Advice on Post Partum Depression

Updated on June 21, 2009
A.N. asks from Ely, MN
18 answers

Hello. This is my first question. I enjoy reading all of the wonderful advice you have to share. It gives me hope to know that there are so many intelligent ladies out there raising our next generation of world-changers. Here's the situation. My husband and I just found out that we expecting our second child. :) Very exciting, as we have been trying for about a year. The trouble has to do with my mental health. As a young adult I was treated for depression and anxiety, but never felt comfortable with the options/treatments (medication and occasional therapy sessions). I instead focused on a healthy lifestyle - plenty of exercise, good food, enough sleep, and a fairly regular schedule. This worked for many years. After my son was born two years ago I was extremely emotional, cried at the drop of a hat, and had a hard time focusing. This lasted for about 4 months. I was never diagnosed as having post partum depression (PPD), but looking back I'm pretty sure I would have fallen into that spectrum - though I do realize that much of this is related lack of sleep and adjusting to a new situation. A few weeks ago I attending an early childhood lecture on brain development. One of the subjects that came up was the effect of PPD on babies brain development. My son is wonderfully bright and well-adjusted, but I want to be as proactive as possible with the little one on the way. I have felt more emotional with this pregnancy - I guess that brings me to my question. What have you done during and after pregnancy to deal with depression? I would love to hear all sides, so please feel free to go in any direction you choose. Thanks in advance!

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answers from Milwaukee on

I have delt with depression since I was a teenager but never got it diagnosed. I finally as an adult went into therapy and got on depression meds I was also diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. I have been on and off meds for about 9 years. When I had my 2nd child a few years ago I felt myself slipping into a deep depression. I caught it early and talked to my family doctor about it. I am at this point off medication and doing fine. There is nothing shameful of asking for help. I found talking to someone objective really helped me get rid of my extra baggage I've been carrying for so long. I would definitely recommend seeking help by a professional.

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answers from St. Cloud on

Hi A.! I really think your answer is fish oils. Not the crappy Wal-Mart kind but GOOD fish oils. Carlson's and Nordic Naturals are the way to go. Don't let anyone tell you that all fish oils are created equal. I have done my research on this and the brands I've listed above are truly the best. I really, really think they are a must for everyone but especially preg/ nursing moms.
I think fish oils (Omega 3 fatty acids) are what kept me from PPD after my daughter was born. I forgot to take them for a couple of weeks and wondered why I was SOOOO emotional! After resuming my normal dose of Omegas, I felt back to normal.

I am not saying that this is absolutely the answer but it WILL help and it will boost your baby's brain developement.
Also....go to to read what he says on Vitamin D. We need it! Getting it from the sun is not enough. Vit. D is essential for mental health. And not just the kind added to milk :)

Blessings on you and congrats on your pregnancy! Rest easy and KNOW that there is nothing wrong with taking meds for a time to get you through the rough part. If the natural stuff works (I am a natural wellness kind of girl) then go for it.....if not then get a prescription. :)

Oh, all the supplements I mentioned can be found at any health food store or online at

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answers from Wausau on

I'd been on Prozac for several years before getting pregnant, and I stayed on that until mid-way through the pregnancy when I fell apart completely (you know the stage when your hormones do that major shift in the middle?) and at that point I was switched to Effexor which I stayed on until I was finished breastfeeding. Now I'm back on Prozac. My son seems fine.

therapy/counseling never seemed to work for me, neither did light therapy.

Oh and I also used yoga during pregnancy to help keep me centered. That is the best natural solution I've found.

Congrats and good luck :)

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answers from Davenport on

A. I truly hope this helps you. I also had PPD after my first child and just assumed it was the blues.After I had #2 I was diagnosed with PPD. I was given Welbutrin and it helped for awhile I also made sure I had a healthy diet and got out and got exercise. While pregnant with #3 & #4 I took welbutrin the last 6 weeks of pregnancy and then was given Celexa after I delivered. I nursed and used the Celexa with no problems. I know that without the medication I may have harmed myself, I never had thoughts of harming my children but I often felt they may be better without me.I have no problems now and I am a happy healthy mother of 4 healthy children. My husband was very helpful through all of this he made sure I got plenty of rest and gave me my meds and talked with me and also took me to my MD appointments and made sure I talked with my family and friends so that I did not feel isolated while home alone.Good luck with your decision and take it one day at a time. Remember to talk to your doctor about how you are feeling.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life too. I tried the natural route at one point and even with many many supplements, it didn't do the trick for me. So I now have been on meds. My husband and I decided that taking care of myself was top priority, because if I wasn't healthy, I couldn't take care of my baby as well. There are studies that show the long term effects (at 5 years or so) of children who's mothers were unmedicated vs those that were. It was found that the well being of the kids with medicated moms was much better overall than those of unmedicated moms. The study talked about emotional lability, ability to concentrate/focus, behavior and cognitive development. It was enough for me to not worry about the small chance of physical side effects of taking meds while pregnant and breastfeeding. So, I was on zoloft throughout my pregnancy and am still on it 13 months later. My daughter has shown no signs of being affected by it.

One thing that I don't think anyone has suggested yet is breastfeeding. The hormones that are released while breastfeeding did me WONDERS! Prolactin and oxytocin are natural anti-anxiety 'meds'. So I would highly suggest breastfeeding as long as possible.

Congratulations and good luck!!

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answers from Milwaukee on

I agree with those that are recommending fish oils. (Also referred to as essential fatty acids or EFA, or Omega 3, 6, & 9).

Because the mood issue seems to surface when you have high nutritional demands for the essential fatty acids, it suggests that your first line is to explore and remedy this area. I also agree with the brands that have been recommended. The EFA (essential fatty acids) are a building block for the brain; it makes sense that PPD co-occurs with problems in brain development. That doesn't mean the PPD CAUSED the problem in brain development. There seems to be (at least one) cause for both: insufficient omega oils in the diet. If you have dry skin, it strengths the suspicion that this may be going on.

In addition to taking fish oil, you could eat more wild salmon, tuna, herring and halibut. It is a good idea to review nutritional sites (careful which ones, some are just selling things) to learn which foods have the omega oils you need. Unless you live in an area where you are eating the right kinds of fish all the time, supplementation is needed.

If you have been supplementing at sufficient doses for at least 3 months and you still have concerns about PPD, then explore other possibilities.

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answers from Omaha on

I just finished reading the book "Down came the Rain" by Brooke Shields. It is her journey through PPD. Might be a good read just to see how someone else went through it and her suggestions.

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answers from Milwaukee on

Like yourself I have struggled with depression and anxiety as a young adult. I did take some meds in high school because the healthy lifestyle was not enough to get me out of my depression.

The time between high school and my first child, about 6/7 years, I did not need any meds to get out of the depression (healthy lifestyle was enough). I only have one child but I did get postpartum depression, I tried for the first 6 months after I had my daughter to do just the healthy lifestyle but I was going downhill quickly so I went on meds. I was on meds for 8 months.

I did purchase a book about depression that strongly discourages meds because meds only "cover up" the problem and does not solve it, what solves it is changing your thinking and lifestyle. The book helped BUT I came to realize that no meds will only work for me if mildly depressed. Meds did help me to pull out of a deep depression quicker because I had something else on my side to help me.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Congratulations on the baby!
I too have struggled with depression and anxiety, and after 6 years of trying all sorts of medications and therapy, I decided that approach was not for me. I agree with your idea of committing to a "healthy lifestyle - plenty of exercise, good food, enough sleep, and a fairly regular schedule"...for me, that made a huge difference. But when you have the baby, those things are difficult to accomplish. And as you said, you will have to go through the adjustment of having another family member and big time sleep deprivation. Those things, and your hormonal changes cannot be controlled. You may indeed need medication even if it is just for a few months.
But, there are some other things you can do to help make it easier

plenty of exercise: if you can afford it, a membership to the gym would give you a place to be away from the baby for an hour and get your exercise in, a shower, and a way to socialize with adults a little. Otherwise you can enlist the help of a low-cost sitter or family members or join a "mommy and me" exercise class

good food: before you have the baby, make a bunch of healthy meals and freeze them so they are ready to be heated up. Have your family set up a schedule where they will deliver you a healthy meal once or twice a week, or go grocery shopping for you so that you constantly have plenty of fresh stuff around to snack on

enough sleep: this one is tough. You can have people come over to babysit and let you take a nap, but no matter what, you will still be getting up all night long. Everyone told me before I had my son "whenever the baby is sleeping, you should be too" IS great advice, but it's hard to do. And with another child to take care of, it likely wont happen very often. The only thing I can suggest is to make sure your husband, family, and friends know how important it is and to help you whenever they can. You might also want to try a drop-in daycare occasionally for your son. Over time you will be able to get more sleep. Remind yourself, so that you can see "a light at the end of the tunnel"

fairly regular schedule: When the baby is first born this is also tough. You are on baby's schedule after all. But when the baby settles in, it is easier to know when the baby will usually sleep, when he/she will usually want to eat, etc. The baby will basically set your schedule for your for now, but you should plan special time alone with your son, and family activities like going for walks at the same times every week and eating meals at the same times every day. Eventually your baby will get used to the family schedule

You have probably heard/read those suggestions already but I wanted to write them anyway.
Even if you decide against them, three things you definitely should do are 1. Keep coming on here! or join a chat room for anonymous support 2. Join a mom's group/class for something to get you out of the house, as well as for support 3. Forgive yourself if you did not "perform" as well as you thought you should have

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answers from Duluth on


Congratulations on the soon to be addition to the family! How exciting! I can already tell what a GREAT mom you are by your concern about PPD and how it affects little ones! I'm so glad that you are even award of PPD and that it impacts infants/children. As the mental health consultant to several early childhood and infant programs, I can tell you that you are not alone in your concern. PPD can affect brain development, emotional development and behavior. This is so in part because a mom who is suffering from postpartum depression can have quantitatively and qualitatively (number and quality) different sorts of interactions with her infant/child. Her responses can be very different than a non-depressed mom. Statistics have shown that moms who have suffered depression in the past, and who has experienced PPD are more likely to have an episode with a subsequent pregnancy. Please note the "more likely" part...this is not carved in stone.

Having worked with moms with PPD in my own private practice as well, I have seen cognitive behavioral therapy work wonders...WONDERS! Be sure to find a therapist who has treated PPD! Some moms may need medication...but you would need to discuss your specific issues with your own doctor...and let him/her know if you are breastfeeding.

I would urge you to look online for reputable information (ie, National Institute of Mental Health, American Psychiatric Association) for more information.

You were/would be wise to use self-help methods, too:

Fresh Air
Talk to a trusted friend
Get plenty of support and help w/ daily household issues from friends/family/partner/spouse
Keep a Journal
Take a break whenever possible
Do something that FEEDS YOUR SOUL!

Wishing you the best of luck!


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answers from Sioux City on

I would definately watch for the signs of post partum depression after you have your second child. When I had my first, I was SO emotional and would get upset or angry over the littlest things... I blamed it on being a first time mom. But, I never talked to my doctor about depression... So, when my second child was born, it was like the symptoms were still there and even stronger. Before he was 2 months old, I went to see my doctor and I did have to take meds for about 9 months. I was not wanting to take medicine but, I think it was best for me and my kids at the time. I also had my husband stay home from work for a few days to take care of all of us... That was a BIG help!

On the plus side, our 3rd child is due in about a month and I talked to my doctor about the risks of getting post partum again and he said that it's definately something to watch for... Women who've had it in the past are at a higher risk BUT, it's not a guarantee that they will get it. So, I'm hoping that it's something I won't have to deal with this time! Good luck with your pregnancy... Watch for any signs of post partum and let your doctor know ASAP if you think you're depressed but, take it easy! You may never have to deal with depression after your baby is born. Best of luck! :)

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answers from St. Cloud on

I sympathize with you. I was on prozac before children, and it had terrible negative affects on me! I realized well after my 1st baby that I had PPD with her, so was concerned about my 2nd. I didn't want to take perscription drugs again either. Instead,I continued taking a multi-vitamin but also started taking fish oil & Korean Ginseng. Both are mood-enhacing/stabilizing supplements and are all natural. PLUS the ginseng helped me with energy since the 2nd baby really knocked me out of it (I lost a ton of blood with her so I was also anemic, and again, lack of energy!) I also talked to some close friends and my DH about it and asked them to watch me for signs of PPD in case I did need therapy or anything - it felt good to feel prepared for it. Anyways, try some herbal remedies and see what you come up with. Best wishes, and Congrats!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Hi A.-
One of the beauties of what you're asking-- you recognize you might have PPD!!
I'm a wellness coach.
We find -- even without pregnancy factoring in - that depression can be caused nutritionally from a deficiency in omega 3 fatty acids. It's a key component for brain health. The regular diet is usually 6/1 omega 6 to 3 if you're not making a conscious effort to change that.
I have clients that switch to natural foods or supplementation -- either way-- it works for many. Natural foods in some grains and wild seafood. There are many other sources. Supplementation-- obvious but it has to be pharmaceutical grade and melt a styrofoam cup away if it's pure and actually doing what is should (a good experiment to tell if yours is good).
Now to pregnancy-- your baby depletes your body stores of omega 3 fatty acids for 3 years before you naturally build it up. So already coming off a prev. pregnancy-- and adding this one -- you're a perfect set up for another round. It is safe to take supplements but not as safe to eat some natural sources during pregnancy (mainly fish and check with your Doctor on what they recommend for fish during as it's limited).
So-- run all this by your nutritionalist and find a good source now and you might see a difference.
Blessings -

About me: 48 yo perfusionist, wellness coach for nationwide biggest loser for $ and nutrition, and mom to beautiful 7 yo twin girls

B. J

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answers from Iowa City on

First, tell your doctor or midwife about your history so they can be keeping an eye on you for signs of trouble. A history of depression does put you at an increased risk of PPD. After a thorough discussion with my midwife and psychiatrist, I kept taking my antidepressant all through my third pregnancy and am still under close supervision now (Baby is 6 mos old). I am on a low dose and am trying to keep the ups and downs smoothed out with the kinds of remedies you talked about - diet, exercise, fresh air and so on - but I can feel the hormones fighting it out underneath and am really grateful to have the meds and supervision. I was completely untreated with my first two and there were some really rough times for a while. Good luck, and take care of yourself - your kids will be better off for having a mentally healthy mom!

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answers from Des Moines on

First of all, let's hear it for the wives of our firefighters! Of course, I say that because I am one.

I had my first experience with PPD after this last baby (about a year ago), though I really think that sleep deprivation was SO much of the problem. I learned a lot. I am sure that I was just a hair away from being medicated when I found a lady whose entire career (calling) is working with post-partum moms. She is a post-partum doula. She bailed me out and got me back on my feet. If I ever have another baby I am totally going to hire one of these for a week after it is born. But she also has a website that is so helpful for preparing for that period and moving through it healthfully. It is

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answers from Milwaukee on

congrats and how exciting! i was inspired by your posting and wanted to reply just by your sincerity in the message. i have one child whos just 4 months and haven't struggled with ppd at all. i have a sister (no children) whos struggled with severe anxiety and depression her whole life so i can somewhat understand what it can be like. all i can say is GET OUT THERE GIRL! being aware i believe is half the battle...then u can address the issue. i think if you can connect with with other moms as much as possible and even when u don't want to...force yourself to just get outside. stay active, communicate with your spouse, take a shower and do your makeup (even if you aren't going out that day at all!) just knowing that these things will all make you a better mom for your children in the end. i can't offer you much else but will pray that your experience is positive in general! best of luck! enjoy the ride

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answers from Rochester on

Hi A.. I had post partum depression with my first daughter and was very afraid of it coming back with my second child. During my second pregnancy I spoke to my midwife/obgyn about my PPD. She started me on a low-dose antidepressant at about 7 1/2 months of my pregnancy as a precaution. I would speak to your doctor. The childbirth community is very concerned about mothers getting PPD and it is very common, more common than is talked about. Just to let you know, I felt great during my labor and afterwards and I really felt like I was being proactive in my mental health. As you know, caring for a newborn is stressful and difficult enough, without going through the emotional state of PPD. Good luck and all the best to you.



answers from Milwaukee on


I am not a mom (yet) but have been trying since April of 2008. A year before this I was put on Fluoxitine (generic of Prozac) for depression and anxiety. It changed my life. For ten years I thought that my depression was normal, but now I realize it isnt.
I know you mentioned you dont want to take drugs, but if you have any experience similar to mine with it, it will be life changing for you. The meds I am on are also safe while being pregnant, so I will be staying on them throughout.

Good luck!

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