Postpartum depression isn’t a matter solely for mothers of newborn babies.
It’s a lifelong struggle. Even with treatment, a postpartum depression relapse can happen years after the sleep deprivation and breastfeeding days are over.
The best way to describe it is to imagine that a depression gene is lurking somewhere within you. In some people, it is never triggered and lays dormant their entire life. In others, it’s triggered during childhood or puberty, from a traumatic event, or by pregnancy and childbirth.
The problem is, once it’s triggered, it’s more likely to keep happening.
Treatment can manage the symptoms and controlling specific triggers can help to avoid relapses. But it’s not something that is ever cured, and it will never go away because it was always there to begin with. It can only be controlled.
Here are some tips to help you avoid a postpartum depression relapse.
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.
Identify your triggers
Find out what factors tend to make you feel more depressed. Keeping a journal can help with this. On days when you are feeling extra sad or anxious – write down things you’ve done recently, how you were feeling, conversations you had, medications you’ve been taking, what the weather was like, etc. Postpartum depression triggers are different for everyone.
10 common triggers:
- Sleep Deprivation
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Anniversaries/Birthdays/Special Events
- Marriage problems
- Bad Memories
You can download this free printable postpartum depression workbook which has a section to document specific triggers.
Eliminate the problem
I know, it’s easier said than done. If we could all get rid of pain and stress, then the world would be a better place. Try keeping track of your sleep patterns and monthly mood fluctuations to help you notice patterns and triggers. But once you’ve identified your specific trigger(s), your next goal will be to work at ways to fix that issue in your life.
If you’re uncertain of where to begin to fix the problems affecting your mental health, then speaking to a therapist can help. There are even online psychiatrists available through sites like Online Therapy and Better Help.
Take care of yourself
Mothers are infamous for not taking proper care of themselves. Self care is not just a suggestion, it plays a huge role in avoiding a postpartum depression relapse. Taking time to relieve stress, get enough sleep, eat properly, exercise and meditate will ensure that you stay one step ahead.
Stick to your treatment plan
Of course you’re going to be feeling great after starting a round of anti-depressants or therapy, but that doesn’t mean it’s done it’s job and now you can stop. Any changes to your treatment plan should always be discussed with your doctor, don’t assume that you no longer need treatment just because you’ve been free of postpartum depression symptoms for months.
Find someone to confide in
If you didn’t tell anyone you had postpartum depression the first time it happened, then it’s likely you will also choose to suffer silently in the event of a relapse. Find someone that you can talk to about your feelings. It can be someone close to you, a complete stranger or a support group, as long as they will encourage you to speak up and seek help.
As much as you might try to eliminate stress and other triggers, life still happens and much of it is out of our control. Try your best to plan ahead for situations that overwhelm you. If being locked inside the house during the winter months makes you feel dreary, plan a vacation. If you’re dreading the stress of juggling all the kids during summer vacation, hire someone to help you. Being prepared for a postpartum depression relapse may even be enough to make you feel like you can handle it, should it hit.
Don’t be discouraged
Sometimes, having a postpartum depression relapse is unavoidable. It doesn’t mean that you have failed or that you will never get better. While you may suffer more relapses in the future, each one will be easier to get through as long as you don’t let it get the best of you.
Take away it’s power
As long as your postpartum depression is a secret – it controls you. If you’re constantly afraid of a relapse happening, then it has power over you. The only way to take away it’s power is by accepting and acknowledging it. Tell everyone that you have postpartum depression and that there’s a chance you could suffer a relapse. Then you won’t have it hanging over your head, and you won’t have to suffer alone. Consider becoming an advocate for postpartum depression awareness, joining a maternal mental health movement or blogging about it.
Remember that it’s not about them
If you didn’t know that a postpartum depression relapse was even possible, then chances are, neither did they. “They” being your loved ones, your spouse, family or friends – even your own children. Once you start feeling better, others will assume that you’re cured. And if you suffer a relapse, you will be reluctant to tell them for fear of disappointing them. But it’s not about them, it’s about you and your health, and that’s far more important.
So before you even suffer from a relapse, tell your loved ones that it’s possible this could happen. Ask them to help you eliminate your triggers and watch for symptoms that your postpartum depression is returning.