Millions of women all over the world find themselves suffering from an illness called postpartum depression, after the births of their children. In fact, according to a study conducted in 2009, over 13% of women develop postpartum depression within a few weeks after the delivery of their baby. What precisely it is and why it affects those that it does is constantly being researched, with new information coming out almost daily. The good news is that there are natural solutions (as opposed to allopathic medications) to help cope with emotional side-effects of postpartum depression… one of which is yoga.
what is postpartum depression?
While the vast majority of women experience what is called, “baby blues”, which incorporates difficulty sleeping, having mood swings, tearing up, and simply feeling overwhelmed by the recent change in their life in regards to having a newborn; baby blues are entirely normal for a woman to experience as her pregnancy hormones begin to return to their regular levels.
Simple baby blues, however are not to be confused with postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a hormonal imbalance that leaves you feeling lost, hopeless and often times confused. You may have difficulty sleeping, concentrating, find yourself eating far too little, not at all, or even overeating to mask your emotions. You find it difficult to enjoy life, and especially find it difficult to bond with your new baby. Unfortunately, if left untreated, these symptoms can last for months. It is interesting to note that postpartum typically occurs between three and six months after delivery, however in certain cases it has occurred at up to eighteen months postpartum.
how can yoga help postpartum depression?
Yoga can help control the hormonal imbalance that causes postpartum depression. Your hormones are released by an intricate system of glands and organs in the body that are stimulated and balanced by the yoga postures. It can also balance your nervous system. The increased circulation to your spine helps in all of this.
Conscious breathing in the poses can help to stimulate or settle the autonomic nervous system which controls the organs and natural functioning of your body to help it stay healthy and vibrant. Other results are your body’s greater resistance to stress, and reduced susceptibility to depression, strife and anxiety. In using the relaxation techniques which are the foundation of yoga itself, one can find peace and restoration of both body and mind.
Since yoga allows you to focus on your breath it brings about a sense of relaxation and allows you to find your center and regain your sense of Self. Yoga also allows you to gain flexibility, strength and will tone your muscles, which will begin to transform your body, in turn giving you confidence that you more than likely haven’t felt since before your pregnancy.
Some of the best yoga poses that you may want to begin with for postpartum depression relief are child’s pose, half tortoise pose, and anahatasana. There are also beneficial combination poses that you may also take advantage of for relief like Cow Pose to Cat Pose. Also many women suffering from postpartum may also benefit from more energizing poses, such as Bridge and Dolphin.
Inverted positions are highly valuable in terms of depression, as being upside down allows for increased blood flow and stimulation to the brain, building confidence and allowing an all-around better outlook on life. However, bleeding is a contraindication for inversions (meaning: while bleeding, you should avoid the inverted poses), and it takes an average of 6 weeks for women to stop bleeding postpartum. So, the inverted poses should be practiced after the bleeding has stopped.
Also, please note that it is very important to get your physician’s approval before starting a yoga routine after childbirth. The majority of women are given the okay to begin any form of exercise after about 6 weeks postpartum, however this can vary from woman to woman based upon your delivery (especially if you have had a c-section) and also the healing rate of your body. Make sure you get your doctor’s approval before beginning any yoga routine as a precautionary measure.
Whether re-starting or beginning your yoga practice postpartum, it is very important to take things very slowly and commit to listening to what your body is telling you. You should gradually and gently build up your yoga practice especially if you had a yoga practice before. In some cases, having a prior yoga practice can make this journey more difficult because it is hard to resist comparing your practice to what it was before your body went through all the changes. This can be a challenging and wonderful practice in staying in the present, taking things as they come up and change day by day.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “I can barely make it to the toilet, I only shower once a week and have 10 min a day that my are hands free. When exactly should I practice yoga?” You’re probably not alone. Even a small amount of time for yourself will be helpful. And on the days that your body is telling you that it can’t practice postures, meditation is a perfect activity to pursue. Meditation is known to stimulate the brain and help combat depression. Your meditation practice will no doubt be different than the typical person with lots of free time on their hands, but even tuning in to the present moment while feeding your baby, or rocking them to sleep can help you to really stay clear and aware.
While yoga can most certainly help you cope with (and can often prevent postpartum depression from occurring in the first place) the difficult emotions that you are feeling in terms of your postpartum depression, it is also just as important to talk with someone about how you are feeling. You can talk to your spouse, partner, physician, friend or family member. You can talk to your yoga teacher or the people in your yoga family and community.
It is best to inform someone that you are having a difficult time, and you simply need help. It is better for you and your baby to seek help rather than carrying your pain and stress alone. Never be afraid to make your voice heard, and seek help from a trusted source. Sometimes making the decision to ask for support is a hard obstacle to navigate, but when you do it, you realize the people around you are ready to help once they know how you need it.