In a world where we compare everyone’s Facebook highlights to our lowest moments, is it any wonder why we are ashamed to talk about postpartum depression?
If it is supposed to be the happiest time of our lives, why do we find ourselves crying into cold coffee?
Is it possible to love and resent a baby at the same time? Or am I just the worst mom in the world?
If you have ever experienced the hell of postpartum depression (which you probably have if you are reading this), you are likely scared to death of having another child. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want one.
Now that your first babe is growing up, you have experienced light at the end of the tunnel. You know that another child would bring immense love and joy into your family.
But still, the terror of those beginning days makes you think that giving birth to a toddler would be better than living with a newborn.
Well, you are in luck my friend. It is possible to be free from postpartum depression and truly enjoy motherhood after childbirth, even if you had PPD the first time.
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Let’s Get Started!
Grab a pen and paper right now. Or open a Google Doc. Seriously. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
If you don’t do it now, you never will. So suck it up buttercup. You will need to write down:
- The major contributing factors to your PPD with your first child
- Ways that you can be proactive about preventing them this time around
While every woman’s situation is unique, some of the most frequent contributors to PPD are:
- History of depression (even higher risk if you got off of your medication)
- Relationship problems with spouse or significant other
- Lack of self care
- Chronic sleep deprivation
- Trouble breastfeeding
- Medical complications (for you or baby)
The more proactive you can be, the better your chances of avoiding postpartum depression. There is no magic pill (unfortunately), but there is a lot that you can learn from your last experience.
Let’s look at ways to be proactive about each one of these potential triggers.
History of Depression
According to the Mayo Clinic, having a history of depression, especially during or after a previous pregnancy, puts you at higher risk for postpartum depression.
If you are currently taking an antidepressant, it is critical to weigh the risks and benefits of staying on your medication, or switching to an alternative if needed.
Generally speaking, SSRI’s such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa are considered very low-risk to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Outside of these three, it gets a little more complicated. You can read more about which medications are safe here. But of course, you should always consult your doctor before making any decisions.
If you are unable to continue your medication, make sure that you remain closely monitored by your physician.
Alternative forms of therapy such as counseling, yoga, and meditation can also be extremely beneficial to maintaining your wellbeing, especially if you are unable to continue your medication.
Action Step: Before getting pregnant again (or as soon as possible if you are already pregnant), schedule a visit with your doctor or mental health care provider to discuss your risks and make a plan.
I don’t think it’s possible to go through postpartum depression and come out without relationship problems.
To avoid unnecessary stress (and a potential breakup), work through problems in your relationship before getting pregnant.
If you are already pregnant, girrrl, you and your partner better get on that asap. ← That was me by the way. Pregnant and still traumatized from the last infant.
Action Step: Play it safe. Start counseling now, and schedule follow up appointments for after your baby is born. I highly recommend both individual and couples counseling.
Lack of Self Care
Finding time for self care may be one of the biggest struggles that mothers will encounter, especially when they have two or more children to balance.
The guilt complex runs deep when you are busy meeting the needs of a new baby while your first little love is competing for your time and attention.
But the truth is, self care is critical. If you are in a bad place mentally and emotionally, it won’t be possible to be the best version of yourself for your children. You can’t pour water out of an empty cup.
Just twenty minutes of time taking care of yourself can greatly increase your capacity to be emotionally available to your children.
What gives you life? What relaxes you?
Here are some ideas:
- Going to a movie
- Grabbing coffee with a friend
- Going for a walk
- Practicing mindfulness
- Reading a book
- Getting a massage
- A bottle of wine
When it comes to self care, if you wait for the right time, it will never happen. You need to schedule it in like you would an appointment, or something else will always take precedence.
Action Step: Find something small to do every day, and something larger to look forward to every week.
You can probably swing the small daily self care routine by yourself, but fitting in the larger weekly one will require that someone else (partner, parent, babysitter) watch the kids.
Whatever you choose, find a way to make it work for you (even if it means forcing your husband to take care of both children).
Chronic Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation, especially for extended periods of time, is enough to make anyone go bat-shiz-crazy. And you know what else? It’s really bad for your health too.
It’s hard to sleep when a certain someone won’t go to sleep though.
Getting your baby to sleep is easier said than done. The books make it sound simple, but if you have ever had a baby that won’t sleep, you KNOW it’s not that easy.
Before you burn Babywise or your Dr Sears book and send me hate mail, consider this: maybe the approach that you tried with your first child wasn’t a good fit.
With my first daughter we were sold out on co-sleeping (We followed Dr Sears. Personally, I still despise the man. But that’s just me).
It was the worst thing we ever could have done.
Emmie woke up to nurse every 1-2 hours at night and could rarely nap more than 15 minutes for her first six months of life. Then we sleep trained her using the cry-it-out (CIO) method and BOOM! A few days later she was sleeping through the night!
Did I drink a lot of wine with tear stained cheeks those first few nights of sleep training? You bet I did. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
I went from being so sleep deprived and depressed that I wanted to run away from my own family, to being happy and fulfilled. Emmie went from screaming all the time with red circles under her eyes to being a really fun-loving baby.
There’s nothing wrong with co-sleeping. It was a godsend for one of my girlfriends (she ended up loving my nemesis, Dr. Sears). It just wasn’t a good fit for me and my baby.
So try a few different approaches if you need. Find what works for your child and your family.
If nothing works, swap nights with your partner. After all, you’re working every day too. It doesn’t matter if you get dressed and leave the house for work, or you are a SAHM who doesn’t have time to change out of pajamas. Childcare IS work. If you’re not doing it, you have to pay someone else to.
Action Step: Read up on a variety of approaches to infant sleep, then try them out! When you sign up for my FREE email course, Baby Prep 101, I cover popular approaches as well as delegating household duties (and more!).
Ahh, breastfeeding. Nothing ruins a good night of sleep like a crying baby struggling to latch onto an engorged boob.
The truth is, breastfeeding can be effing hard. Babies have one job: to eat. And a lot of them suck at it (no pun intended).
Most breastfeeding mothers and babies will encounter several obstacles on their journey. From mastitis to tongue ties and everything in between, you never know which hand will be dealt to you. And each baby is a new adventure.
To stay ahead of the game, it’s good to gather resources ahead of time. You don’t want to be scrambling to find a lactation consultant after you have already hit your breaking point.
Action Step: Ask your hospital about breastfeeding support resources, and contact La Leche League to find a lactation consultant near you.
It’s easy to become weighed down from complications such as hemorrhages, preeclampsia, placenta previa, infantile colic, or the vast array that premature babies are subject to. It’s hard to do much on the prevention side, but there are still measures that you can take.
If you had medical complications that were traumatic or delayed healing, have an in depth discussion with your doctor or midwife to discuss potential preventative measures that can be taken this time around.
If your last baby had colic, stock up on Gripe Water, consider altering your diet (if you plan to breastfeed), buy some noise canceling headphones, and make a butt load of freezer meals.
If you are at risk of preterm labor, begin to mentally prepare now. It’s going to be hard.
If you will be working, find out how much time you can take off. Arrange childcare for your older child so you are able to spend time in the NICU. Discuss how you and your partner will divide time between home and the hospital.
If nobody has offered yet, ask a close friend to start a meal train for you and make freezer meals. If or when your baby is in the NICU, connect with other NICU moms for support, either in person or online.
Although there is no way to guarantee that you won’t experience postpartum depression again, there are a lot of things you can do to greatly increase your chances.
By far, the most critical of the steps listed above are meeting with your doctor, and continued monitoring after your baby is born.
On a personal note, instituting several of these action steps have played a major role in helping me prevent postpartum depression with my second daughter.
I’m only three weeks postpartum at the time of writing this, so I’m not out of the danger zone yet, but so far things have been completely different than my last postpartum experience.
Update: I made it four months without any PPD spells. Woot woot!
We had one reeealllly bad day with uncontrollable crying and visions of ditching my family.
But I’m going to be honest- I had stopped taking my own damn advice.
Why do I always over-extend myself?
As soon as I started taking care of myself, things went right back on track.
What’s your story? Have you ever experienced postpartum depression? If so, have you ever gone on to have more children without suffering from it?
Comment below or shoot me an email at Jade@MommyMatters.co.