I put together a brief checklist to help pregnant and expecting moms prepare for the challenges ahead and plan for how maintain their emotional health after the baby arrives. This checklist can help you identify any risk factors for postpartum depression and anxiety and put a plan in place to protect your mental health.
Know your risk factors. Past mental health concerns or family history of mental health issues, childhood trauma, grief and loss, family or partner relationship problems can place you at increased risk for postpartum depression and anxiety. Consider connecting with a mental health provider before the baby arrives so you can process your experiences and get support now.
Understand the mind-body connection. Childbirth, hormonal changes, and the major upheaval to daily routines that a new baby brings make all new parents more emotional vulnerable. To sustain yourself, think about how to best meet your basic human needs for nutrition, outdoor time and gentle exercise, social support, and yes, sleep. This might mean preparing grocery lists, identifying potential babysitters and local parent groups , and even talking through how to share night feeding duties to help everyone get 5-6 hours of consecutive sleep at least some nights.
Check your perfectionism. It's hard work learning how to be a parent. Focus on handling the ups and down with patience, perseverance, and flexibility rather than on the end result.
Learn some basic mindfulness meditation skills. Set a timer for three minutes and check-in with whatever thoughts, feelings, and body sensations you are experiencing right now, then take a series of long, deep breaths. Noticing your experience and being present with it for a short time will both build your endurance for difficult moments and give you a tool for calming and self-soothing.
This checklist was included in the October 2018 newsletter of perinatal personal trainer Roma van Der Walt / Openhaus .