Tools to Help with the Early Stages of Remission of Perinatal Depression

Flowers in dishSo 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.

Related articles:
Recovering and Thriving as a Parent After Perinatal Depression and Anxiety
I Think My Wife Has Postpartum Depression: What Do I Do Now?
Postpartum Depression: A Multifaceted Problem

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andrea Schneider, LCSW, therapist in San Dimas, California

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.

  • 7 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • mallory

    mallory

    July 3rd, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Journaling is such a powerful tool, for the moms who are depressed after giving birth as well as the ones who are not.

    This very act allows you the opportunity to share all of your thoughts on paper, and if you want others to have access to those thoughts then you can and if you don’t they are just between you and the journal. I especially like the idea of making the conscious effort to write about something every day that you are grateful for that day because I think this is where so many new moms lose focus. They are sad and tired and can only look at the things that are wrong and not so much the things that are right. Just taking that simple action to look for something everyday, no matter how small or how large that you can be thankful are can give you the sense of getting your footing right again. You start paying attention to the important things again, and let the things that are negative go.

  • Theodora

    Theodora

    July 3rd, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    One of the biggest things that needs to happen is that we all have to keep our eyes open when it comes to our new moms and take a personal interest in whether or not they are feeling overwhelmed and need some help.

    I think that a lot of them try so hard to do it alone, but anyone who has had a baby knows that this is not a one woman deal. Raising a child is hard enough, but trying to do it alone is next to impossible.

    This whole idea of trying to be supermom is just wearing too many of our young moms down. It is forcing them to try to be something that none of us can be, and you can see that that is taking its toll just in the numbers of moms now who freely admit that it has made them depressed and that they don’t know what to do about it or where to turn for help.

  • Gold Mold

    Gold Mold

    July 3rd, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    good advice to all the moms to be and new moms out there. perinatal depression only seems to be becoming more and more common doesn’t it?and as an expert,don’t you think it would be great if everybody prepared for perinatal depression rather than to rush with measures when the symptoms are actually observed?isnt this something that should be included for every mom to be?

  • Rochelle

    Rochelle

    July 4th, 2012 at 4:37 AM

    So many of these tips sound very good, but what if you don’t have this village of women or friends to surround yourself with? There are many new mothers who are alone with no real support or anyone to turn to for advice or help. I know that there are people who have so many friends that this is hard for them to understand, but there are others of us that have no one, so you can imagine how lonely that can feel.

  • Andrea Schneider

    Andrea Schneider

    July 4th, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Thanks for the comments….yes, screening needs to take place at several intervals DURING and preferably before pregnancy. Please see prior articles of mine on that very topic. Also, yes women need support and a “village” to embrace them as they bring new life into the world… If she does not have authentic friends/family who will provide this needed support, then she needs a support group and/or a doula. Other articles of mine address these subjects, thus this article was focusing specifically on one small and critical period in a woman’s recovery from perinatal depression. See also Postpartum Support International at postpartum.net for support groups in your area an also check out regroup therapy.com for online support.

  • Reese T

    Reese T

    July 5th, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    For me getting out of the house was the key to maintaining my sanity!

    I would take the baby with me on walks, we went to the zoo, and sometimes I would get in my car and put in a classical CD and we would just ride around a little bit for a change of scenery.

    You can’t stay cooped up in the house all the time after having a baby and expect to feel good. You eventually have to get out and get moving again.

    And then if you don’t feel like doing that, then call someone and ask them to come over and keep you company. That can work wonders too.

  • darla

    darla

    July 5th, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    good tips here.sister is in her last trimester and we as much as we are excited about the baby,we are very concerned about my sister’s health after the delivery.

    by the looks of it,it doesn’t seem too tough to prevent perinatal depression but that little work definitely needs to be put in.its an investment though and should be given priority.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

 

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog