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My Postpartum Depression Story, Part III - How to Control PPD Without Medication

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The first week I went to the Postpartum Resource Center (PRC) support group for my Postpartum Depression (PPD) it was a week the group wasn’t meeting; I happened to come upon Jen and the volunteers discussing the upcoming session for the group. I was embarrassed and turned to retreat, but Jen invited me to sit and share my story.

These individuals were all were very helpful and gave good ideas for dealing with PPD. They suggested a multi-faceted approach:

1. Group Therapy, for an objective outlet

The PRC of Kansas organization was an integral part of my recovery plan. I feel the group was very helpful and introducing me to other mothers I could relate to, and provided an outlet for what was on my mind. In going through PPD, I needed an objective outlet more than I ever did in my life; well-meaning friends and family were not as much of a comfort as having a therapist and the support group. I knew friends and family would try to be understanding and be helpful, but unless you have gone through PPD, I believe it’s hard to understand what it feels like and how to help.

2. Individual Therapy, to focus on building personal strength
At my doctor’s suggestion, I met with a Psychiatrist for a consultation. The Psychiatrist just wanted to put me on medication, so I asked to see a therapist instead. In the meetings with the therapist, I realized how my experiences (moving, miscarriage, isolation, etc.) all contributed to my symptoms, along with the hormone fluctuations.

3. The Plan, 7 steps for managing PPD without medication
In coordination with my OB/GYN, I devised a plan for getting through my PPD:
• I attended the PRC Support Group for an 8-week session and continued with the group throughout the following 2 sessions.
• I met with a therapist weekly at first, and then worked to scale back to every other week until I felt I no longer need it.
• I tried to exercise daily (preferably in the mornings to get the “feel good” hormones pumping).
• I tried to eat a nutritionally-sound diet (cut back on or eliminate caffeine, alcohol and sugar).
• I was diligent about drinking more water (I had stopped keeping track of this since quitting breastfeeding).
• I attempted to get enough sleep nightly, or allowed myself a nap during the day.
• I asked for help from my husband if I needed it, and let him do things his way (not always the easiest thing to do, but I had to learn to let some things go).

Once I began, and kept to "The Plan," (as I affectionately began to call it), I started to feel much better. I just felt like I was doing something about the situation, and letting things I couldn’t control be. If I didn’t stick with "The Plan," my symptoms would creep back, so I can honestly say that it helped. It also helped to have a great partner I could lean on, one to pick up the slack a bit while I focused on getting better.

Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.

PRC of Kansas (www.kansasppd.org, 1-866-363-1300)
Kansas City Women’s Clinic (913-894-8500)

Add a Comment7 Comments

Congrats, Carrie! And so glad you're feeling much better this time.

I honestly believe there's something to be said for just feeling in control, and having the 'script probably helps. I did the same thing, I had my doctor write one for me when I left the hospital and took it immediately to the drug store, but didn't fill it. I ended up never needing to fill it. Even if I had needed to fill it, it would have been fine because as you said, I much would have rathered be able to enjoy my family than suffer. Use your arsenal of good habits and take care of yourself, it's the best thing you can do for your family (especially that new little member of it). Talk about feeling EmpowHer'ed! Let's hear it for strong women!

July 10, 2009 - 11:06am

I just had my second baby. I was terrified of the PPD and asked my doctor for a prescription before even leaving the hospital. Luckily, I have not had to touch it so far. This time is so much different from the first, and I don't know why. But I do feel very fortunate that I can enjoy my family so much more this time. Rest assured to all the ladies who are suffering, I would much rather take the drugs than be emotionally and mentally separated from the ones I love. Please get the help and don't suffer like I did the first time.

July 9, 2009 - 3:00pm

Hi Anonymous,
Congrats on your new baby! I'm so sorry you have to go through PPD in what should be a happy time. It's not easy, and I feel for you. Treatment is a personal thing, as we all are different and respond to different remedies. The most important thing to know is that you are not alone, and you can get better. You may need try a couple things working with your trusted doctor/midwife to find what works for you. Studies (according to doctors) have shown that medication is the quickest route to getting some kind of relief from symptoms, but many doctors also recommend additionally to use group therapy, individual talk therapy, seeking support from a partner, or family/friend, etc. which will also help you on the road to recovery. Don't be afraid to reach out--you need all the help you can get right now, and that's OK.
I took prozac, but after I had already undergone other treatment and learned about my specific condition, as mentioned in the article.
Your recovery will not happen overnight, but just think that all you have to do is get through today, and then tommorow get through that. Be confident that if you are doing something positive about it, you WILL get through PPD. Be happy for every little thing you accomplish (ex., taking care of baby, taking a shower) and let go of some things. For example, if you didn't get a portion of your 'to do' list done today, don't beat yourself up. Before you know it, it will be longer and longer between experiencing symptoms, and you'll be well on your way and back on track! Please let me know how you progress in your journey.

June 6, 2009 - 4:16pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi, I recently gave birth April 22, 2009, and I was diagnosed with PPD and I just started my med 3 days ago ( lexapro- anti- anxiety and anti depressant) does anyone else takes anything and is it sucessful? I really want to do it the natural way but I dont know? I suffer from insomnia, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and my mind feels disorganized like not connected to my body.... this all happened after birth.

June 6, 2009 - 12:15pm
EmpowHER Guest

My baby is 7 months old. I thought that the older my baby got, that my symptons would go away on their own. But I know thats not true. I pushed the father of my child away b/c I didn't talk to him about this and I wasn't able to feel connected to him anymore. I thought it was him, but I know it was part of my symptons. I can't even concentrate at work without worring about my baby with her own dad. What should I do to get started on a treatment plan.

May 8, 2009 - 10:58am

Hi Carrie, have you discussed your concerns with your doctor or midwife? If so, what have they said? Were they able to provide any resources for you to try and handle it preemptively? In regard to medication, I do know from personal experience and from women who were in the PRC Support Group with me that depending on which medical professional you ask you may get a different answer about what medication is best to take following giving birth and depending on if you're breastfeeding, etc. The best thing, in my opinion is to have a doctor or midwife you trust, and work closely with them. I'll post the rest of the article tomorrow so you know what my case was--but as you know, everyone's different. Know yourself, and ask for help from where you can get it if you notice symptoms coming on. Good luck, and congrats on Baby #2!

May 7, 2009 - 7:41pm

I wish now that I had asked about PPD when I had it the first time. I am about to have my second child and I am terrified that the PPD will be as bad as the first. If I do decide to go on the medicine, does anyone know of any side effects or complications?

May 7, 2009 - 6:54pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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