Postpartum alcohol use is not that uncommon. Everyone tells you that the role of a first time mom is a joyous occasion. But it’s not like this for all mothers. If you find motherhood outright daunting and extremely overwhelming, you are not alone. There is help. Between adjusting to caring for a little one, new schedules and sleepless nights, there is a lot of added stress postpartum. If you find yourself craving alcohol and relying on it to get through the day, you may have more than an issue with postpartum alcohol use. You could be suffering from postpartum depression (also called PPD).
I work for St. Jude Retreats as a Family Consultant. I’ve seen situations where new moms would rely on postpartum alcohol use as a way to alleviate stress. I have struggled with PPD myself. Getting the help I needed to move forward and enjoy the experience of being a mom was difficult for me. It’s hard to admit at first. I was scared to discuss it with my doctor but knew I needed to get help for me and my baby. When I did I was able to get the right help quickly. There is hope and there are many helpful resources out there for women with PPD. For women with a history of using alcohol during stressful times, postpartum depression can give them one more reason to drink; the good news is, these behaviors can change!
Dr.Byron Kallam, MD, FACOG; tells his patients in his book on postpartum care called A New Beginning: “as many as 1 in 10 women may experience emotional symptoms known as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and postpartum depression is the most well-known of these conditions.”
According to Dr. Kallam, many women are emotional after giving birth. It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions like joy, fear, confusion, and exhaustion. Postpartum depression may be diagnosed when a new mother begins to have excessive anxiety. Over time, symptoms such as impatience, irritability, crying, fear or lack of interest in the baby, or feeling like a bad mother can intensify or worsen.
If your sleeping patterns have changed, if you find yourself crying uncontrollably, if you are feeling angry or hopeless, and have lost interest in your baby you may have PPD. If you have PPD the postpartum alcohol use issues may make you feel worse.
Dr. Kallam says, “It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much money you make, what your race is or culture you come from, any woman can develop these disorders.”
Don’t be ashamed of these feelings. Reach out to someone and get the help you need. PPD can happen at any time during the first year of your baby’s life.
Although not every women develops PPD after childbirth the statistics are high. The CDC reports that around 15% of all postpartum women suffer from postpartum depression. You are not alone, and chances our someone close to you has been there too.
What Can You Do to Stop Postpartum Alcohol Use?
If you are a new mom trying to deal with stress there are things you can do. A simple increase of vitamins and 20 minutes of daily exercise can help you regain your inner balance. Vitamin B complex and magnesium are known to help improve your sense of calm and diminish your feelings of depression. It’s a good practice for new moms to continue taking their prenatal vitamins after childbirth, especially if they are breastfeeding. Omega 3 fatty acids are also good for improving your mood, too. Postpartum alcohol use can deplete your body of these vital nutrients.
In some cases a doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications. See your doctor immediately if you feel your depression is no longer manageable and you are afraid you might hurt your baby or yourself.
Using substances like alcohol or drugs to deal with stress is counterproductive. In the beginning you may feel that alcohol or drugs are providing you with the relief you need. It’s not surprising that postpartum alcohol use is typical in many PPD cases; although it’s important to note that one is not caused by the other.
You may believe that depression is causing you to drink but it is not the cause of your alcohol problem. Repetitive alcohol consumption is a learned, voluntary behavior. Our culture associates addiction with stress or trauma. Many substance users, especially women, believe their drinking actions are involuntary, out of their control, and “caused” by external factors.
If you are struggling with postpartum alcohol use, it does not have to continue or get worse. It is possible to overcome these issues. Learning to separate the issues associated with your alcohol use from the ones associated with your PPD can help you to view these two things differently. Separating these issues can help you to see ways to improve your situation and make productive live changes for you and your baby.
Ending Postpartum Alcohol Use: First Steps to Take
- Tell someone. It is important that you discuss your concerns with a partner, a relative, your doctor, or a friend.
- Find out what your options are. Talk to your doctor and find out what is the best approach in your situation. One size doesn’t fit all when we are talking about substance use and PPD. You might want to check out this guide in finding the right fit for help in this situation.
- Nourish Your Body. It is vital that you take good care to supply your body with nutritious food, not only for your own well being, but especially if you are breastfeeding.
- Practice Soothing Techniques. Yoga, Meditation, Prayer or anything else that calms you down like physical exercise. Walking, knitting or even reading can be beneficial in this aspect. The Yoga Burn reviews show that yoga may have the best effort/result ratio and the benefits spill into all aspects of your life.
No matter how small the changes are that you make, over time they will add up and positively impact your quality of life. You can make a difference in your life and the life of your baby. If you desire to make even the slightest modifications in regards to postpartum alcohol use you are making a change for the better.
For women who think they may be struggling with postpartum alcohol use and/or PPD, communication with a trustworthy medical professional such as an OB, is crucial. With all the drastic amounts of hormonal changes in the body, PPD is an issue as a result of childbirth, and nothing to be ashamed of.
In 5 Damaging Myths About Postpartum Depression author Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. explains: “PPD is a serious illness that requires professional help. It’s highly treatable with psychotherapy and medication. The medication part worries some women, and they avoid seeking help. However, treatment is individual, so what works for one woman won’t work for another. Don’t let such misconceptions stop you from seeking the help you need.”
The important thing for women to know is that things can get better. It’s important to understand that stress will always be present regardless of age, financial situations or unavoidable trauma. But women can find hope in the fact that they are not alone. If you or someone you know is concerned about PPD, know what you are experiencing is normal and get the medical support you need to manage PPD symptoms. There is no reason to suffer with PPD and every reason to move forward without reservation into motherhood.
About the Author
This article was written by Faith Moore, Public Relations Coordinator at Saint Jude Retreats. Saint Jude Retreats is an alternative to traditional alcohol and drug treatment centers and rehabs. They offer a non-treatment, non-12 step and non-religious educational program. Their curriculum and methods present an opportunity for an individual to take control of his or her own thoughts, choices, and actions. Participants learn more productive behavioral patterns, build an envisioned future, and accomplish goals and dreams.