For many women, it’s the happiest time in their lives. Yet for others, it’s an overwhelming time filled with emotions of loneliness and sadness. About 13 percent of women who give birth develop postpartum depression, and another 80 percent report general sadness.
For most women who suffer from this disease, the peak of the condition occurs within the first 4 to 6 weeks after birth, with about half of cases developing in the first 3 months. Postpartum depression for women without a history of serious mental health issues typically lasts for a couple of months, but for others can linger for up to a year or longer.
Anyone can suffer from this disease. In fact, Hayden Panettiere recently shared that she suffered from depression soon after the birth of her child. Other celebs have publicly discussed their stories, too, including Gwenyth Paltrow, Brooke Shields and Amanda Peet.
It’s no surprise that for many, the days following the birth of a child are filled with a mix of difficult emotions. Adjusting to a new routine, compounded by exhaustion and other stressors, take their toll.
Some moms are finding respite among others at a similar life stage, specifically through group exercise. “There is a social-emotional connection mothers make with each other that allows them to connect in very genuine and intimate ways. We refer to this important supportive network as the ‘mommy mafia’,” said Dr. Michael Sweeney, Director of the Metropolitan Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. “Adding exercise into the mix is a great natural remedy for sadness, since studies show that exercise temporarily produces mood-boosting endorphins that make you feel good.”
For Amanda Jayson, group exercise was not only a way to reclaim her pre-baby body, but it was the perfect way to meet other moms who were going through the same thing she was: “After the birth of my daughter in 2011, I had gained a ton of weight and was feeling hopeless. I also had a brand new baby and was feeling a bit lost at being a new mom. None of my friends had babies yet so I felt isolated and alone,” explains Amanda. “Then I decided to go back to exercising the way I did before the baby. I found a class that I could bring my baby to. The teacher was so calm and I immediately felt like I was in a safe place where I wasn’t being judged. As my self-esteem and confidence slowly returned, I was able to enjoy being a mom.’”
For new mom Katie Nittie, the first month following the birth of her child was exhausting and overwhelming. It wasn’t until she was cleared by her doctor to exercise that she started to work out and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Working out just makes me feel better about myself and that was especially important after just having had my daughter. I love her to death but she’s exhausting. So, a little time that I can carve out for doing what I enjoy – whether that be group classes or solo workouts – gives me the energy I need and makes me feel good about my body,” says Katie. “It’s like an antidepressant and I find that even when I don’t want to workout, I’m always glad I did.”
Aside from exercise, here are some other practical tips for combating the baby blues:
- Don’t try to do it all. All the chores and activities you did pre-baby will eventually find their way back into your routine when you are ready.
- Eat. Make it a priority to set time aside for your own breakfast, lunch and dinner. And keep snacks handy if you’re on the go.
- Surround yourself with people. Friends, family and other who are supportive and understanding of your new situation are key now.
- Take time for yourself while the baby is under someone else’s care. The baby will survive with out you.
- Discuss how you are feeling. You aren’t alone.
- If you are prone to anxiety or depression, emotionally prepare, as best as you can, for the baby’s arrival. Think about how you might do things differently post birth.
Sara Dimmick is a personal trainer and founder of Physical Equilibrium, a NYC-based fitness and wellness concierge. She is the host of Buggy Bootcamp, a group exercise class designed so that babies can stay in their stroller and be “along for the ride” while their adults burn calories in a total body workout.
The class meets every Saturday and Sunday, 9am @ the park on 17th street between 2nd and 3rd. Join us for your first class and Mommybites readers will be entered in to a drawing for a free 3-class pack.
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