Most women experience the “baby blues” after giving birth from a combination of hormonal and physical changes plus the stress of caring for a newborn. Loss of sleep can also contribute to some extra tears and mood swings, but these generally clear up within the first two weeks of giving birth. One in seven women, however, will develop a more serious condition known as postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that should always be treated by a physician, who may recommend complementary treatments such as massage therapy.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include anxiety and panic attacks, guilt, inability to sleep, and fear of being a bad mother or taking care of their newborn alone. Occasionally, symptoms can also include very troubling thoughts such as thoughts of harming the newborn or oneself. These symptoms are very serious and should never be ignored. They may last a few weeks, months and even up to one year after the birth of the baby.
Women who have been effected by postpartum depression once have a 70% chance of it recurring in subsequent pregnancies. The symptoms may prevent the new mother from forming a connection with her newborn which may affect the emotional, mental or potentially physical wellbeing of the newborn.
Women with postpartum depression should be under a doctor’s care. They may find self-care techniques such as following a healthy diet, exercising, and taking time for oneself helps manage their symptoms. Massage therapy may also help to manage these symptoms by reducing cortisol levels in the bloodstream. A research study demonstrated a reduction by up to 31 percent. Cortisol is the hormone released in response to stress, with too much stress causing a buildup of cortisol. Functional MRI studies have shown that massage therapy increases blood flow to the areas of the brain that are responsible for feelings of anxiety and depression.
Massage may also promote better sleep by relaxing the new mother. Mothers of newborns typically experience interrupted sleep during the night and may also find themselves having difficulty relaxing enough to fall asleep. A relaxed mother also responds in a relaxed way to her baby, which is important since babies pick up on their mothers’ moods.
Women can begin receiving massages during their pregnancy with approval from their doctors. Research studies have shown that women who received regular massages during their pregnancies suffered lower rates of postpartum depression and had less cortisol in their blood. New mothers can also be taught how to massage their infant. Massaging their infant may help new mothers bond with their baby and deepen their relationship.
For more information on how you can treat your own postpartum depression, or help a mother you love, contact us today.