7 Tips for Preventing Postpartum Depression & Anxiety
Postpartum depression is a common illness, affecting around 1 in 8 new mothers (and partners can be affected too). All the talk recently about postpartum depression helps alleviate stigma, but also can create some nerves when you are pregnant. I will give you some information and tips for preventing postpartum depression, as well as postpartum anxiety (which is not mentioned as much but actually might be more common).
What are the risk factors for postpartum mood disorders?
You may be at a greater risk for developing postpartum depression or anxiety if:
- You have had depression or anxiety before
- Past experience of abuse or trauma
- Experiencing addictions
- Life changes in addition to pregnancy & new baby (ex. moving, change of job, loss of job, change in important relationships)
- Lack of support
Source: Beyond Blues Australia
None of these things means you will experience a mood disorder. It's helpful to know ahead of time if you're at an increased risk, so you can plan in case you need extra support.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression or Anxiety
Usually, you will see a list of symptoms - you can find that on another site! I want to talk about this a bit differently. I think you'll know that something doesn't "feel right". If you're reading this and wondering if you should talk to someone, it would probably do you good.
If you have a baby that's a few weeks old, you will be tired, most likely. You will be a little irritable maybe & your priorities have shifted for sure. The difference if it's depression or anxiety is that it gets in the way of your life & feels overwhelming - when you start to feel consistently low or anxious ("on edge" feeling).
It can sometimes be hard to distinguish between 'baby blues' and a mood disorder. Mood changes are very, very common following birth. You can feel emotional, unsure of yourself and weepy. This will go away in the first few weeks sometimes (which is 'baby blues', or feeling low).
If your symptoms last longer, you may want to talk to someone. Start with your partner or a close friend.
You can even do an online checklist to see if you meet the symptoms - although this is not intended to diagnose you. Print out your results and bring them to your healthcare provider to start the conversation.
Ways to Prevent Postpartum Depression & Anxiety
Okay, let's get to the reason you're here.
Here are my 7 tips:
- Assemble your team: One of the best ways to protect yourself is to have your support system in place. Decide who you are comfortable with, and have them on deck in case you need them.
- Exercise: Even 20 minutes of exercise is an effective treatment and prevention for depression & anxiety. What exercise should you do? I say whichever one you are actually going to do, so one you enjoy and is accessible to you. For me, it's walking with my dogs or doing a few stretches in my apartment.
- Expand your healthcare to include holistic practitioners: This is improve your health overall, and may also help you with any pregnancy issues you're having (insomnia, nausea, body aches). There is a wealth of knowledge among your local acupuncturists, massage therapist, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors & nutritionists.
- Gather support services ahead of time: Your access to services and resources is one of the ways you can protect yourself from a mood disorder after the birth of your baby.
- Reflect on your sense of self: Your life is about to change in a huge way, and your identity, along with it. Take some time now to reflect on who you are and how you feel about yourself (try journaling). If there's anything that you feel like you need to work on, give yourself that gift now and spend some time talking about it, thinking, and reflecting on this.
- Establish a mindfulness practice: Mindfulness means attention to the moment, and it can protect against postpartum mood disorders too. You can even complete this step from your couch! Start here: Loving Kindness Meditation
- Hire a Doula: People who have doulas are more satisfied with their birth experience, and have lower risk of developing postpartum depression. Also, if you're looking for a doula - hint, hint: My Services
Although you can do all these things to help prevent a postpartum mood disorder, it may still happen. And that's okay. It won't make you any less of a parent. Try to work on accepting that this might be in your future.
Postpartum mood disorders are common - try to see this a possibility for you and be prepared. Even though you can't control a lot of your risk factors, there are a number of things you can do now to reduce your risk.