According to Cleaveland Clinic, approximately 10-20% of women will experience postpartum depression and or anxiety. Despite this, learning how to prepare for and cope with the postpartum season is not often discussed. Postpartum is often described as one of the most challenging seasons of a mother’s life. Fluctuating hormones, sleep deprivation, body changes, and a lack of adequate support are just a few of the reasons why postpartum is so challenging. Pregnancy is often filled with birthing classes, newborn classes, pain management research, and preparing to take leave from work if working outside of the home. While all of these are important and necessary, they do not help prepare for the transition once your baby has been born.
Find a Therapist
Many new parents report that they struggle to initiate counseling once their baby has been born because the process feels overwhelming to them. It is important to find a therapist that you feel comfortable with so that you can develop rapport with them before your baby is born. Beginning to see a therapist while pregnant can help you begin to emotionally prepare for postpartum while also setting up a support system for after your baby is here. It is strongly encouraged that you schedule an appointment for 2-3 weeks after your baby is due to be born. This helps with accountability and ensures that you already have a check-in scheduled with your therapist once the postpartum season begins.
Communicate With Your Partner
Sitting down with your partner is beneficial for both the preparation and coping side of postpartum. Sharing warning signs for postpartum depression and anxiety with your partner can be helpful. Sharing warning signs and creating a plan can help ensure adequate support.
In addition to sitting down with your partner to discuss warning signs, it is also important to engage in discussions regarding what emotional and physical support looks like during the postpartum period. Partner conflict often contributes to symptoms of anxiety and depression during the postpartum period. Creating expectations that both partners agree to can help decrease miscommunication.
Another effective tool for managing symptoms of postpartum anxiety and depression is medication. If you feel as though you have symptoms of depression and anxiety that are not improving or worsening, it is appropriate to reach out to your medical care provider or psychiatrist to discuss how medications could help better manage your symptoms. Medications can be a safe and effective tool for managing symptoms of anxiety and depression during postpartum.
Ask For Help
Asking for help from supportive family and friends is such an important, yet underutilized, coping skill for postpartum. Whether you arrange support before the baby comes or reach out for help as needed, support is necessary during this season. This can look like setting up a meal train, arranging help for household chores, or simply asking friends and family to reach out to you to check on you. Often a feeling of guilt acts as a barrier to reaching out for help. Guilt is often associated with both anxiety and depression. Creating a plan and setting up help ahead of time can help address the barrier guilt plays.
Should you be experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression postpartum, it is imperative that you reach out for help. Call your healthcare provider or a therapist to get the help you deserve. It is always better to reach out before symptoms escalate if you can. If at any time you begin having thoughts of harming yourself or others, you can go to your nearest emergency room, call 9-1-1, or contact the suicide crisis line at 9-8-8.