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Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression was something that I had heard about, but just hoped I would not experience. I had dealt with depression in the past and just held out hope that that wouldn’t happen to me. Unfortunately, due to my past struggles with my mental health, I was already more at risk for having PPD.

It is also important to note that even if you or your family have no history of mental health issues, you can still be at risk of Postpartum Depression. Postpartum Depression risk is increased due to family history with PPD, moderate to severe PMS, a risky pregnancy, having more than one child, a history of sexual abuse, among other factors. Also, those of a young age are more susceptible to PPD. The lowest rate of PPD was seen in the age range of 31-35. 

A lack of social support, a less nutritional diet, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as B6 and Selenium also put you more at risk.

Treating PPD

One effective treatment for PPD is support groups.  A lot of us can attest to, maybe such as a time in grade school, that you may remember not fully grasping a new lesson or concept. Maybe you can even remember saying to your friends or classmates, “ Did anybody else understand that?” To which some people probably replied, “Nope.” At that moment, it might not help your understanding, but it lets you know you’re not alone. Mentally this can be used to help “level” the playing field. It is so much harder to strive to be better and to actually improve when you feel like you’re the only one experiencing something. A lot of the time we can prematurely exclude ourselves due to our own fears. Isolating yourself has been found to actually make depression worse. There is always someone who has or is experiencing something similar to you and it helps to connect with those people. 

CBT 

CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, has been found to effectively reduce the prevalence of PPD and treating PPD. Additionally, CBT even over the phone has been found to significantly reduce PPD symptoms. These findings have been observed when compared to receiving just standard care in the postpartum period.

Pharmacotherapy

Pharmacotherapy has been found to be effective treatment for PPD as well. Specifically, Sertraline, also known as Zolofot, has been found to be 50-67 percent effective in women. It is also important to note that Zoloft is one of the safest antidepressants for breastfeeding mothers. I myself was very averse to being on medication at the start of my PP journey. But the more I struggled, the more I realized I needed more help than I was getting. For me personally, I think this was definitely a big part of me improving my mental health. If you have any doubts or concerns, please talk to your doctor about what you want out of medication or if it’s a possibility for you. 

Sleep 

I understand this can be a triggering word for many but sleep is one of the most crucial things for treating PPD. Let’s all laugh together at the possibility of getting 8 hours straight. I understand that people say sleep when the baby sleeps or get as much rest as you can before the baby gets here, as if you can store it and put it in your pocket or something, but whenever feasible make a best of effort as you can to sleep. The dirty dishes can wait, so can the in laws that won’t stop calling. I know for me, even when I could sleep, my mind wouldn’t let me, so when I felt sleepy, it was crucial to act on it as soon as I possibly could. The relationship between the lack of and poor quality of sleep is strongly related to increased severity of PPD. If watching that movie you’ve seen for millionth time will put you to sleep, do it. If a hot shower helps you sleep, please do it. If your baby is sleep and you’re in the middle of folding clothes and can sleep, do it. And also, if you feel you need to stop pumping, (or breastfeeding)and just bottle feed your child in order to preserve your sanity so you can sleep, DO IT. I was stuck on just pumping because my son wouldn’t latch well and I believe it heavily contributed to how awful I felt. Maybe that won’t/isn’t your experience. But if it is, please weigh the pros and cons of what it would mean to just formula feed. Know that your mental health is also your child’s health as well. 

Exercise 

It is a good idea in general to get moving not only for your own physical health, but especially for postpartum health. Exercise has been found to be not only beneficial for the postpartum period, but also during pregnancy. It also helps with fatigue and the quality of life for women in the postpartum phase, and especially for young mothers. Even home workouts have been found the reduce the symptoms of PPD. All this being said, please make sure you are cleared by your doctor before engaging in any physically taxing activities. If you can’t yet be physically active, please consider the other helpful treatments mentioned above.

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