Exercise and Postpartum Depression

The “D” word… It can sound pretty scary to a new mother. “Am I a bad mother because I suffer from postpartum depression (PPD)?” ABSOLUTELY NOT! In fact, it occurs in 12 to 15% of all new mothers. The levels of depression are from mild to extreme. It is important to be honest about your feelings and to discuss this matter with your doctor.

PPD usually lasts for a little over a week after the birth of your baby. There are 3 forms of postpartum depression; Baby blues, PPD and postpartum psychosis. New moms with baby blues are experiencing symptoms characterized as:

* Fatigue
* Anxiety
* Feeling to cry
* Mood swings
* Sadness
* Irritability

If symptoms seem to last for more than 14 days, you should talk to your doctor about your feelings and decide if treatment is an option.

It is still unknown why new mothers experience postpartum depression. Many researchers agree that hormonal changes are involved in PPD but since it does not affect all new moms, it is difficult to come to a solid conclusion. Although the brain hormones such as serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine have something to do with PPD, they also believe that the brutal drop of estrogen and progesterone (90 to 95% in 48 hours) may also contribute to PPD. No conclusive study has yet been made.

During my research, I came across many different remedies and tips to get over or avoid PPD. I had some background knowledge about PPD since I studied the matter briefly and suffered from mild PPD after the birth of my second baby, so I was curious if new material was out there. I strongly believe that if a mom was exercising during her pregnancy she will be less likely to experience PPD. I must admit that this is my own conclusion and it hasn’t been part of any thorough study.

But, according to the University of Michigan, exercise is a wonderful remedy for postpartum depression. Exercise will reduce Cortisol (stress hormone) and release the “feel-good hormone”. It will also give you more energy, endurance and muscle strength to deal with everyday life. Exercise gives the feeling of accomplishment and enhanced self-esteem. You are a beautiful new mother… How more feminine can you be?

Before I shout about the benefits of exercise during PPD, it is important that you REST after giving birth before you take on an exercise program. Caring for your baby and for yourself is very very important. A happy mom makes a happy baby. If you feel overwhelmed, stressed and fatigued, I suggest trying to:

* Exercise when you can. Brief walks (10 minutes) will give you benefits. You can breathe fresh air and take some sunshine as well!
* Laugh more;
* Breathe fresh air everyday even if it’s for a brief moment;
* Take pride in yourself. Put on make-up, dress yourself and do your hair;
* Relax;
* Establish good communication with your partner or close friend (Talk about your feelings. They can sometimes put things back into perspective);
* Socialize with other women or new moms (Check your local organizations);
* Eat well;
* Seek help from friends or family;
* Care for your precious baby. Nursing often can create a tight bond with your baby;
* Rest when your baby is taking naps.
* Of course, if you feel that doing these things can’t solve your condition, talk to your doctor. Anti-depressants or counseling are other options.

Remember that PPD is normal after giving birth and nothing to be ashamed of. Be honest about your feelings and seek help if you need. Sometimes, getting help from a friend with the household chores is enough to relieve yourself of PPD.

When you pass the mirror, don’t avoid it, smile at yourself. Be proud of being a mom, you are amazing!

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