8 Steps to Prevent Postpartum Depression (PPD)
1) Strive to get good sleep. This can be hard. A lot of pregnant women have trouble sleeping during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. And it certainly doesn't get easier after having a baby. There are numerous effective techniques to get better sleep or to help your baby sleep. Dr. Zechowy can work with you to see which might apply best to your lifestyle and family situation.
2) Exercise It can be as simple as walking, but any exercise can help bost endorphins and your mood. There are numerous online yoga classes for pregnant women or moms with babies.
3) Get Outdoors Just being outdoors in nature can improve your mood. It exposes you to sunshine which helps regulate your body clock and boost your mood. Plus being outdoors also decreasing one's tendency to ruminate about worries and negative self-talk.
4) Nutrition Healthy eating makes us feel better. In particular there is evidence that Omega 3 Fatty Acids, selenium (only 100mcg/day), and calcium may prevent or improve depression.
5) Light Therapy Ideally we would all be outside for 30 minutes each morning, but that's not possible for many people. If you are unable to get exposed to sunshine in the mornings, light therapy has been shown to be effective in treating depression. No study has been done yet to determine if it is effective at preventing postpartum depression but there is positive evidence for it value in treating PPD. For people at high risk of developing PPD (and without bipolar disorder) light therapy can be started as preventative treatment.
6) Connection with others Strengthen your relationships - with your partner, your family, your friends. Meet other pregnant women or other new moms. This is particularly difficult during the pandemic, so this may require some creative problem solving to find ways to combat loneliness and build your social supports.
7) Invite and Allow Help Frequently discuss with your partner ways to make the workload more manageable and share responsibilities. Finding outside support can be more difficult these days, but if there are people you feel safe with, get all the help you can get.
8) Time Away from the Baby Being constantly "on-call" for the baby is mentally exhausting. It requires some part of your mental space to be on alert scanning for the baby's needs and safety. Dr. Zechowy calls this the "Baby Radar". Having the baby radar perpetually turned on can lead to anxiety. It's important to take breaks and let someone else care for your baby. Even as little as 15 minutes a day can make a difference but ideally you'll get longer time away some days.
This is just the start. There's a lot more that can be done to prevent and treat postpartum depression!