Women’s Health: Postpartum Depression
- What is Postpartum Depression?
- Who is at risk of getting Postpartum Depression?
- Signs & Symptoms
- How Kinesiology helps
What is Postpartum Depression?
Being a new mom can be the most incredible, but challenging experience. Postpartum depression is, like a lot of aspects about Women’s Health, often shrouded in silence. The expectations of being a “good mom” or the “perfect parent”, can add additional mental and physical stress to the body while it’s still recovering. Katherine Stone talks at length about this on her site, Postpartum Progress, highlighting the low statistics and lack of funding for research into postpartum depression. According to available stats, around 11-20% of women suffer postpartum depression; however, these are only the clinically diagnosed mothers who were able to seek help and get the right assistance and education.
Postpartum depression is a form of major depression, occurring within the first four weeks of the baby being born.The chemical imbalances in the body are one of the top reasons as to why women can experience it. During pregnancy, oestrogen and progesterone hormones highly elevate throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Within the first four days post-delivery, these hormones rapidly decline, and it’s up to the body to find the same balance of oestrogen and progesterone prior to becoming pregnant. A lot of women’s bodies are not able to immediately find the same balance of hormones prior to pregnancy, which causes a chemical imbalance in the body.
Who is at risk of getting postpartum depression?
Although chemical imbalances are a common cause of postpartum depression, there are social and psychological factors to consider as well. This includes the level of external support within the family, the primary partner relationship, and/or the community. Mental health history is also a key factor for determining a higher chance at developing postpartum depression, such as a previous diagnosis of anxiety or depression prior to giving birth. Other factors include:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Childbirth complications (including a history of childbirth complications)
- Complications of the baby’s health during pregnancy
- Family history of mental health or depression
- Uncertainty or negative feelings towards the pregnancy
What are the signs and symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression should never be second guessed. If a mother is feeling sad, low, or not their usual self, they should seek immediate medical assistance from their OB-GYN or family doctor to check. The feeling could seem like baby blues (lower moods within the first two weeks of giving birth) to postpartum depression, but neither should be overlooked or minimized. All women during, and following their pregnancy, should be talking to their doctors about their mental health and ensuring they’re doing mental health check-ins so that they can better manage their mood following the pregnancy. The following are signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Reduced need to speak to your family or friends
- Reduce self-care
- Too much or too little sleep
- Thoughts of suicide
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Lack of interest in daily tasks
- Thoughts of not being a good parent
Unfortunately, not everyone talks about the struggles that come with having a baby. As a result, the expectations of having a sensation of “immediate love” for a new baby are sometimes not met, and can result in a downward spiral of negative thoughts and lack of confidence as a new mom. It’s important to talk frankly about about the difficulties that come with being a new parent. By normalizing conversations around baby blues and talking about positive or negative feelings, it can help bring awareness, a sense of community and understanding and take the stigma away. Being able to “be the best mom” for your baby is unrealistic, not practical and again, setting your goals way too high, especially as a new parent. Being a new mom is daunting and struggles including breastfeeding issues can also impact these feelings of competence.
How can Kinesiology sessions help with Postpartum Depression?
Exercise is best!
Plenty of moms out there aren’t comfortable taking prescribed medication following pregnancy or may not have the resources available to them for counselling support. More research needs to be conducted into the benefits of exercise. Multiple studies suggest that when comparing structured exercise programs with a health professional as opposed to the Mom continuing with her normal exercise routine with no assistance from health practitioners, there are significant reductions in the mother’s EPDS (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) scores. Not only do the mothers in the exercise classes have reduced EPDS scores at 6 and 12 week marks, they also had notable increased cardiovascular improvements over the 12 week interventions.
Where does a Kinesiologist come in to help? A Kinesiologist can help get you on the right track and you can expect improved sleep, energy, mood, and increase in muscle tone. Bringing your baby into your rehabilitation session allows you to also build a relationship with your baby while undergoing correct and safe ways of exercising. As well, working with a practitioner who has a background in post-natal care can allow you to strengthen your pelvic floor, deep abdominals and global muscles you would have lost during your pregnancy.
As a new Mom, you get to build your confidence of bringing your new self and baby into a safe environment, free of judgement. A Kinesiologist can identify any muscle imbalances that require more in-depth activation, and with the use of clinical Pilates equipment such as a reformer or wonder chair, your body can learn to identify the muscle imbalances, strengthen the more intrinsic muscles and safely build your global strength once your core has been strengthened.
Exercises to do at home with or without your new baby
It is strongly recommended that you complete safe exercises once your doctor has cleared you following child birth. Once this has happened, see below some fun yet specific exercises to complete at home with your baby or without!
Supine bridges for glute strengthening
Arm and core strengthening
Glute strengthening without baby
Arm strengthening without baby
Written by Rebecca Boehm