One significant impact depression can have on parenting is that women who have personal histories of depression are more likely to experience postpartum depression. However, that’s not the only thing to keep in mind when considering the best way to manage a history of depression in early parenthood and beyond.
A history of depression is one of the biggest risk factors for postpartum depression, but it also means that new moms who develop PPD have a better chance of knowing something about depression management strategies that have worked for them in the past. For example, SSRIs and other depression medications can have different effects on different people, and finding the right one can take some trial and error, so new moms who have an idea of which medications have or haven’t worked for them in the past may have a head-start on finding the treatment that works best for them.
New moms who stop taking antidepressants during pregnancy have a high risk of relapsing, which is why it’s strongly recommended that new parents and moms-to-be talk to a doctor before stopping taking prescribed medication.
PPD is depression that occurs after giving birth, which means that it isn't always detected early on in the postpartum period. Depression after pregnancy and delivery may set in during a transitional time, like a sleep regression, or the adjustment back to work, or for no “reason” at all. Some women report that weaning away from breastfeeding can have an impact on mood that may contribute to depression.
There’s no way to predict exactly how pregnancy, breastfeeding, or the many phases of parenting in general, will interact with depression. Even if your personal history of depression is something that you have a routine for managing, making that routine a part of parenting can be difficult. This means it’s especially important for new parents who are already receiving treatment for depression to continue to take prescribed medication, or to attend recommended therapy appointments, and to discuss any potential changes to that routine with a healthcare provider.
New parents who have received treatment for depression in the past may find it helpful to touch base with a healthcare provider about potential treatment even if they’re not currently experiencing depression symptoms. Talking to a doctor about what symptoms might look like as a new parent, and how to approach treating them, can offer new parents more control, and can help make sure that, if depression symptoms do appear, they get the help they need as soon as possible.
If unrecognized or untreated, depression can have an impact on parent-child bonding, and can consistently color early parenting memories.
Young children of depressed parents whose families aren’t getting the appropriate support or treatment may be at a higher risk for negative impact on self-esteem, and for behavioral issues or concerns in school and later in life. Children who have appropriate family and community support through parental depression or mental illness, on the other hand, may develop higher levels of resilience.
Prompt treatment for parental depression in early parenthood is important for the emotional health of the entire family. Prompt, appropriate treatment plans that are faithfully followed by new parents, and adjusted to fit a family’s needs, can help to lessen the severity of symptoms, and, in many cases, to shorten their duration. Depression treatment for new parents may include talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, depending on individual needs.