Ochsner Health Shares Tips to Manage Postpartum Depression During the Holidays

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By Stephanie Heaney, MD

We often imagine the holidays to be a joyous, happy time where we can be with family and celebrate the good times. But for some new moms experiencing postpartum depression, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time and they might not feel up to celebrating.


What is postpartum depression?

“Postpartum” means the time after childbirth. It is completely normal for new mothers (first-timers and experienced moms) to feel overwhelmed, tired, tearful, irritable, and temperamental. Some call this combination of emotions the “baby blues.” These feelings can be the result of a physical shift in hormones right after the delivery of your baby. The baby blues typically arise within the first days of birth and can last for up to two to three weeks, and usually resolve with little or no intervention. However, roughly 1 in 9 women experience a more serious mood disorder called postpartum depression (PPD). Women who have a history of depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders are at a higher risk of developing PPD. PPD can begin shortly before or any time after childbirth but usually shows up between a week and a month after delivery.

Women with PPD report extreme feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, and anxiety. Caring for yourself and your family might feel impossible. You may even have little interest in your baby. You may have PPD if you experience:

  • A loss of interest and concentration – Are you feeling withdrawn, unconnected, or unusually lethargic? Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy, or are you having problems completing tasks at work or at home?
  • Negative feelings toward baby – It’s common for women with PPD to have little interest in their babies, have trouble bonding or even think about harming their newborns. Tell your doctor if you are having these feelings right away.
  • Baby blues” that won’t go away – Extreme feelings of irritability, exhaustion, anger, worthlessness, guilt, or sadness that persist after the first two weeks after birth can signal PPD. These symptoms might make it difficult to care for yourself or your family.
  • Severe anxiety – If you feel extremely anxious about most things or find yourself worrying intensely about your baby, you could have PPD.

Talk to your doctor or other health care provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms!


Tips to manage postpartum depression during the holidays

For those struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety, the holidays can add an extra layer of pressure to an already overwhelming time. If you are recovering from postpartum depression or anxiety, here are some tips to make your holiday season a little less stressful and more manageable.

  1. Talk with your doctor. Your OB/GYN can provide great resources to help manage postpartum depression or anxiety, and they can help schedule you with a therapist if needed. Ochsner Anywhere Care virtual visits offer immediate access to a healthcare provider from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. During this busy and hectic season, you can see a licensed therapist face-to-face from the comfort of your own home. Some patients may also benefit from medication to help treat symptoms – you can discuss available options with your doctor.
  2. Create boundaries. If you know certain things overwhelm you or cause your anxiety or depression to amplify, avoid those tasks. For example, maybe it’s bigger group settings or cooking a full meal for everyone. Know your limits and let others know what you can and can not do. Do not be afraid to say no or designate someone to say no for you. Instead of trying to live up to an image of what the holidays should be like, think about and describe what would make this time of the year better for you. Would you prefer to spend it with more immediate family? Would not having to do extensive shopping or decorating make things easier? Does taking out instead of cooking a full meal or just sitting at home doing a relaxing activity bring you comfort and joy?
  3. Ask other family members or friends for help. Sometimes, it can be difficult to ask for help from others but asking for help does not diminish your abilities as a mother. If you need a family member to watch your baby for a few hours or have a friend bring over some food, specifically ask them for what you need. Family members and friends want to help but often do not know the right questions to ask, so it is best to be straightforward and tell them what you need.
  4. Practice mindfulness. Acknowledge and be aware of your true feelings and emotions when it comes to the holidays. Often, trying to feel the opposite of what your mind and body are experiencing makes the problem worse. Allowing yourself to express your true feelings may relieve some emotional distress. Also, it helps to share these feelings with others!
  5. Take time for yourself. Find out what brings you joy, and make sure you work that into your day. While spending time with your family during the holidays can be important, but it is also important to have some time for yourself to recharge.

While the holidays can be challenging, you will get through them. Continue practicing self-care, and check in with yourself and your mental health needs. If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, contact your Ochsner OB/GYN to discuss the best next steps.