Archives for January 2012

9 Ways To Beat Back The Winter Blues For Moms With Postpartum Depression

If you recognized yourself in my story about winter blues, seasonal affective disorder, and postpartum depression, then my goal is to be able to offer you some hope with these tips.

9 Things That Can Help You Fight Seasonal Depression in Winter

9 Things You Can Do to Fight Seasonal Depression

1. If you do see sunlight, try to get outside, even if for only a few moments. We do know that vitamin D and sunlight can lift the winter blues and so if you see it, I encourage you to pocket some of it if you can. Or, if it is too cold to be outside, stand or sit by a window and soak up whatever rays are available to you.

2. Consider a way to get movement and exercise while at home. Yoga or exercise DVDs can be a great way to bring your movement home to you. Or dance! A mom who I have been seeing in my office uses the long winter months to turn up the music that she loves and boogie with her baby. If they are little enough they might just love the movement, too. And watching you may just be the entertainment that your little one needs! Plus exercise can help with your postpartum depression, too.

3. Make sure that you are taking a high potency multi-vitamin and Omega 3 supplement. If fresh fruits and vegetables are at a minimum, do what you can to replenish this necessary brain food.

4. Replace cold water with warm water with lemon and honey or tea. While excess fruit juices or other sweetened beverages are not ideal, spicing up your water so that you can get enough is certainly encouraged.  Your brain and body need enough hydration to function efficiently.

5. Reach out as much as you can for support and company. Can you enlist the help of friends for meal deliveries or help with your baby? If it feels too hard to get out, consider asking your community to come to you. You are not alone and you certainly don’t need to be. If asking for this help yourself feels too difficult, is there someone who can ask for you?

6. For more moderate to severe symptoms, reaching out for the support of a trained psychotherapist can be imperative. For support near to you, check out our list of treatment programs and specialists and support groups.

7. For many women who struggle with seasonal affective disorder, medication support can be a valuable part of treatment. If you have questions or concerns about this, I encourage you to speak with your therapist or care provider.

8. Bright light therapy has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression in some women. For women who suffer from both postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder, this may be a helpful addition to treatment.

9. Finally, be kind to yourself and notice if you are beating yourself up for feeling down. You are not alone and there are many, many others out there who feel similar to the way that you do, whether they have seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, or both. I promise.

— Kate Kripke

Winter Blues: What You Need To Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder And PPD

What You Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder and PPD

It has taken me a while to get this post to all of you. Each time that I have tried to sit down and put thought and experience onto paper, I have felt stumped by lacking creativity. Perhaps it is the transition back from the holidays, I have wondered. Or the demands of a developing two-and-a-half-year-old. Or a busy practice and paperwork on my desk. Or the driving desire to get out of my office and release some steam outside only to be reminded that it is wet and gray and too cold out there for my running preference.

Or, as Katherine reminded me, it might just be that it is the middle of winter.

Winter. It can be a tough time for all of us. The days get shorter and colder, the weather often chaotic, the roads sometimes dangerous, the gas bills go up. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be harder to find and usually become more expensive in these long months. Runny noses abound and the flu seems to be around every corner. The air gets drier, our skin cracks, and we often are not drinking enough water. Children tend to go stir crazy when the playtime outdoors is limited. And, if we do attempt to get those little ones outside, the efforts at managing struggling kiddos into appropriate layers can feel for naught when red-cheeked toddlers decide that they are cold and wet after only a few minutes of play.

Winter tends to be a time when our neighbors are rarely seen, when communities are harder to access, and when we find ourselves spending more time at home. We tend to loose our patience more. We tend to have a harder time concentrating. We often have less energy. We feel less creative. We might, even, suffer from a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

While there are certainly numerous places in the world where winters are mild and seasons non-existent, daylight levels lessen in the winter months unless you are living on or very near to the equator. Less daylight can lead to an increase in melatonin production that, in turn, can increase feelings of lethargy. Sunlight is also a major source of the vitamin D that we receive, and decreases in Vitamin D have been associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

It is highly common for people to spend more time sleeping in the winter months, for daytime fatigue to set in, appetites to increase, and moods to dampen. Think hibernation. Often, as the days become shorter and darker and the weather less accommodating, many of us find ourselves wishing that we could crawl into a cave and hibernate with the bears.

Oh, and if you are struggling with postpartum depression or another postpartum mood and anxiety disorder, winters can feel long and intolerable.

I see the effects of the overlap between postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—or what I will call “winter blues”—in my private psychotherapy practice. The phone rings more and the referrals come in more frequently. And this makes sense, doesn’t it? We know that the key to a healthy postpartum experience and often the important pieces of a mom’s recovery involve community support, exercise, healthy nutrition and adequate water intake, fresh air and breath, and rest. 

Consider this image:

A new mom lives in an area where the winter is long and dark and cold. She has recently given birth and her partner has returned to work. Biologically, she is craving more sleep and winter fatigue has set in, but her baby is fussy and she is unable to get the rest that she so much needs and desires. The roads are slippery and her increasing anxiety is making it feel nearly impossible to venture out to see friends, or get to that moms group she has been considering, or try the day care at the gym so that she can finally get some exercise. It is too cold and wet to walk outside as she worries about her baby in such weather. Her refrigerator is empty and although she knows that healthy food and fresh vegetables might make a difference in how she feels, she doubts that she will ever manage the shop that is required for this. Her skin is dry and she knows that she would benefit from drinking more water, but the cold weather makes it less desirable to do so. Her lacking perspective is making these months feel like forever, and she feels entirely unable to imagine that these long months will ever end. 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists the following as symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

  • Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Increased sleep and daytime sleepiness (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate in the afternoon
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness and irritability

For women who are caring for newborns during these months, symptoms of PPD and SAD can combine to create a perfect storm of distress. 

– Kate Kripke

Mom Searched Two Years For Diagnosis of Postpartum OCD

Every now and then I get an email from a mom that reinforces why we need so much more awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, even among physicians.  I’ve reprinted the email here, with permission:

I reached out and reached out again and again, but was told that I do not have depression.  Because I took care of my household (a little too much, by the way … I cleaned and cleaned) and because I felt close to my daughter, my family physician said I didn’t have postpartum depression and that I should not worry about my visions and thoughts.

I thought I was going crazy. Maybe it was just in my head. It felt to me almost like I needed to know my own diagnosis to find the right doctor. I eventually talked to my OB/GYN — by that time my little girl was more than two years old — and he misinterpreted what I was telling him. I told him without sugar coating it what I visually saw (intrusive thoughts).  I told him the truth because I was so desperate for help and thought I had nothing to lose, and the truth landed me in a closed psychiatric unit. [Read more…]

Join Me In A Live Chat on Postpartum Depression Tomorrow

On Wednesday January 25th, I will be hosting a live chat on postpartum depression at The Motherhood.  The chat is at 1pm Eastern and I really hope you’ll join me!  We can chat, I can answer your questions, you can share your thoughts about postpartum depression, anxiety, antenatal depression or anxiety, postpartum OCD or PTSD … whatever you want!  I hope you can make it!  To join in, please register (it’s free) here.