Post Partum Depression is there anything I can do to prevent it?
First of all let me say that the content of this blog is intended as information to help you supplement your health, not to diagnose or treat depression in any way. Please always seek the help of your medical doctor if you are experiencing feelings of depression. You are not alone and help is out there!
The number one risk of being diagnosed with PPD is a previous history of depression and/or family history of depression. These risks are not something you can really prevent. Please always seek medical attention if you are at risk.
But here comes the good news, there are several things you can do for yourself and your baby to make the transition into motherhood easier.
Gestational diabetes has been associated with higher risk of PPD- a study published in science daily January 2017, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/874796 where over 700,000 women took part, showed that women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes where at higher risk to be diagnosed with PPD than those who had stable blood sugar throughout their pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can be prevented with the right nutrition, therefore eating right to prevent unstable blood sugar can help prevent PPD.
Nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy particularly Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin-B and Vitamin-D can also increase the risk of being diagnosed with PPD. Nourishing your body right, having your levels checked and making sure they are in the recommended range before birth may help you in preventing PPD.
Traumatic birth experience is also a risk factor for PPD. Unfortunately this happens far too often. Women feel like they were violated during birth and are not treated with respect. As a result they often suffer both physically and emotionally for a long time after the birth which contributes to the risk of PPD. This is a tough one, you can not always prevent a traumatic birth experience, but the more you educate and prepare your self before birth the lesser the risk. Seek out a doctor, midwife, and a doula whom you can trust and know before birth. Take childbirth preparation classes and/or hire a coach to prepare you for this amazing experience in your life. Find a hospital or a childbirth center where you know that women have had previous good experiences with as little intervention as possible yet enough as necessary. If you are low risk then consider a home birth.
If you did suffer a traumatic birth experience please seek help. There are midwifes, psychologists, psychiatrists, and support groups that specialize in helping women work through post traumatic birth experiences.
Another possible cause of PPD can be a lack of support after birth, or on the other extreme too much support. What do I mean? Now a days many of us move away from our family and friends for work or other opportunities. That means that we are often alone with our newborn baby with no support system close to us. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” says it all. Lack of sleep, lack of the right nutrition (often no time), and a lack of time for oneself can contribute to PPD. On the other hand, if we do live close to family and friends, sometimes there can be too much help. They mean well and yes they do help yet at the same time the lack of privacy along with all the well-intended advice which goes against your beliefs can also cause your emotions to go haywire.
So, what to do! If you live far away from family and friends, try to set up a support system ahead of time such as: hire a post partum doula or midwife, have someone come help clean your house and help with laundry, and ask your partner to take as much time off as he/she can. If it’s the other way around, set boundaries ahead of time such as: setting visiting hours when it’s best for you not your friends, believe in yourself, and do not listen to others if they are telling you your breastmilk is not enough or if you should be doing things differently.
Postpartum thyroid problems, Hypo and Hyperthyroidism, can sometimes present themselves with the same symptoms as PPD and women often get misdiagnosed. New mothers are at high risk of developing thyroid problems. This is an autoimmune disease and needs be treated. If you are experiencing symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and irritability, among others, make sure you get your thyroid levels checked. I highly recommend the book “Adrenal Thyroid Revolution “, by Aviva Romm M.D. and check out her homepage avivaromm.com. She is an expert, a midwife, and a medical doctor with great experience in treating women with thyroid issues.
As a midwife, my favorite part of my job (don’t get me wrong I also love births) has always been taking care of new mothers after birth: helping them transition into the role of motherhood, recover from childbirth, learn how to nurse and take care of a newborn, and so much more. This new role can often be overwhelming and many women, yes many, I would even go so far to say most women, do experience feelings of sadness. Some then go from the feeling of sadness into a depression that can be hard to comprehend- after all, you should be so happy, you just had a baby, right? But your body is a complicated miracle that can go from being high functioning, creating a new life, to absolutely crashing afterwards for some of us. Do what you can to prevent that crash by taking control of your health and your journey both through pregnancy and afterwards.
Trust and believe in your self.
Believe you were made for this.