An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so find out how to reduce your chances of suffering from postpartum depression (PPD).
Although there's no proven way to avoid developing postpartum depression, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and reduce your risk.
First of all, you should be proactive and find out if you are at risk. In addition to scrutinizing the risk factors we decribe, set up an appointment with a qualified health-care professional to discuss your situation. He or she can help you minimize any risk factors within your control and help you come up with a plan to deal with PPD if it does occur. Diane G. was evaluated before getting pregnant, because she gave up a baby for adoption at age 16 and felt that she needed to resolve her past in order to move forward. She has three kids now and did not develop postpartum depression after any of the births. Here are 10 tips for reducing your risk:
1. Educate yourself
Learn everything you can about postpartum depression. This will enable you to recognize the condition if it occurs and get help for it quickly. You will also be able to give your health-care practitioners the information they need to help you recover.
2. Sleep and eat properly
A nutritious diet and a sufficient amount of sleep are critical to your health and well-being. Do your best to eat right and get as much sleep as you can, both during your pregnancy and your postpartum period.
Exercise is a key component in reducing your risk for PPD. Squeezing in even 15 minutes of walking a day will elevate your mood and help you feel better about and in more control of your body.
4. Avoid making major life changes during or right after childbirth
If at all possible, don't make any big life decisions, such as buying a house or changing jobs, during or right after your pregnancy. Keeping your life as simple and stress-free as possible will make your postpartum recovery faster and easier.
5. Let your feelings be known in the delivery room
Don't be afraid to speak up and express your needs and wants in the delivery room. It's important that your delivery be as comfortable as possible. If you want an epidural, tell the attending physicians. If you're uncomfortable, tell them.
6. Enlist good support during birthing
Make sure to surround yourself with people who can give you the support you need during childbirth. Perhaps that's your partner, or maybe it's your mother, your partner, and your best friend. You should also consider hiring a doula to help you through the process. Do whatever it takes to feel supported during delivery in order to have the best possible experience.
7. Prepare yourself well for childbirth
Taking a childbirth education class is helpful, but don't stop there. Read as many books or articles on the topic as you can manage. Talk to other women about their experiences. Many childbirth classes skim over crucial aspects of childbirth, like C-sections, and you should be well-informed on every possible outcome in the delivery room so there will be no surprises. If you know what to expect, you're less apt to have a traumatic childbirth experience.
8. Enlist household help during the postpartum period
You will be in no condition to cook meals and clean the house in the first few weeks after your baby is born, especially if you have a C-section, so arrange for people in your support system to help you. Have someone go grocery shopping for you to stock up on frozen entrees and easy snacks. Let your sister vacuum the living room floor for you. Your support system is there to help -- use them. If you don't have a support system you can depend on, think about hiring outside help until you're back on your feet. Having someone come to your house to clean up twice a week and even cook some meals for your family will be a huge relief for you.
9. Find a strong emotional support -- and take advantage of it
Your support system is also there for you to lean on when you're feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain tired. Talk to them about how you're feeling and how your life is changing. You'll feel a lot better after you've vented. You should also use your support system to create some time for yourself whenever you can. Let your mother watch the baby while you take a long, hot bath. Let your best friend babysit while you and your partner go out for dinner.
10. Attend a PPD support group
The best support often comes from people who have been where you are and know what you are going through. Talk to your obstetrician, a therapist, your baby's pediatrician, or other moms, and find out where your local PPD support group meets.