I am struggling with postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter and now we have to stay indoors. What can I do?
Ann-Marie O’Brien, MSW, RSW and Nancy McLaren Kennedy, MSW, RSW
Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! Having a new baby and PPD is challenging and now you have the extra stressor of social distancing due to COVID-19. These are uncertain times for everyone. It's normal to be worried. You may have an image in your mind of how things should be with a new baby and the reality isn’t matching up. People with depression need to take extra steps to maintain their wellness. The following are some suggestions for taking care of yourself, based on our lived experience of PPD and also listening to many moms who have lived through it!
Keep in mind that your partner can also become depressed during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby and these suggestions will work for either parent.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember it is ok to put your baby safely in their crib/playpen and leave them for a short time to take a break.
- Now is a good time to start some healthy practices, such as learning to check in with your mood. Notice and name your emotions and their intensity. They will change over time. No one is 100% sad or 100% happy all of the time. Emotions worksheets are a helpful resource and there are many examples online.
- Stay in the present and don't borrow trouble from the future. This sounds simple but it’s not easy, so practice! If you find your brain thinking about should be or what is supposed to be, challenge those thoughts with a mantra that works for you, such as: “This is Us and we’re perfectly Us.”
- Be kind to yourself, in your thoughts, words and actions.
- Practice self-care! Have a shower or bath, make your bed, remember to care for yourself like you care for your baby.
- Look for fun online activities for you and your baby. For example, baby and me yoga, baby and me salsa, baby massage, etc.
- Ask for help when you need it. Make a list of supporters who are available. Supporters may be professional (public health nurse, therapist), personal (friend, relative, neighbour) or both. Practice saying “yes” when trusted people offer help.
- Monitor your screen time. The amount of screen time and what you are watching might be impacting your mood. Choose reliable sources for information such as www.ottawapublichealth.ca vs. a website that is based on a personal opinion.
- Make connections in alternate ways, such as by telephone, letter, Facebook , Zoom, or through online parenting groups. This is a good resource for online support: https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/psi-online-support-meetings/
- Start and keep a “baby and me” journal.
Ann-Marie is a social worker and Nancy is a mental health worker/peer supporter at The Royal.