If you experienced postpartum depression with your first child and are considering having another baby, it’s only natural for you to be fearful or scared of this type of depression returning.
Planning for another pregnancy can fill you with profound anxiety, fear and self-doubt. What if my depression returns? What if this is a mistake? What if my depression is even worse?
“The recurrence of postpartum depression is very common,” said Lindsay Allen, MD, an OBGYN at Banner Health in Arizona. “Oftentimes the recurrence is more likely after a subsequent childbirth because women experience new challenges of caring for multiple children, or they have other changes in their support system. Perhaps their family thinks that since this isn’t the first pregnancy that things won’t be as difficult, which simply isn’t true. This can make women just as likely to develop recurrent depression symptoms after delivery of subsequent children.”
While we can’t always prevent postpartum depression (mostly due to things way out of our control), the good news is there are things you can do to reduce your risk and better navigate this next go around. Here are six tips to help you navigate another pregnancy after experiencing postpartum depression.
Ways to navigate a potential return of postpartum depression
Create a postpartum plan
Instead of fearing it, plan for it. Being prepared for a potential recurrence and discussing this with your doctor ahead of time are important strategies to try and prevent or even just reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.“Oftentimes strategies such as behavioral health counseling that is already set up or ongoing, or starting an antidepressant medication right after delivery can help to prevent a recurrence,” Dr. Allen said. “You know your body best and remember those triggers, how people can help you, and what made symptoms better or worse. Planning ahead can be a huge first step.”
Lean on loved ones for support
Although we are strong, independent women, every human being can benefit from support from time to time. Don’t be afraid to use your voice and ask for help when you need it. Talk to loved ones about what you experienced last time and make sure they understand and can recognize the signs if your mood or behaviors change after childbirth so they can support you if necessary. If having others help with meals and housekeeping helped last time, make a plan for them to help again.
Try walking, swimming and other exercise (approved by doctor)
Regular exercise both during and post pregnancy can reduce the symptoms of postpartum depression. Talk to your doctor first to see what’s safe for you to start.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating healthy won’t prevent or lower your risk for postpartum depression, but it can certainly help you feel better. Try to eat fewer sweets and salty snacks and focus on fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and lean proteins.
Join a support group
Although depressive disorders like postpartum depression can make you feel isolated, you aren’t alone. There are other women going through what you are going through. Find a local support group or go online to find a digital support group and connect with others who are experiencing what you are experiencing. Check out the Banner Health virtual support group.
There is no shame – don’t delay care
If you are at risk, don’t let symptoms get the best of you, recognize and address them early on.
“The importance of early recognition is very important because waiting can allow symptoms to progressively worsen and lead to severe depression, suicidal thoughts or even thoughts of harming the baby,” Dr. Allen cautioned. “Any patient who develops severe symptoms shouldn’t hesitate to seek medical care or treatment right away.”