All pregnant women hope that life after delivery will bring happiness, peace, and blissful snuggles, even amid the inevitable sleeplessness and general chaos. But reality can be a very different beast. With the possibility of a future with depression looming over our heads, many women wonder, "can you prevent postpartum depression?" Although there are no guarantees, there are some things you can do during pregnancy that may improve your odds of a healthy mental recovery.
Jaime Filler, a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in maternal health in Atlanta, tells Romper that women and their partners can and should be proactive about lowering their risk for postpartum depression (PPD) even before the birth of their baby. In an exclusive interview with Romper, Filler proposes focusing on three main areas: support, resources, and sleep.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but Filler reminds moms that you must first identify who your village is. She explains, "Who are the people you can talk to about anything without feeling judged? The ones you can call at any hour of the day if you are struggling. Who are the people that can watch the baby for an hour or two so you can get some rest? Don't be afraid to call upon your village and ask for help. It can also be helpful to come up with a list of things that people can do to help you, so you are prepared when they offer you assistance."
Filler also notes that simply becoming a mom makes you a superhero; you don't have to and shouldn't try to do it all, especially not in the beginning. Meals are an easy task to outsource if you have willing volunteers in your life, and creating a MealTrain calendar (or even better, appointing someone else to do that) can be a great sanity saver. Another option is to find local places that will deliver healthy meals, and have their menus and phone numbers handy. Filler also recommends considering hiring a postpartum doula, who can be a tremendous help to new parents.
You'll also want to make sure you're catching enough Zs. "Since sleep deprivation can contribute to postpartum depression," Filler says, "come up with a plan to help the new mom get at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. One way to do that is plan to have someone else do the first nighttime feeding so mom can sleep." If you're foregoing bottles entirely, of course, you'll need to come up with another arrangement. Enlisting someone to tend to the baby while mom gets at least one two-hour nap during the day might be a possible solution, and thinking through the family's physical sleeping arrangement can impact the quality of sleep she gets, even with night wakings.
Infant care is obviously critically important, but society is finally waking up to the fact that mother care is equally as crucial in that first year of a baby's life. Taking proactive steps to prioritize your own health can't be overstated, but sometimes there is simply nothing you can do or could have done differently. If PPD finds you, be sure to seek help immediately. You don't have to do it alone, and there are brighter days just ahead.