So much has been written in recent months and years about perinatal depression, one of my private practice specialties. I decided for this article I would write about maintaining the gains in recovery when a person is in the early stages of resolving perinatal depression. Please see my prior articles for GoodTherapy.org for more clinical information on perinatal depression information (signs/symptoms, diagnostics, interventions, resources).
If you are reading this article, hopefully you or someone you love has already established a relationship with a perinatal psychotherapist and begun the process of putting together a comprehensive treatment plan. Perinatal depression is childbirth’s number one complication. It can occur any time from conception through pregnancy and up through the first year postpartum. Twenty percent or more of all childbearing women experience perinatal depression. The good news is that this challenge is temporary and very treatable. Once in recovery, women and their families can expect to fully recover and move on to live healthy, balanced lives.
Much of my work with my clients includes a combination of cognitive behavioral and interpersonal psychotherapy (dealing with role change, loss, transition, etc.). In addition to the work involved in therapy, I typically recommend some practical, easy-to-implement suggestions to help complement therapy, once the initial crisis phase passes and early full remission ensues. The following are some tried-and-true tools to help the new mom, as she emerges from perinatal depression and reclaims herself, thereby enabling her to embrace motherhood. I know these tools were also very helpful for me, as I recovered through my own perinatal depression. I hope they are helpful to you and/or your loved one:
Put together a “self-care” bedside drawer … include in it aromatherapy oils/lotions (lavender and vanilla are particularly calming); tissue; journal and pen; relaxing music to assist with sleep; affirmations books/cards/inspirational quotes; soft silky eye pillow (to block out light).
- Create a Treasure Map: Make a visual collage on poster board of the images you wish to manifest in your life (for example, cut out images from magazines or draw themes related to health, vitality, balance, serenity, peace, nature, etc). Post the Treasure Map where you can see it daily and include positive affirmations and phrases that affirm and guide your healing.
- Journal daily three things you are grateful for and three things you are proud you have accomplished that day.
- Purchase affirmation cards by Louise Hay or other healing practitioners/spiritual tome/guide, and post sayings/statements/mantras in areas you frequent in your home/work environment (e.g., “I am reclaiming the best of my vitality and health. All will be well.”). Louise Hay’s books/healing cards are great for some who enjoy reading about positive self-talk (see her books You Can Heal Your Life and I Can Do It: How to Use Affirmations to Change Your Life) and also Power/Wisdom/Inner Peace cards.
- When you feel like reading, get a copy of some of the following nonclinical, affirming, self-esteem enhancing books/tools and read a line or two/indulge every day:
- Meditations for New Mothers by Beth Wilson Saavedra
- The Fourth Trimester by Amy Einhorn
- The Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life by Jennifer Louden
- Mothering the New Mother by Sally Placksin
- The Women’s Book of Soul: Meditations for Courage, Confidence & Spirit and The Mindful Woman by Sue Patton Thoele
- Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain
- Meditations to Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
- The Good Night Sleep Kit by Deepak Chopra
- The Medicine Woman Inner Guidebook and the Medicine Woman Tarot Deck by Carol Bridges
- Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach
- Inner Peace for Busy Women by Joan Borysenko
- Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar
- Art Is a Way of Knowing by Pat Allen
- The Art Therapy Sourcebook by Cathy Malchiodi
- Self-Nurture by Alice Domar
Some other valuable tools are as follows:
*Walk in nature with your baby in a front carrier or backpack and inhale the beauty that surrounds you. If you are lucky enough to live near mountain trails or the ocean, imbibe in the calming sensory input that is Mother Nature. Enjoy the naturally occurring endorphins that result from exercise, and feel the restoration of serotonin as you exercise and incorporate a healthy, nutritious diet (with lots of omega-3 fish oils) and good sleep hygiene.
*Surround yourself with your “village” of grandmas/mothers/sisters (your own or someone else’s) and mama friends. Let them cater to you and bring you food or take the baby for a while so you can rest or have a bubble bath.
*If you enjoy expressing yourself through art (as I do), purchase a copy of The Art Therapy Sourcebook by Cathy Malchiodi and Art Is a Way of Knowing by Pat Allen. There are some amazing art exercises to help with the healing process. Have fun collecting your art tools and create, express, heal…
*Whatever your spirituality is, tap into it…and go deeply…it is amazing the power of spirituality to help in the healing journey.
*If you are lucky enough to have a wonderful spouse/partner/significant other in your life, let that person rub your feet, massage your back, and tell them to always whisper in your ear “You will be well. You are on your way to healing and full recovery. I love you.”
*If you are lucky enough to have Super Grannies in your life, like I do…allow them to help with the baby care and night feedings. They have traveled quite a bit as a mother in this life; let them impart their supportive, loving pearls of wisdom. Hire a doula if you do not have a spouse/Super Grannie/family caregiver to assist. (See CAPPA.org and DONA.org for more information about doulas.)
*If you have the means for a spa day, massage, facial, pedicure…now is the time to indulge and pamper and marvel at the miracle of creation, recovery, and balance that is beginning in your life….(if you are in Southern California, try Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona and Peaches and Cream Day Spa in Glendora…absolutely indulgent and delectable).
*Pay attention to what you put into your body. Stay hydrated with lots of water. Eat lots of healthy proteins and fruits and veggies. Keep your blood sugar balanced to avoid dips in mood and elevated anxiety. Have healthy snacks you can graze on (string cheese, almonds, fruits/veggies pre-chopped). Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Take your medications (if any) as prescribed by your psychiatrist/health practitioner. Read up on holistic interventions (including use of omega-3 fish oils as protective for brain health; see www.uppitysciencechick.com for some great studies on mind-body medicine).
*Try the Super Granny Power Burst™ recipe for a nice influx of protein when you are running ragged and the baby’s crying:
+2 Tbsp peanut butter (or more if you like)
+vanilla protein powder (3 Tbsp) (Trader Joes has good stuff)
+1 packet Splenda
+a tossing of blueberries
+ a half chopped banana
Mix and Enjoy (this recipe worked wonders for Yours Truly in the recovery process).
These are just a few of the many suggestions I have practiced myself and recommend to my clients. Believe me, they work! These self-care tools are an adjunct to the hard work of psychotherapy and recovery. Have fun with them and enjoy reclaiming The New You!!!
May you find the beautiful silver linings that are inevitable as you recover.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.