Be proactive during pregnancy: Statistics say that up to 70% of women will experience the "Baby Blues" after childbirth while 15% of women will go on to experience postpartum depression. If you educate yourself before or during pregnancy, you will be in a better position to get the help you need right away. One of the best things I did while pregnant (the 3rd time) was read a great book by Dean Raffelock entitled A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health. I learned so much about the role of nutrition, exercise, and hormones during and after pregnancy. I changed how I was eating and exercising, and I also found and met with a doctor experienced in bio-identical hormone therapy.
Pamper yourself nutritionally: Often, as soon as the baby is born, moms stop eating as healthfully as they did during pregnancy. It is hard to meet all the needs of a newborn and cook nutritious meals, but it is essential! One idea is to prepare and stock your freezer with healthy meals before the baby is born. Also, keep many whole foods on hand for snacking (apples, carrots, almonds, etc.). Try to avoid refined sugars and flour, as these may cause you to feel even more fatigued and have mood swings. Add an omega 3 supplement or eat wild-caught salmon a few times a week. Drink lots of water and continue taking your prenatal vitamin.
Pamper yourself emotionally and spiritually: If you get a free moment or someone is watching the baby, do not do housework! As a friend told me, "Housework can be done in the midst of chaos, but nourishing your soul needs a protected time." Instead of chores, do something to "fill your cup." Read a magazine or book, work on an art project or hobby, listen to music, enjoy a nice hot bath, pray, sleep, etc. The point is to take time for you and do something special for yourself.
Get some exercise (and some sun): There is no doubt it is difficult to squeeze in exercise when you have a new baby. Especially after sleepless nights, the thought of exercising can be daunting. A simple idea is to put the baby in a stroller and take a walk. I would put my two older daughters in a stroller, strap the baby in a front carrier, and walk around the neighborhood. Even though I received many stares and comments, it did wonders in elevating my mood! Enlisting a friend to walk with can also be motivating. An added benefit to walking outside is that you'll fulfill your need for sunlight (to soak up some vitamin D) and exercise at the same time!
Speak out: Please, please, please do not suffer silently. It will take courage, but you must speak out to get the help you need. I wasted so much time and missed so many sweet experiences because I hid in fear and shame. Your child is only a baby once! Don't miss this special time when there are conventional and alternative treatments that can help. Seek out a doctor who will listen to you and consider finding a counselor, a pastor, or a women who has experienced PPD to help you navigate through the experience.
Excellent resources to help you include:
Postpartum Support International is an excellent website about postpartum depression. It can connect you with helpful people and resources.