Partnering with existing services can help expand the reach of community care efforts.

Happy mom in a yoga class

Self-care Strategies for Parents

In addition to seeking community and professional help, practicing self-care encourages recovery from postpartum depression. Part of self-care is allowing and accepting community and professional support.

Here are some strategies that can help when struggling with PPD:

  • Prioritize rest and sleep: I know, I know. This can be a very hard thing to prioritize. Whenever possible, try to nap or rest when your baby sleeps to combat sleep deprivation.

  • Reach out for support: It really takes a village, seek out the people in your village for support. Share your feelings and experiences with loved ones and seek their understanding and assistance.

  • Make time for yourself: Even if these are moments, make some time. Engage in activities that bring you calm and relaxation, whether it's reading a book, watching a TV show, taking a bath, or sitting outside in the sunshine.

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating nutritious meals, exercising regularly, engage in hygiene practices, and avoiding excessive alcohol or caffeine can positively impact your overall well-being.

  • Practice mindfulness and stress reduction techniques: Yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or journaling can help manage overwhelm and promote emotional well-being. Setting aside time for these activities can seem daunting however even doing a yoga pose beside your baby doing tummy time on the floor can help reduce stress.

  • Spend time in your happy places: Visit parks, malls, coffee shops, libraries, or whatever places make you feel happy and relaxed to help you enjoy your time with your new baby.

The Joy of Motherhood and Parenting in Healthy Communities

Parenting with postpartum depression is a challenging journey that affects parents and mothers around the world. By understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking support, we can ensure that no mother battles postpartum depression alone.

Remember, you are not alone, and with the right help, support, and care, you can overcome the challenges and strengthen the joy and fulfillment that comes with motherhood and parenting.

The healing journey from postpartum depression requires not just the individual efforts of parents and mothers but also the collective care and support of their communities. By offering good community care, we acknowledge the immense responsibilities that come with caring for a newborn and recognize the importance of providing mothers with the support they need.

By coming together, we can uplift and empower mothers, ensuring they have the space and resources to prioritize their well-being, bond with their babies, and navigate the challenges of early parenthood with strength and resilience. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of families and contribute to the well-being of future generations.

Danielle Morran is an anxiety therapist who specializes in working with families, teens, and parents with anxiety stress, emotions, and family conflict. Danielle is a Certified Canadian Counsellor and practices narrative therapy, functional family therapy, mindfulness, motivational interviewing, and CBT.


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