Many 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.
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!