Can You Prevent Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) impacts between 10 to 15 out of 100 women who have recently had a baby. A larger number of women struggle with the “baby blues,” roughly 80% of new moms (that's 4 out of every 5 new moms). The "baby blues" are largely due to hormonal fluctuations surrounding birth and resolve on their own with no treatment or medical intervention with in 1-2 weeks.
Postpartum depression can lead to everything from insomnia and loss of appetite to irritability and difficulty bonding with your little one. It can also be debilitating while working through it, especially as a new mother. Thankfully, there are things you can do to treat PPD once you’re dealing with it, but can you actually prevent it?
Let’s take a look at some of the risk factors associated with postpartum depression, as well as some things you can do to reduce your chance of experiencing it.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
There’s no one cause that triggers PPD. It can be a variety of things, including hormonal changes to a complicated pregnancy. It’s not something that occurs because of what you did or didn’t do, and you don’t have any way of “controlling” whether it happens to you.
Some women, however, can be at a greater risk of developing PPD because of risk factors like:
A history of depression
PPD with other children
Lack of support
Understanding whether you’re at greater risk can help motivate you to take even bigger steps forward, so you can fight back against the effects of PPD before they even start.
Can PPD Be Prevented?
Because there are multiple causes associated with postpartum depression, it’s not 100% preventable. However, there are ways to reduce your chance of experiencing it.
#1) BE REALISTIC. It’s easy to fall into ideas about what should and shouldn’t happen when you’re pregnant or when you come home with your baby. Don’t let unrealistic expectations and fantasies allow you to become disappointed with reality. When you feel “let down” because your experience doesn’t match up with your expectations, it’s easy to succumb to depression.
#2) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Self-care isn’t selfish, and it’s a necessity for new mothers. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t be the kind of mother you want if you’re not prioritizing getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising.
#3) LEAN ON YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM. Finally, lean on your support system as much as possible. That could include your partner or spouse, family members, or circle of friends. If you feel like there’s a lack of healthy, helpful support in your life, consider reaching out to support groups in your area. Even connecting with other new mothers online in secure forums can help.
Treating Postpartum Depression
If you’re concerned that you might already be struggling with PPD, it’s never too early (or too late) to seek out the help you deserve.
Self-care is just as important during PPD. Exercising and getting enough sleep can reduce stress and improve mood. Having a support system is also just as important. But, if you don’t have the support you need or you’re nervous about talking to family members or friends about your struggle, reach out to a mental health professional.
PPD isn’t 100% preventable, but there’s a good chance you can avoid it or keep your symptoms light with some of the suggestions here. However, even if you do end up developing it after giving birth, recognize that it doesn’t make you a bad mother. It also doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to bond with your baby.
Don’t hesitate to get help when it’s needed. Take care of yourself, and you’ll be able to enjoy motherhood without feeling overwhelmed with sadness.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey , New York, and Pennsylvania via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.