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If you’re experiencing the winter blues this holiday season, you’re not alone. This can be especially true if you just had a baby. Approximately 10 million Americans suffer each year from seasonal affect disorder, otherwise known as SAD.
Are You SAD? Understanding Seasonal Affect Disorder
SAD is a seasonal condition that is essentially the medical term for the “winter blues.” SAD is also four times more common in women than in men. In addition to postpartum depression (PPD), new moms should also recognize that they are more prone to seasonal depression, too. Dips in mood is an understandable result of motherhood, first the strain of childbirth and then the sleepless nights of feeding (and changing) baby. The winter blues only complicates things.
According to assistant psychology professor Catherine Monk, Ph.D., in the psychiatry and obstetrics departments at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons:
"Having a baby, even if it's a second or third baby, is a sea change in your life. That, combined with the fluctuating hormones as your body goes from being pregnant to not pregnant, can lead to major mood swings."
How Common Is Postpartum Depression? Why SAD & PPD Intersect
As Dr. Monk suggests, it doesn’t matter if you’re on your first, second or third child. Postpartum depression affects novice and veteran mothers, alike. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of moms will experience a mild form referred to as “the baby blues,” and about900,000 moms each year are diagnosed with PPD. It makes sense that symptoms can worsen during the colder, darker winter months.
PPD and SAD are very similar in terms of external and internal forces changing. Externally, seasonal climate change especially heavy rain or snow, perpetual cloudy skies, less sunlight and longer nights can alter mood. Likewise, the hormonal, chemical, psychological, and physical changes a woman’s body goes through after having a baby impact how mom feels.
Defeating Winter Blues: Strategy & Tips For PPD Moms
The upside is that both wintertime and baby blues are quite common, so support and coping mechanics abound. Below are some tips. Be sure to also consult your physician.
Baby Blues + Winter Blues: Final Takeaway
The holidays are fantastic and fun but can also be stressful. The same can be said about being a new mom. Babies can be sweet and cute, but being a parent takes work and comes with an incredible amount of responsibility. During this festive season, juggling motherhood and at the same time trying to ward off winter blues can be overwhelming. Remember: take a daily dose of vitamin D, exercise, eat a balanced meal, and get plenty of sleep.
If symptoms persist, see a healthcare professional. There’s no shame in reaching out for the help you need.