Women who are concerned about their mood, and who have been diagnosed with depression during pregnancy or following the birth of the baby require support to enable them to cope. Professional healthcare providers, partners, family, friends and the community that women live in are all possible sources of support.
The first support women may need is that their concerns about their mood are taken seriously. Encouragement to talk to a healthcare provider is helpful. This may be:
- family doctor, obstetrician or psychiatrist
- public health nurse
- a registered psychologist or clinical psychologist
- a registered clinical counsellor
The healthcare provider will want to find out about symptoms and so women should share with them all that they are experiencing and are concerned about, even if they symptoms seem contradictory. Sometimes symptoms of depression and anxiety appear together so it is important to tell your healthcare provider if you are feeling anxious as well as depressed.
What is a treatment plan?
The provider may offer an assessment and diagnosis and if they do, should then follow up with a treatment plan, discussed with and agreed by the woman. The treatment plan may include education, psychotherapy and medications and women should not hesitate to discuss treatment options and preferences with the healthcare provider.
If medications are necessary, care is taken to prescribe the lowest effective dost of those medications that are safest during pregnancy or when breastfeeding but women may want to ask about:
- why they are being prescribed medications
- possible side effects
- effect of the medications on their pregnancy
- effect of the medications during breastfeeding
- how long they should remain on the medications
What kind of support is needed?
Following assessment and diagnosis, women may need the support of family and friends to attend psychotherapy, group, further appointments with a physician, or to manage their symptoms. In particular they may need help with:
- finding time to sleep
- child care
- household tasks
Getting enough sleep is important in the recovery from any health problem and this is always difficult with a new baby. It is important if you are suffering depression, to try to create as many opportunities as possible to sleep. As well as help from family and friends to find time to sleep, talking with a healthcare provider about new babies' sleep patterns and about strategies new moms can use to achieve more sleep may be helpful.
Many women find support groups helpful. There is opportunity to learn from other women who have experiences similar difficulties and social connection with other moms and babies. There are often support groups for women with perinatal depression available within the community. Some are mentioned in the Resources section of this website and there may be others available more locally to the women. Asking a Public Health Nurse is another good place to start.
As well as support from health care providers, family, friends, and community, women will want to learn as much as possible about Depression, its effects and about changes it would be helpful to make in their lives to help them cope. Self care is a way to make some positive changes in your life that will help to lessen your depression. An easy way to remember the basic steps is to think of the word NEST-S. Each letter stands for one area of self care
- Nutrition - eating nutritious food throughout the day
- Exercise - getting regular exercise is a really good way of reducing stress and improving mood
- Sleep and rest - worth the effort to improve sleep
- Time for yourself - even if it is just for a short time, to do something for yourself each day
- Support - every new parent needs this
Further information, including a section on NEST-S, is available in
- Coping with Depression During Pregnancy and After the Birth
- Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression Fact Sheet
- Depression During Pregnancy Fact Sheet
- Perinatal Treatment Options Fact Sheet
If the woman is also suffering with anxiety, there is helpful information in the guide Coping with Anxiety During Pregnancy and Following the Birth in the Resources Section.
Aboriginal women and their families may find helpful information and suggestions in the guide Celebrating the Circle of Life: Coming back to Balance and Harmony.