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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
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Maternal and Child Health

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Depression During & After Pregnancy: A Resource for Women, Their Families, & Friends

If I Have Perinatal Depression, What Can I Do?

Some women may find it hard talking about Perinatal Depression. They may be unsure if they have it or how to discuss it. They may wish to deal with their problem secretly and hope that it goes away on its own.

These feelings are more common than one would expect. However, every woman must realize that she is not alone. Perinatal Depression affects thousands of women and can be treated successfully. It is possible to feel better. Here are some things that can help.

  1. Lean on Family and Friends
    There are many ways that family and friends can help you. A few hours of weekly child care can give you a much-needed break. Get help cleaning the house or running errands. When you share your feelings openly with friends and family, it allows them to provide the important support that you need.
  2. Talk to a Health Care Professional
    Screening for Perinatal Depression should be a routine part of your health care during and after pregnancy. Health care professionals— such as your doctor, your baby’s doctor, a nurse, or other health care provider—are familiar with Perinatal Depression. They know ways to help, and can explain your options to you. An easy way to raise the subject is to bring this booklet with you to the provider’s office. Show the items that you checked and discuss them. Say that you were reading the booklet and some of it sounds familiar to you. If you feel that your provider does not understand what you are going through, please do not give up. There are many excellent providers who do understand Perinatal Depression, who are ready to listen to you, and who can put you on the road to recovery.
  3. Find a Support Group
    Although you may not know it, there are probably other women in your community suffering from Perinatal Depression. Finding them can give you a chance to learn from others and to share your own feelings. Ask your health care professional how to find and join a support group.
  4. Talk to a Mental Health Care Professional
    Many mental health professionals have special training to help women with Perinatal Depression. They can give you a safe place to express your feelings and help you find the best ways to manage and even get rid of your symptoms. When choosing counselors or other professionals, ask if they have experience in treating Perinatal Depression. They have helped other women with depression and they can help you too!
  5. Focus on Wellness
    An important step toward treating Perinatal Depression is taking care of your body. A healthy diet combined with exercise can help you gain your lost energy and feel strong. Consider these suggestions:
    1. Food
      Eat breakfast in the morning to start your day right.
      Eat a variety of foods from all food groups, including two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day.
      Choose healthy snacks like non-fat milk, yogurt, fruit, and nuts.
      Avoid alcohol use.
    2. Exercise
      Invite your friends to go on walks in your neighborhood or to the park.
      Try a new activity, such as swimming or biking.
      Take time to stretch and strengthen your muscles.
      In addition, by prioritizing the most important things in your life and letting go of what is least important, you can clear your mind to focus on your own health and well-being.
  6. Take Medication as Recommended by Your Health Care Provider
    Sometimes medications are necessary in the treatment of depression. As with any medications or medical treatment, you should talk to your health care provider about which medication, if any, may be best for you. Become an educated consumer and find out information about treatment options.

Image of a woman looking depressed.

Some of the symptoms sounded just like me. I knew it was important to talk to my doctor.

When my doctor suggested taking medicine, I wasn’t sure. But it turned out to be the best decision for me. I feel so much better now.