How I’m Preparing for Postpartum Depression… Before the Baby Comes

We have a post about postpartum depression that you can find here but I wanted to run this guest post from Celeste because sometimes you can see PPD coming down the pike well before you’ve had your baby. She has some great tips here to prepare yourself if you’re in a similar situation.

I know it sounds backwards. You’re preparing for postpartum depression (PPD) and you haven’t had the baby yet? And you’re right. I’m not suffering from PPD yet and I don’t even know if I’ll experience it. But I’m only a few weeks from delivery, and if my previous experience with PPD as well as my history of anxiety are any indication, postpartum depression is something I will need to deal with this time around, as well. So even though I’m still pregnant and feeling pretty good at this point, I’m doing everything I can to be ready. Here’s how I’m preparing myself for PPD in case it rears its ugly head:

1. I’ve got help lined up

I’ve already talked to a few critical people in my life (my mom, my cousin, and a few good friends) and let them know to be on stand-by for my phone calls. Will I need to call them? I don’t know. But during my first go round, there were a few times where I needed to talk to someone RIGHT NOW and fortunately, someone just happened to be available to take my call. That was pure luck. This time around, they know the call may be coming and they know they are on my 911 “I need help because I can’t take this” list. My list was easy to pick: my mom’s my best friend and is always the first person I call, my cousin also suffered from PPD (three times!) and knows what I need to hear, and my friends also have experience with depression. I’m sure I could include other supportive friends and family, but for me having people who also struggled with the symptoms made the most sense.

2. I have activities for coping

One of the biggest challenges I had the first time around was feeling confined to my house. I feared going outside because it didn’t seem safe and I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t sure how to use the car seat yet, and the idea of taking the baby to the grocery store (or anywhere, really) seemed daunting and dangerous. This time around, I’m much more confident in my parenting skills outside the house and have a list of activities to get me and the baby outside when I need a break and fresh air. Activities include: going for walks (get a great stroller… seriously, it’s a lifesaver. My jogging stroller was a game changer), driving to the park, shopping, etc. I also have several babysitters lined up who are available to watch my toddler during the daytime. I don’t know if I’ll even use them, but just knowing they are there if I’m overwhelmed and need someone to entertain my son so I can focus on the baby is a huge relief for me.

3. My doctor is on standby

I’ve already told my OB-GYN that I struggled with PPD for the first baby and needed medication that was safe for breastfeeding. She knows I may call her at any point and we’ve already discussed my best options. Again, I don’t know if I’ll need to go that far, but just knowing it’s available is sometimes all you need.

4. I’m staying healthy

I’ve been working hard to exercise and eat well in this last part of pregnancy, and I’ll continue post baby. By exercise, I mean slow walking, so don’t misunderstand me. But continuing to move and eat right are great measures for conquering depression. In my last pregnancy, I grew complacent towards the end, which is mighty tempting when you’re uncomfortable, your back is killing you, sleep is a struggle, and you keep thinking “I’m pregnant… if I can ever eat junk food without feeling guilty, it’s now!” I hear ya and I’ve been there. But this time around, my eye is on the prize: postpartum health. I need to be in my best mental and physical shape possible so I can care for my baby to the best of my ability. Healthy eating and living are key.

5. I’m going easy on myself

In my first pregnancy, I believed that knowledge was power. I read as many books as I could and I was certain that there was no problem I couldn’t solve with all my literary resources. I believed the answers to all my baby’s needs lay within those books. Now I know better. I’m going to go with my gut for this baby and know that as his mother, intuitively I have a better sense of his needs than someone who calls herself the “baby whisperer,” or all the other experts out there. Just relaxing and going easy on myself lifts a huge weight off my shoulders, and makes me feel less pressure to know it all and have all the answers. I’m going to have to get to know my baby, just like any new mama does. Reading books may make you feel better armed for battle, but the best way to care for your baby is through watching, learning, and adjusting. It’s a cliché but it’s true: all babies are different!

I truly have no idea whether or not I’ll suffer from PPD with my next baby. Only time will tell. But these five measures make me feel more prepared for the possibility. And being prepared for the worst case scenario allows me to focus on the magic and miracle of my new baby…the most beautiful thing in life.

Related:

Suffering From Depression: The ‘You Should Be Happy’ Myth

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8 Comments

  • Great article! I suffered from PPD terribly with my first pregnancy and when I found myself pregnant a second time this was a major concern for both me and my family. Not only did no one (myself included) want to see me go thru this again, but now I would have double the responsibilities with two kids and double the children it could effect negatively. A few things that aren’t listed here but that helped me are:
    1. Getting a therapist that I liked lines up. I stayed speaking with one weekly when I was about 35 weeks. We discussed my apprehensions for after birth as well as ways to prepare for and for postpartum. The first time around I was too far gone to even make a few phone calls to find a therapist to talk to, this time I wanted to have someone all ready to go. And if I didn’t end up needing them then all I was out was an hour of my week. Plus, therapy isn’t gonna hurt even the mentally healthiest person.
    2. Coming up with a sleep plan. Sleep deprivation was a huge factor with my PPD the first time, I wanted a definite plan to make sure I got adequate rest the second time. Now obviously I didn’t expect to sleep 10 straight hours a night or anything like that but with my first I wasn’t sleeping at all because I’d be so worried I wouldn’t wake up when the baby woke up or felt the kitchen needed to be scrubbed down at 3am or any number of other reasons. My sleep plan include:
    * Getting outside help for the first week. My mom stayed with us the first week to mostly watch my older child so I could nap when the baby napped but she also ended up helping with making dinner, cleaning and laundry.
    * Asking my husband to take half of the night shift. The first time I felt like asking him to help was a burden on him since he worked during the day but after 3 years as a stay at home mom already I realized that I too worked more than all day and deserved ready just as much as he did! I took the late night shift and since he already had to get up early for work, he took the morning shift. He was happy to help, he just needed to be asked and for him there was nothing he wouldn’t do to save our family from the hell of PPD again!
    * Lastly, I came up with ways my older child could be entertained if I desperately needed a nap when I was on my own during the day. She was 3 at the time so this would look different depending on how old your kid is but while I was nearing the end of pregnancy sometimes we’d watch movies in my bedroom during the day when I got sleepy. If shut the door and tuck her in next to me. Then once she was into the movie is snuggle up next to her (making sure my arm was over top her so I could feel if she moved!) and take a little snooze. This was easily replicated once the baby was born as well. After putting baby down to nap in my bedroom we’d snuggle up and watch a movie/nap at least once a week giving me a nice hot long nap with my children safe and snuggles in choose to me.
    3. I had medicine ready to start immediately after giving birth. Antidepressants were a life saver for me the first time around. The biggest problem with them tho is that they take up to 6 weeks to start working. I was very worried that by the time I realized I was suffering from PPD again, having to wait an additional 6 weeks for medication to start working was too long to wait. I asked my doctors if starting the meds preemptively was allowed and they all highly agreed that this was the best plan for me. My OB wow me a smaller dose of the antidepressant if been taking before becoming pregnant and I brought it to the hospital and took the first dose hours after I gave birth. For me, the medication didn’t cause any problems and could only help the situation, so taking it whether or not I actually need it was reasonable for me.
    I’m only about a week postpartum now and so far I have zero symptoms of PPD but I’m definitely putting these as well as everything in the articles list into effect to make sure it doesn’t sneak to just turn] &;:

  • Thank you for this article! I am 39 weeks pregnant with my second and I’m feeling pre-PPD, so glad to know I’m not alone. These tips are all fantastic. I’ll add that one of my biggest struggles the first time was breastfeeding. My son was tongue-tied, I got thrush, I was pumping and feeding and supplementing and driving myself absolutely crazy. NEVER AGAIN! This time I am renting a hospital grade pump for the first month to help boost supply (as well as my freezer stash) and giving myself a break! Breastfeeding is not the end all and be all and I will not miss out on enjoying the first few months of my son’s life stressed over supply and crying on the floor in pain. I will definitely try to breastfeed again, but armed with knowledge and experience, it will be better!!

  • I too have this fear… I am trying some alternative medicine this time around…. Acupuncture and placental encapsulation. So far so good!!

  • This has some great ideas. I’m 31 weeks and was not facing the fact I may also have to deal with PPD again. Last pregnancy was 4 years ago and it was horrendous. Mind altering awfulness and which is probably why I wasn’t planning on having another child again. I did get help last time, but went through a really tough time before I figured out my mind was not "right." I appreciate these tips and will also get myself set up for success this time around. Thank you very much for this post!

  • Thank you so much for this. I’m currently halfway through my second pregnancy and I’m pretty sure I had an undiagnosed case of PPD with my fist child. Setting up a few of these things beforehand is a GREAT idea, thanks for sharing your strategy!

  • I cannot tell you how much this post meant to me, to read today. I’ve been living in fear of PPD after suffering with my first born two years ago. I want another baby, and my husband does desperately, but I don’t want to have the same experience. I am so scared. Last night I decided I was ready to start thinking about another baby more seriously, and I received this today. This gives me the confidence to know I CAN set myself up for success and have resources to help. Thank you for taking the darkness of PPD and putting it in the light. We need more advocates like you!

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