Pregnant women experience a wide range of emotions after giving birth, including joy, fear, excitement, and even depression.
Depression that starts within four weeks after delivery is known as postpartum depression (PPD).
According to WebMD, “Postpartum depression is linked to chemical, social, and psychological changes that happen when having a baby….The chemical changes involve a rapid drop in hormones after delivery. The actual link between this drop and depression is still not clear. But what is known is that the levels of estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones, increase tenfold during pregnancy. Then, they drop sharply after delivery. By three days after a woman gives birth, the levels of these hormones drop back to what they were before pregnancy. In addition to these chemical changes, the social and psychological changes of having a baby create an increased risk of depression.“
There is no proven cause for postpartum depression (PPD). However, According to American Psychology Association (APA), 1 in 7 women experience a serious mood disorder. You can read more from APA here.
We do know that it can affect a good percentage of women after birth, and there are factors that make women more likely to experience postpartum depression.
While any woman can experience postpartum depression, according to the MayoClinic, here are the factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing postpartum depression:
- You have a history of depression, either during pregnany or at other times.
- You have bipolar disorder.
- You had postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy.
- You have family members who’ve had depression or other mood disorders.
- You’ve experienced stressful events during the past year, such as pregnancy complications, illness or job loss.
- Your baby has health problems or other special needs.
- You have twins, triplets or other multiple births.
- You have difficulty breastfeeding.
- You’re having problems in your relationship with your spouse or significant other.
- You have a weak support system.
- You have financial problems.
- The pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted.
This is different and distinct from the “baby blues” which last for only a week or so, and includes signs of sadness, anxiety, irritability, crying, and other mood swings.
While there is no cure for postpartum depression, there are emotional wellbeing tools you can use that can help reduce and prevent the factors known to be linked to PPD.
- Related: How To Balance It All (podcast)
How To Avoid Postpartum Depression
You can take several actionable steps to reduce the factors that are linked to postpartum depression.
Below is a list of seven steps you can take to do just that.
Step 1: Educate yourself.
Educating yourself on postpartum depression risk factors (like you’re doing by reading this blog post) will help you understand how to interpret any symptoms of postpartum depression you experience.
This will lead to increased confidence with respect to when to seek help.
- 11 Ways To Avoid Stress During Pregnancy (blog post)
- 3 Steps To Reduce Anxiety For Moms (free course)
- Disagreements In Marriage (podcast)
Step 2: Avoid life changes immediately after giving birth.
Having a baby is an enormous, life changing event.
Because of this, your brain is going to be in overdrive adjusting.
For this reason, avoid any additional life changes during this time. This way your brain is only focusing on the baby and your family’s new life (and lifestyle).
When your brain has too much to adjust to, it makes it harder for it to stay in a positive, benevolent state.
In short—if you can, hold off on switching jobs, moving across the country, or any other big changes until the fourth trimester passes so you make it easier on your brain to adapt.
- Thursday Inspo (email newsletter)
- Teaching Kids About Thoughts And Feelings (podcast)
- Relationship Stress During Pregnancy (blog post)
Step 3: Reduce anxiety ahead of time.
Prioritizing your mental health during the first 12 weeks after giving birth can reduce your risk for PPD.
Reducing anxiety ahead of becoming a mom is one way to do this.
Anxiety is often misunderstand. Anxiety is a feeling that you experience caused by your thinking. (This assumes you don’t have a chemical imbalance, in which case you want to seek a medical provider’s help.)
Instead of pushing away, resisting, or avoiding anxiety, you can learn to allow it and process it. And in so doing, you reduce anxiety (and its grip on you) altogether.
Here’s a free class for moms on how to overcome anxiety: Anxiety For Moms Free Class
Step 4: Cut back on sugar and flour.
A healthy diet during pregnancy can help you reduce mood swings and even prevent postpartum depression. This is because having a healthy diet, where your blood sugar is constantly too high optimizes your physical health, making it easier for your body to do its job and take care of you.
Flour and sugar are two substances that increase the glucose in your bloodstream, which is why you get a sugar high and then crash when you consume it. More on this here.
It’s also challenging to regulate your hunger when you consume a lot of flour and sugar. You’ll get false hunger cues (this is where you become “hangry”) when you consume too much flour and sugar.
Try eliminating (or reducing) your flour and sugar intake as a way to reset and recalibrate your body’s natural hunger. This will help you live a more healthy lifestyle.
- Related: How To Cope With Negative Thoughts As A Mom (free course)
Step 5: Join a support group.
Joining support groups is an effective way to reduce feeling isolated and the likelihood that you develop PPD.
While family members are typically well intended, having a group outside of friends and family can be very powerful.
The key here is to make sure the group is supportive and not negative or fear-based.
Surrounding yourself with likeminded women who are learning about motherhood in a supportive forum can help you improve your mental and emotional health.
- Rest On Purpose (podcast)
- 75 Journal Prompts For Moms (free download)
- How To Clear Your Mind Of Negative Thoughts (blog post)
Step 6: Get your finances in order.
Once the baby is born, you’ll have enough to focus on with so many changes at home.
The more you can do to stabilize everything else in your life ahead of time, the better.
One way to do this is to make sure your finances are in order prior to the baby’s arrival.
Make sure you’re financially prepared and that there’s nothing outstanding that could make it more challenging for you to care for baby that could be resolved ahead of time.
For example, pay off any debt, get on a budget, start saving more money, and make sure you have the right insurances in place for baby. These are some of the most common ways that you can prepare financially for a baby ahead of time.
- Money Management (podcast)
- How To Remain Carlm During Pregnancy (blog post)
- How To Be More Mindful With Money In Marriage (free course)
Step 7: Prepare yourself for the “fourth trimester.”
While there’s plenty of information about labor and delivery and having a “birth plan” (all of which is important), there’s much less talk about the three months post delivery—the fourth trimester.
Often, this is the most challenging phase for new moms.
One resource to get started with is the book The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson. I love this book and it helped me tremendously.
Additionally, make sure you have an excellent health care provider who you can go to if you find yourself experiencing any depressive symptoms.
A Final Note
According to the MayoClinic, you should call your doctor if any of your symptoms…
- Don’t fade after two weeks.
- Are getting worse.
- Make it hard for you to care for your baby.
- Make it hard to complete everyday tasks.
- Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
There is no shame if you experience postpartum depression. Yet, by educating yourself and reducing the factors that increase your likelihood of experiencing PPD, you’ll find yourself optimizing your mental and emotional health and wellbeing in a way that serves you now and for the rest of your life.