There's an article that ran recently in The Santa Clarita Valley Signal that I think everyone should read about a mom named Tracy who went through PPD and successfully came out the other side.
Here's an excerpt that I especially found valuable:
Prevention is Key
Since screening for depression is rarely done on pregnant women, knowing your own risk factors and taking care of yourself both before and after your baby is born are key ingredients to avoiding PPD in the first place.
"It's a shame that we screen pregnant women for Down's Syndrome, but we don't screen for depression, even though it's much more common," said Diana Barnes, Psy.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in the assessment and treatment of postpartum illness.
Those at higher risk of developing PPD include women with a personal or family history of PPD or other mood disorders, as well as those who have significant mood changes around their menstrual cycle, and women undergoing fertility treatment.
"If you had one episode of PPD already, the risk of having a subsequent episode during a different pregnancy is 75 percent," Barnes warned. "If you have been treated for depression or anxiety in the past, you are at risk."
Barnes added that if you develop depression while you are still pregnant, like Tracy did, your risk is even higher of being depressed after the baby is born as well.
Though many women have these risk factors, Barnes cautions against panic. Just because you are at risk does not mean you will develop PPD, but being aware of the possibility means that if you do develop it, you will be able to nip it in the bud that much sooner.
"Awareness is key," said Barnes. "Women should educate themselves and their families during their pregnancy."Barnes also encourages women to slow the pace of their lives before and after a baby is born. Don't try to change houses, jobs, or make other major life changes.
"Try to keep things status quo for at least one year postpartum," she said. "Women often put too much stress on themselves around pregnancy time, which is not good. We underestimate how big a change we are going through, and overestimate what we can handle. Other cultures make a much more sacred space for women to be pregnant, and we don't, but we should."
Get Help and SupportTo help yourself get well if you are in the throes of PPD, experts advise that you not be afraid to ask for help, and accept as much as you can.
Since getting enough sleep is important for recovery, Barnes suggests bringing someone in to your home who can get up at night with the baby if necessary. Tracy chose to hire a nanny, but you can also call on your spouse, a friend, or a family member as well.
In addition, finding other mothers suffering from PPD or a support group that caters to women with PPD can be a lifesaver during the most difficult moments.
"Support groups are excellent," Barnes said. "When you have PPD you feel that no one could feel as bad as you, but when you are sitting across the room from someone who gets what you are going through, there is nothing as good as that. You have less of a sense of isolation, and it can make you feel more hopeful."
Barnes recommends finding a group that specifically deals with mothers with PPD, as opposed to a general "new mothers" club, since moms with PPD are going through an entirely different experience of motherhood than those not suffering from it.