Which Women Are At Greater Risk?

A woman’s risk for depression after pregnancy cannot be accurately predicted based on her hormone levels. But some women may be at higher risk for postpartum depression. These include women who:

     
  • Have had a previous postpartum episode. Women who have experienced postpartum depression after the birth of a child may have a greater chance of having the same problem again.  
  • Had a traumatic birth experience. Women who have had a difficult labor and delivery may be more prone to depression after pregnancy.  
  • Experienced prebirth (antepartum) depression. Women who have experienced depression, mood swings, and panic attacks while pregnant may be at greater risk for experiencing those feelings after delivery.  
  • Have experienced depression unrelated to pregnancy. Women who have had a previous mood disorder may have a greater chance of experiencing postpartum depression.  
  • Have a mother or sister who suffered from postpartum depression. The condition seems to run in families.  
  • Have had a recent stressful life event or major life change. Losing a job or home, marital difficulties, the death of someone close to you, or other stressful life events may worsen the effects of a drop in hormone levels after delivery.  
  • Have a history of extreme premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Women who suffer from severe PMS may be more susceptible to hormonal imbalances after birth.

What if it’s too late for a postpartum plan and you’re in the throes of depression? Find a quiet half-hour with a spouse, friend, or family member to identify stress factors and brainstorm solutions. You can’t solve everything all at once, but you can take positive steps toward feeling better if you simply slow down and work things through. Having someone do this exercise with you will help you remain more objective even though you are feeling overwhelmed and trapped.

Tips to Relax

A few minutes of quiet time each day can help to reduce your risk of depression after pregnancy, or to restore equilibrium to your life if you are feeling blue. Here are some simple exercises you can do:

     
  • Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. You can even practice childbirth breathing techniques. Breathe in and out slowly, concentrating on your breathing. (3 minutes)  
  • Sit quietly and pay attention to noises, smells, and feelings. Think about the details of these stimuli. What do you hear? Smell? Feel? If your mind wanders, gently return to the smells and noises around you. (5 minutes)  
  • Sit down where you are and notice the environment around you. Notice the dirty dishes, unfolded laundry, unopened pile of mail. Try to notice these things without passing judgment and without using the words, “should,” “ought,” or “must.” This form of “detachment” is a particularly helpful technique in keeping your expectations of yourself in perspective. (3 minutes)  
  • Step outside. Notice nature-trees, clouds, sun, flowers, birds. Take a few moments to water the flowers or repot a favorite plant. (5 to 10 minutes)  
  • Keep a journal. Write down the things you accomplished each day. It may be eating a healthy lunch, or spending a half-hour rocking baby or reading a story to an older child. Give yourself credit for the things you do, not criticism for the things that you don’t do. If you find yourself thinking about all the things that didn’t get done, gently bring your mind back to your accomplishment list. (5 to 10 minutes)  
  • Indulge yourself. Use a rich hand lotion. Give yourself a quick manicure or pedicure. Apply a favorite perfume. (5 minutes)  
  • Listen to soothing music or uplifting motivational tapes. (15 to 30 minutes)

What if it’s too late for a postpartum plan and you’re in the throes of depression? Find a quiet half-hour with a spouse, friend, or family member to identify stress factors and brainstorm solutions. You can’t solve everything all at once, but you can take positive steps toward feeling better if you simply slow down and work things through. Having someone do this exercise with you will help you remain more objective even though you are feeling overwhelmed and trapped.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD