Is it possible to prepare for postpartum depression? Absolutely!
While not every new mom experiences PPD, mothers (and their babies) are best off when they consider whether they have a predisposition for it.
Here are some of the risk factors:
biological risk factors including predispositions to mental illness (including depression and anxiety) and hormonal vulnerability (including sensitivity to PMS, PMDD, and hormone-centered birth control)
insufficient physical activity
disturbances in sleep and circadian rhythms.
previous mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety
a stressful delivery
family history of mental illness
a poor relationship with the baby's other parent
a poor support system.
If you check any of these risk factor boxes, let your doctor know while you're still pregnant so everyone is on the same page. You can also connect with a therapist during pregnancy to set up a plan for after birth. Planning ahead allows time to research the effect of certain medications on breastfeeding, set up steps to seek help, and lessen some of the chaos that can ensue when PPD hasn't been discussed and becomes an emergency.
And if you are a mom and if you had PPD/A prior, it can be terrifying to think about having another baby and having to go through PPD/A again.
So what can moms do to reduce these risks? Below are some recommendations:
Consult with a doctor or other trained professional about beginning or continuing medication during pregnancy. Many, many women take medications such as antidepressants during pregnancy and give birth to happy and healthy infants.
Develop and practice stress reduction techniques before the baby comes. This may include deep breathing techniques, mindfulness exercises, yoga, or anything else that calls to you.
Find a trained a therapist if you do not already have one or make an appointment with your current therapist before you think you may need it. Calling on others in your community (family, friends, support providers) prior to the birth is an important way to help you feel like you are not- and do not have to- do it all on your own.
Stock up on nutrients and eat for health. Baby will get everything he/she needs, but often mom will become depleted in the process. And our bodies need important nutrients to help produce and utilize the brain chemicals such as serotonin that help sustain emotional health. Along with healthful meals, multi vitamins, Omega 3's, and iron supplements have been helpful for many women.
Find a way to get mild-moderate exercise every day… Don't worry- this does not need to mean going to the gym 7 days a week! Simple walking and/or stretches can be enough.
Create a sleep plan- often PPD/A is triggered by inadequate sleep and extreme fatigue- making a plan with your partner and/or calling on friends and family to help is imperative. If you are having a hard time sleeping when your baby sleeps, talking to a doctor about over the counter or prescribed sleep aids may be helpful. Disrupted circadian rhythms have been associated with depression in many people.
Taking steps may help to prevent a Perinatal Mood Disorder from occurring the second time around. And if you do struggle again, changes are that you will get help and recover much more quickly with preparation and planning.
A good resource is a book written specifically on this topic, called: “What Am I Thinking?: Having A Baby After Postpartum Depression” by Karen Kleiman.