Dr. Alex Gard, PhD, LMFT
How to Prevent Postpartum Depression
Everybody knows about Postpartum Depression (PPD), and it’s a good thing that its being spoken about, as it affects approximately 1 in 7 moms. Less often you hear about Postpartum Anxiety and other mood disorders that also impact millions of women every year. In fact, 15-20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety after a baby is born.
PPD is definitely the most recognized and spoken about, and I find that there is fear and helplessness surrounding Postpartum Depression for many women. Many expecting moms express to me that they are fearful that developing PPD is something they can’t avoid. Like it’s something they will either “get” or they won’t.
But this simply isn’t true. There are steps that you can take during pregnancy and early on in postpartum that can safeguard your emotional health. These tips are just a small percentage of what women can do early on to protect their emotional well-being. But these are the big ones, so take a look below:
1) Check your expectations: I cannot stress this enough. The expectations we have about motherhood completely alter our experience. If we think of motherhood and a new baby as what it appears to be on social media and the movies, AKA pure bliss and joy sprinkled with a little bit of perfection, then we are digging ourselves a hole. Motherhood is messy and the newborn stage and subsequent stages are HARD. It is so important to have real expectations for what is to come. That does not mean to be fearful and afraid, but it means to be real with yourself about the road ahead. Talk to your mom friends and get the real tea.
2) Talk to your partner BEFORE the baby comes: Conversations pre-baby are key. It is so important to communicate about your expectations about parenting before the baby comes. Who will carry what responsibility? How will household tasks be divided? What do you expect from your partner that maybe you aren’t voicing? Unspoken expectations that aren’t met become barriers. Don’t let this happen. Talk to your partner about what you see their role being, what you expect from them as a parent, (and partner) and what your game plan is for those sleepless nights. You’ll want to be on the same page!
3) Ask for help: If you are type A like me, this can be hard. Trust me, you need to for your sanity. Ask for help, and take it. Even if it's five minutes to go for a walk, or ten minutes to shower, please ask for it and use it. You need these moments to refill your glass, because you will constantly be giving from it.
4) Have a go-to person that you can speak your truth to: This is HUGE. I can’t tell you how many times this saved me. Knowing that I could call or text my go-to person and say anything and everything was huge. Every new mom needs that person that can receive whatever it is that they are going through and validate it. Find a friend who gets it. Text them when you are in moments of struggle. AND also share the small victories. Those happy moments are important to highlight too. Validation and support is essential to a new moms emotional well-being. When we keep this stuff to ourselves, especially the hard stuff, we allow shame to take over. Instead, speak your truth to someone who gets it, it will relieve so much stress and anxiety.
As stated previously, these tips are not all-encompassing, but they are a good summary of where to start. If you are needing some more help navigating pregnancy or postpartum, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
I love helping expectant and new moms confidently navigate the ebbs and flows of motherhood. Click here to schedule an appointment today.