Pregnancy & Postpartum Self Care

Vicki Newborn-JPG-0027.jpg

Are you taking care of yourself after baby is born?

Pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous time where we lavish in the “glow”. For myself and other women this is not always the case. I hated pregnancy: I was tired, sick and sad. Unsure why I felt this way, I didn’t seek help. I learned after the fact that like many others, I was affected by postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is very real and we aren’t sure why it happens.

It can occur at any point during pregnancy or after the birth. It can come on quickly or creep up on you. Postpartum depression is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of, it is common and treatable. You are not alone, 10-15% of women in Canada and 3-5% of Men will live with postpartum depression at some point.  

Symptoms 

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety 
  • Sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed 
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased or lack of appetite 
  • Decreased sense of humor
  • Irrational thoughts and fears 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Excessive crying 
  • Irritability 
  • Fatigue 
  • Fear
  • Feelings of worthlessness, not a good mother, everyone hates you, judging you, shame, guilt, etc
  • Thoughts of harming yourself, others or the baby
  • Thoughts of suicide or even death

Fortunately I’ve since learned that there are many ways to support our emotions and bodies before, during and after pregnancy in order to prevent or manage postpartum depression.   

 

Now is the time to put your feet up and take some time for yourself.

During Pregnancy

Nutrition

Eat small frequent meals with a focus on proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, lots of vegetables, and some fruits.   This allows your body to maintain balanced blood sugar levels.  If your blood sugar levels are stable, then you are more likely to have stable energy levels and mood.   Make sure you are well hydrated with fluids like water, herbal teas, coconut water or smoothies. 

Get plenty of rest

Do something for yourself like a long warm bath, going to the spa, watching a movie, or sleeping in. 
  

Hire a doula

Whether you are birthing at home or in the hospital, doulas can provide you with emotional support, information, and continuity of care during your pregnancy and birthing time. A positive birth experience will help support a positive postpartum period.

Form your birth team. 

Surround yourself with positive support that encourages you in the birth you would like to have. Your prenatal care provider, doulas, family and friends can offer great support and encouragement. They are also key support people for after baby arrives.

Once the baby is born, your self care becomes even more important. 

After Birth

Take a Babymoon and Ask for Help:

People are going to want to meet your baby, but consider having a “babymoon” where you have time to get to know baby, bond with them and connect with your new family dynamic.Consider not accepting for the first day or 2 and when visitors come, ask  them to bring food or diapers, clean the kitchen, fold laundry, or anything that supports your recovery or your needs. 

Prioritize: 

There seems to be an assumption that after baby is born women bounce back and everything remains as it was, except that now you're Super Mom. This idea is changing and we are learning now that new families need more love, support and time. You may be looking at cobwebs in the corner, laundry that needs to be washed or folded, or dishes piling up in the sink. You may feel very tired and overwhelmed because you have a baby and a home to take care of. Leave the mess and take care of yourself and your baby. Prioritize what has to get done now, and what can wait a day, a week, or what someone else can do.  This stuff is not as important as taking care of yourself and your baby. Your babies are only babies for such a short period and they grow quickly, so take the time you have and spend it on them.

Nutrition: 

New mothers need roughly an extra 500 calories per day to support breastfeeding. Our bodies use a lot of water for making breastmilk, so make sure you have  8-12 glasses of water per day.Ask a friend or family member to help prepare easy snacks and batch cook meals. Quick tip, Keep a nursing station close to you; include one handed snacks, and water or tea, a diaper and some wipes to make long feeds easier on you. 

Time away: 

A new mother needs plenty of time for herself to avoid burn out. Activities away from baby could include a nap, a long bath, evening with friends or with your partner. Cut yourself some slack and know that it is normal and healthy to want to be alone for a while.

Be open about your feelings

There is this generalization that mothers take one look at their babies and fall instantly and deeply in love. This is not always true.  It is very normal and ok to take time to get to know your baby and fall in love. Be gentle, kind and nurturing with yourself if this is the case.  You are meeting a stranger for the first time, you don’t know them, or what they want and need and this can take time to figure our. Offer lots of skin to skin time, free access to your breasts, cuddle in with your baby and take the time you need to get to know them. Be honest about how you are feeling and if these thoughts are getting worse, or are not going away, talk to your Doula, Midwife, MD, Naturopath, or anyone that could direct you to the correct support. 

If you or someone you know are experiencing postpartum depression, or are in need of some extra support, please seek out help. Support is the biggest factor in preventing and recovering from this illness.

 

Resources. 
Midwifery Today:  https://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/10ways.asp
Pacific Postpartum Support Society: http://postpartum.org/
Postpartum Progress: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/how-many-women-get-postpartum-depression-the-statistics-on-ppd