Women who have experienced emotional distress before they became pregnant often wonder if they are doomed to suffer from depression or anxiety during pregnancy or after they have had their babies.
The short answer is:
Doomed – no.
At risk – yes.
Emotional Distress Before Pregnancy and After Pregnancy: A Risk…But Not Destiny
If you’ve experienced depression before you became pregnant, you have a significant risk of developing depression in pregnancy or after you’ve had your baby.
But much like a family history of diabetes increases your risk but doesn’t destine you to develop diabetes, a history of depression doesn’t guarantee that you will develop depression or anxiety during pregnancy or after delivery.
How can you reduce your risk? By actively managing it.
How to Manage Your Risk of Depression and Anxiety: 3 Tips
Just like diabetes can be prevented with a healthy diet and exercise, you can lower the risk of experiencing depression again when you are pregnant (or after you’ve had your baby).
Here are 3 tips to keep your risk of depression and anxiety low in pregnancy and beyond:
1. Be aware of your risk and take control of it.
Now is not the time to ignore that past episode of depression or anxiety. Now is the time to accept that it happened…. and actively manage it.
2. Actively manage your risk with these 7 proven lifestyle strategies:
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep increases your risk of depression and anxiety.
- Do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 3 times per week. Jogging, stationary biking, walking, and swimming are all recommended during pregnancy.
- Spend time with trusted friends. Connecting with friends is one of the best things that you can do to stay emotionally healthy. Friends help us to see different perspectives, they make us feel understood, and they bolster our resilience.
- If you are a reflective person who enjoys writing, journalling can help you to process life’s challenges. There is a reason that journalling is sometimes called expressive therapy!
- Enjoy your partner – and keep the conflict low. Partner conflict is one of the biggest risk factors for anxiety and depression. Pregnancy is a good time to create relationship patterns that you can carry through to the early parenting years. With a new baby on the way, time becomes a precious commodity. Intentionally nurture your relationship with your partner.
- Try yoga. There is growing evidence that yoga reduces stress. And, lower stress means lower risk of depression and anxiety.
- Spend time in nature. There is a growing eco-therapy movement that shows that spending time walking or exercising outdoors helps to reduce stress and increase calm.
Want to read more about self-care during pregnancy? Here are 7 Hacks for Your Emotional Well-Being While Pregnant.
3. Don’t discontinue your medication without first discussing it with your doctor.
Many women go off their depression or anxiety medication for fear that it will harm their baby. However, stopping medication cold turkey isn’t a good idea either.
Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss medication options, such as:
- gradually tapering off the medication and switching to therapy
- changing to another medication
- lowering the dosage of your existing medication
- continuing on your current medication.
If you’re planning to become pregnant, discuss a medication plan with your doctor ahead of time. Some medications that are safe in pregnancy include amitriptyline, imipramine, nortriptyline, fluoxetine (Note. This is not a complete list).
Want to read more about taking medications while pregnant? Read on to find out whether antidepressants cause autism in pregnancy.