What can I do to minimize my risk of postpartum mental illness? If I can't completely prevent it, I'd at least like to catch and treat it as early as possible.
(Inspired/prompted in part by this FPP
from a few weeks ago, though this has been on my mind for a while.)
Baby Metroid Baby is due in a few weeks. I know it's going to be tough adjusting to parenthood no matter what, but since I have a history of mental illness I'm particularly worried about postpartum depression/anxiety. More than anything else, I want to be mentally present for my child, and I want to appreciate and bond with him from the beginning.
In the past, I've been diagnosed with depression/dysthymia and obsessive-compulsive disorder; I'd say that the depression is currently in remission, and the OCD most of the way there. I've taken Wellbutrin since before the pregnancy, with the approval of my OB, and plan to continue doing so after I give birth. I am not currently seeing anyone for mental health care, though I have before.
It's been a healthy, uneventful pregnancy. However, I've had a few moody/depressed/weepy episodes scattered throughout. Some of them have been triggered by stress or exhaustion, others have been out-of-the-blue obviously-hormonal things (like, getting teary-eyed at that "are we human or are we dancer" song, seriously wtf hormones). They've been isolated, brief, and haven't kept me from functioning or staying optimistic, so I'm not concerned about them - they seem well within the range of normal.
A few other details:
- Regular original-recipe depression and anxiety run in my family, but I don't believe any of the women in my extended family have had any postpartum mental issues. I don't know this for sure, but I come from a large family with lots of babies and little shame about mental illness, so it's likely I would have heard something if it were an issue.
- I exercise regularly and it helps my mood a ton, though I've had to cut way back and I know I'll need to stop completely for a while. I worry that prolonged inactivity will be difficult for me mentally.
- My husband and I do not have any family in the area (parents are visiting, but not for long), so we won't have a lot of hands-on support.
- My OB is aware that PPD is a concern of mine. I got the advice that most women do experience some sadness and moodiness after giving birth, but if I stop liking myself, or I'm not bonding with the baby, then it's time to call. Makes sense to me.
I've already read a lot on postpartum depression and anxiety, and most of the advice seems to be aimed at people who already have it: "if you experience these symptoms, seek help." I'm hoping for advice with a more proactive/preventative approach.
If you've been there, I'd like to hear your experience: when and how you realized something was wrong, what helped you to climb out.
Specific questions I have:
- At what point, time-wise or mood-wise, should I think "okay, this is getting serious"?
- What can I do to check in with myself to make sure I'm mentally staying afloat? What can my husband or friends do?
- I'm familiar with the usual tactics for preventing/managing depression (e.g. getting enough sleep, eating well, exercise, getting out of the house, avoiding isolation) - all of which will be harder with a newborn. Is there anything else I can add that's postpartum-specific?
I appreciate any and all wisdom you might have.