Fortunately, PMH conditions are often temporary and treatable. The path to wellness generally includes a combination of self-care, social support, therapy or counseling, and medication.
Let’s start with self-care, which is the easiest to access and has the lowest cost. Getting 5-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep is the single most important, least expensive, most effective thing new parents can do to start feeling better. How to do this with a newborn or other children in the house? Try splitting the night into two shifts with one adult (partner, friend, grandparent, doula) sleeping while the other adult is “on duty”. Not romantic, but practical and short-term. Next up: adequate nutrition. Try stocking a feeding station with a cooler with high-protein snacks (such as cheese sticks or yogurt) and water. Light exercise – such as a walk around the neighborhood – can bring the benefits of fresh air, change in scenery, Vitamin D from the sun, and feel-good endorphins. Finally, all new parents deserve time off every day, even if it is just 15 minutes to take a shower, check social media, take a walk, or enjoy a cup of coffee.
Social support is another low-cost, high-benefit intervention. Online support groups, new parents’ groups, and fitness classes (FIT4MOM!) can provide an opportunity to meet other new parents. Friends and family can provide support such as running errands, tidying the house, folding laundry, or simply holding the baby so parents can take a nap, a shower, or a walk.
FIT4MOM played a key role in my path to recovery. I met wonderful friends who valued exercise. I had something on the calendar to get me and my children out of the house. I exercised outdoors, which I love to do, and then we played with our new friends. I eventually became a Stroller Strides instructor, which gave me a sense of purpose and meaning as I helped others transition to parenthood.
Talk therapy or counseling can be extremely helpful in working through some of the challenges that come with new parenthood, including changes in roles and responsibilities, conflict over approaches to parenting, and stress caused by lack of sleep and the demands of caring for a newborn.