Each woman’s treatment plan and path to wellness will differ slightly, but the most successful plans include:
- A complete medical examination (some medical conditions, such as a thyroid imbalance and anemia, are fairly common in the postpartum period and can contribute to feelings of depression and lethargy)
- A psychiatric evaluation
- Self-help techniques
- Participation in a support group
- Talk therapy with a psychologist or counselor
- Medication and/or hospitalization when necessary
Read more about the Path to Wellness.
New or expectant mothers need to be “mothered” during pregnancy or recovery from childbirth. Being a new mother, caring for a newborn, and maintaining home and family are challenging, especially if the mother feels anxious or depression. Important self-care steps include:
- Sleep. Getting 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep is the most effective, least expensive thing a new mother can do to start feeling better. Brainstorm with partner, friends, and family how to maximize sleep. Note: sleeping too much or not being able to sleep when baby sleeps may be signs of more serious depression or anxiety.
- Nutrition. New moms should eat every time baby eats. Water and a high-protein snack (yogurt, cheese stick, nuts) are good mini-meals.
- Exercise. Gentle exercise – such as a walk around the block – can have terrific benefits. The combined effect of change of scenery, fresh air, Vitamin D from the sun, and endorphins released in the body can have a positive impact on mood.
- Time off. No other job is so demanding, requiring being on duty 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. New moms need time off to recharge and rejuvenate, especially if feeling overwhelmed. The challenge is to identify and meet those needs, whether it’s taking a shower, reading the newspaper, or talking with an old friend
New moms often feel the need to connect with other new mothers, especially if experiencing anxiety or depression. Postpartum Support Virginia knows how important it is to connect with others who have experienced similar challenges.
- Moms On Call are women who have firsthand experience with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. They provide an “emotional hug” along with support, encouragement, and information about where to go for help.
- Peer support groups offer non-judgmental listening, support, and encouragement from others experiencing similar issues. Leaders of these support groups are caring, empathic, and have survived these illnesses.
- Social support can also be practical support: providing meals, babysitting, driving older children, running errands, doing laundry, tidying the house. All of these can help diminish the pressure a new mother feels
Talking with a psychologist or counselor can address topics such as changes in communications, role, relationship, and responsibility. Click HERE to find therapists in your area.
Sometimes medication is needed to lessen persistent anxiety or depression. Several medications commonly used to treat anxiety and/or depression are widely considered safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. These medications can be prescribed by primary care physicians, OB/GYNs, psychiatrists, and other maternal health care providers. Click HERE to find specially-trained psychiatrists in your area.
In very rare cases, a woman may need to be hospitalized if she feels she might hurt herself or her baby. Learn more about these programs.