Dealing with long-term postpartum depression: 6 tips for coping

6 tips for managing long-term postpartum depressionMany women who suffer from postpartum depression get better and feel no long-term effects of their illness. But for some, PPD lasts a lot longer than you’d expect.

A January 2014 Harvard Review of Psychiatry report found that 38% of women with postpartum depression experienced chronic symptoms. As Medical News Today writes, “The review found the strongest evidence that poor partner relationships, stress, and a pre-existing history of depression and sexual abuse made women more likely to experience chronic depression after giving birth.”

None of this surprises me, considering that I’m still managing depression and anxiety six years after being diagnosed with PPD. I fall into the “stress and pre-existing history of depression” category, though my previous bouts of depression and anxiety were short-lived.

It is obviously frustrating and even scary to deal with long-term postpartum depression. No one expects to have a baby and then get a chronic illness from the experience. But if you are one of the moms out there who is dealing with long-term PPD, you are not alone. Here are some tips on dealing with PPD that seemingly won’t go away:

1. Don’t compare yourself to other moms and their PPD recoveries. Every woman is different. You are not failing or doing anything wrong if you are still dealing with PPD when others you know have recovered. Remind yourself of this.

2. Stick to your treatment plan and adjust as necessary. Just because you think your PPD should be gone by now doesn’t mean you should stop treatment. If you’re going to therapy, keep going. If you’re taking medication, keep taking it. And be sure keep the lines of communication open with your doctor(s) – if something isn’t working, speak up.

3. Be open to other ways of managing depression. After many years of cycling through medications, I tried some alternative ways of managing my mental health. They worked for me for a while, for sure, but I am now on a different type of antidepressant (an SNRI as opposed to an SSRI) and feeling great again. Of course, do NOT stop your current therapies without talking to a doctor. But if you’re like me and don’t tolerate SSRIs well, alternative/natural treatments or a different type of medication might be for you.

4. Don’t neglect the basics. I know it sounds so elementary, but eating well, sleeping, and exercise are SO key to managing mental health effectively. I know I can do better in this area. When I do the basics well, I feel great. I actually went gluten-free to see if it could help my mental health, and it has. There have been many studies on the mind-gut connection, and now I’m a believer.

5. Join a supportive community. Postpartum Progress is an excellent resource (and lists support groups around North America), plus has its own private online forum. I have a private Honest Mom Facebook community for parenting support (contact me through Facebook if you are interested in joining it). Or just Google “postpartum depression support groups” and you’ll find tons of info.

I find that women who deal with depression crave community. The comment I get from Honest Mom readers most often is, “I’m so glad to know I’m not alone.” There is huge comfort in knowing others are going through the same challenges as you, and blogs and support groups are excellent resources.

6. Remember depression can be a manageable condition. Of course no one wants to deal with long-term depression. But the way I look at it is this: No one wants diabetes. Or Crohn’s Disease. Or chronic back pain, epilepsy, or any chronic health condition. I consider my depression/anxiety to be a chronic illness that is manageable. It can go into remission and flare up. It doesn’t define me, and while I definitely would rather not have to deal with it, I’m not going to let it run my life.

If you want more info, you can read other posts about PPD on Honest Mom. Also, check out the wealth of posts on mental health, depression, and anxiety.

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Has PPD lasted longer than you expected? Months? Years? Do you think PPD-induced depression is something you will have to manage for the long-term? How are you doing it?

This post was sponsored by Molina Healthcare, an organization that believes everyone should have access to quality health care. Molina asked me to write about mental health and I was thrilled to do so. I love sponsors who are interested in women’s mental health, I thank Molina for their support of Honest Mom!

photo credit: Lohan Gunaweera via photopin cc

Facebook comments

comments so far - you can comment using your Facebook account (or scroll down past comments for other options)

10 Replies to “Dealing with long-term postpartum depression: 6 tips for coping”

  1. I had misdiagnosed PPD and did not receive the correct treatment. It lasted around 2 years, although I still have some intense anxiety that can sometimes be tied to hormones and other times not.

    You are right about the basics. When those are in check, my anxiety is not nearly as bad. But it is not easy to always balance.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

  2. JD thank you for posting this! There is still so much stigma around depression and other mental illnesses especially when you are a mom. It's so important for us to have the right information so we can help ourselves or our friends and family. Great tips!

  3. This is such an important post! I wish I had read this a year ago. After a late diagnose with ppd 3 years ago I started treatment. During this time I had to deal with underlying issues and face the fact that I was dealing with depression long after ppd. I started feeling the pressure of getting better from my family (and from myself) and ofcourse that lead to more issues with depression. I knew there were Moms that had to deal with being bipolar after dealing with ppd. But I didn't know that there were others dealing with chronic depression after ppd like me. I cannot begin to tell you the significance of this post for me. So, thank you.

    1. I am so glad I found this. I had Postpartum Psychosis, OCD, and anxiety after our third child 4 years ago. I am still missing and waiting for the “old” me to come back. I am on medicine see a therapist, have a great support system and I am just miserable sometimes ( it seems like most of the time)
      I feel like I have not truly laughed, enjoyed my kids, my life in so long I can’t even remember. I am just glad I found this site and I feel relieved to know I am not alone in how I feel.

  4. I was never diagnosed with PPD after having my daughter. However, I was recently diagnosed with anxiety and my doctor had asked if I had PPD. My daughter had a really rough delivery and almost didn’t make it. I think I might have had some form of PPD, but my obgyn wasn’t the best and didn’t address too much at my 6 week post delivery visit. I am sorry to hear that you are still dealing with it 6 years later. I see it being an ongoing battle with me too. It is unfortunate. Thanks for posting this.

  5. I am fortunate to never have dealt with PPD at all. However, there are some excellent tips in this post, and it is very good of you to share so that others who may be struggling can get the point of view of someone else who is dealing with PPD and know they are not alone. I especially like your advice about not comparing yourself to others. Regardless of the situation, comparing yourself to others is always, always a bad idea. Great advice, and if I ever meet someone who is dealing with this condition, I’ll be happy to point them this way….

  6. It was not supposed to be like this…. I think I say this too often. Why is this mom thing so hard….. Why do I never feel normal anymore…. What happened to "me"…… Things have gotten worse, and I finally got some help…. DS is now almost two and a half…. I don't want to be a sad, fat, emotionally absent mother….. I will fight this…. I will win….. so glad I am not alone. Hugs!

Comments! Yes! Please!