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Hey guys,

My fiance and I are have decided to start trying to get pregnant! I am super excited, and I feel absolutely fine at the moment, but there is a "but": my mother had schizophrenia (she has passed away) and my father has bipolar disorder (medicated). My brother, who has not been diagnosed, is also displaying signs of mental illness. Basically, I have hit the opposite of the mental health jackpot, genetically. :(

I have heard that a family history of depression places a person at a greater risk of postpartum depression. My family history has way more than postpartum depression, so I am worried I am at risk of postpartum depression. I don't want any child of mine to grow up the same way I did, so I am asking. Honestly, do I have a very high risk? Is there anything I can do to prevent postpartum depression if I am?

Thanks in advance! Please don't be too judgy.

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That's sure a tough situation! I'm honestly not sure how a family history of schizophrenia or even bipolar disorder affects your odds of ending up with postpartum depression, but I did read that a personal history of bipolar increases your chances of postpartum depression. So, basically, I don't think you are totally off in your thinking.

That said, I'm not sure what you can actively do to prevent postpartum depression. I know an unplanned and unwanted (initially at least) pregnancy ups your odds, but that's not you, so that's good. You could perhaps try counseling? It seems this is bothering you, so working through your family issues with a therapist does sound like a good idea.

What you can do for sure is inform yourself about the signs of postpartum depression, so that if you do end up having PDD, you will recognize it early on. 

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There is a very, very long list of known risk factors for postpartum depression. They include a history of depression, a family history of depression, having had a traumatic childhood, being under stress, suffering from bad PMS, thyroid issues, sleep deprivation (which is pretty much inevitable with a newborn!), gaining a lot of weight during pregnancy, relationship problems, a traumatic birth, being unable to breastfeed... and on, and on. 

For all that's known about the risk factors for postpartum depression, much less effort seems to be devoted to discovering how it can be prevented. 

Your post makes it sound like you did have a rough childhood, because you say you don't want your child to grow up the same way. I think getting therapy now is a good idea. It might help you work through unresolved issues. 

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Cheers, folks. Your brainstorming with me means a lot. :)

My childhood wasn't all roses and sunshine, that's true, but I don' think I have PTSD or anything like that. I do feel pretty good in myself and about myself, and I also have a great relationship. But I am worried about postpartum depression, in the sense that being pregnant and having a baby might flip some switch and make me unstable like the rest of my family, if that makes any sense? I have heard that it can happen. 

Would therapy now really help prevent that? I went to counseling because of my parents' mental health issues as a kid and no therapist was ever really useful to me, but then again, it was mandated and I didn't get to pick my own therapist. It's different now. 

I'll consider this. 

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Hey,

I am sorry you are having such a stressful time right now, worrying about whether you might develop postpartum depression because of your family history of mental illness. Have you seen a doctor for a preconception checkup yet? If you haven't, maybe you should — and bring your worries about potentially developing postpartum depression up at the same time?

I think you're right to monitor your own mental state carefully once you do get pregnant, and afterward. You seem very informed about things, and very together. I think that if you do develop postpartum depression, and that is not necessarily the case at all, you will be able to recognize the signs of postpartum depression and seek help right away. That is a positive thing!

Rosie

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Women who have postpartum depression risk factors are indeed advised to discuss them with their obstetrician/gynecologist during pregnancy, so that they and their medical teams can plan ahead in case that risk factor turns into a real case of postpartum depression.

I assume this involves things like more careful monitoring. I doubt that people who are not yet depressed are prescribed antidepressants, but maybe that even happens if a person has already had episodes of severe depression before.

In any case, I do not see why you would need to wait until you are pregnant to discuss these concerns of yours with a doctor.

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Hi,

I suffered from bad postpartum depression after my second baby was born, and that is one of the biggest risk factors for a repeat episode out there. We did consider trying for a third baby, and I went to talk with my doctor about this very thing at the time. 

My doctor suggested that, if I were to get pregnant again, it would help to remove as many stressors as possible from my life, and to make sure I got plenty of exercise. He also talked about sleep hygiene and having a good support network. 

I did ask about the possibility of starting on antidepressants before depression set in, and my doctor said there have been clinical trials, and antidepressants are sometimes prescribed preemptively, but it's not clear whether that is a good idea yet. 

We ended up making peace with having two wonderful kids and not having any more. But maybe some of this is useful to you?

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Hey Bubbles, 

Thanks for that, that was really useful! 

I'm sorry you had postpartum depression and that you have felt the need to decide not to have any more kids because of it, but I appreciate you sharing that with me. What you wrote has made me decide to definitely get counseling before we start trying to conceive. That way, I can sort out how much I really am at risk of postpartum depression and perhaps other mental health issues, and how much of my feelings are just fear based. And, if necessary, it might give me access to antidepressants as well. The idea of taking them before depression sets in, if it is needed, is a really interesting one. 

Thanks again. 

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That sounds like a really good idea, the counseling. It must be hard, having mental health issues in your family and being so scared of developing them as well, even though you're currently free from mental health issues. That alone, plus the experiences you must have had growing up around mental illness, is more than enough reason to attend therapy!

Who knows? You might come out of therapy being told that your risk of postpartum depression isn't all that great statistically, and that way you won't have to be this afraid anymore and you can just enjoy being pregnant without all that stress on your hands!

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Yes, you're right.

Thinking about all this, if I am going to be honest, my feelings are about more than being scared of getting postpartum depression. They're about thinking that my "mental illness genes" are in there, and dormant but waiting to wake up at any time. They're about wondering if I could ever really be a good parent, considering all that stuff. 

This has always plagued me. I was scared to tell my fiance about my family issues in case he'd think I was crazy too. And that didn't happen either. :)

Time to deal with all this? And if I do have a higher risk of postpartum depression, perhaps there really are preventative steps that can be taken. The idea that I could take antidepressants to prevent becoming depressed gives me the feeling that there is a safety blanket out there. 

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