5 Low-Cost Ways To Prevent & Help Reduce Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum support is important, whether or not you struggle with PPD—but getting help shouldn't cause you more stress due to prohibitive costs. Here are ways to find affordable care for your fourth trimester so you can rest and recover.

Almost 80 percent of people who give birth experience a mild form of depression known as "the baby blues"—with symptoms that include feeling lonely, overwhelmed, and moody. And about 20% experience postpartum depression (PPD)—which is more severe and includes symptoms like frequent crying, insomnia, loss of appetite, and possible suicidal thoughts. A 2020 study showed that PPD can last up to three years after giving birth.

An image of women holding hands.
Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Getting the right support and care during the postpartum period is key to reducing PPD. "Postpartum depression could definitely strike someone who has lots of support," Alicia Fishbein, owner of Born Doula, tell Parents. "But I really do believe it's an illness of isolation...and despair and feeling powerless. Especially in this time of isolation, a lot of women don't have their family, and their friends aren't really able to join them."

With the high cost of hospital births and caring for a newborn, you shouldn't have to worry about affording care for yourself in the critical fourth trimester. Here are some low-cost options for preventing and reducing postpartum depression symptoms.

Have a plan in place before the birth.

There are a million things that you will likely have to plan before your little one arrives. But the thing that most parents-to-be don't plan for enough is the postpartum period. "We plan for the big stuff," Cherie Seah, a birth and postpartum doula, tells Parents. "We plan for the birth, we plan for the baby shower, we plan for the baby items, but postpartum is often an afterthought." Seah says that most people don't plan for life after the birth because Western society tells us that you bounce back as soon as the baby is born, and that you can just figure it out as you go along. "It starts at pregnancy, this preparation," says Fishbein. "There's only so much you can do once you're in that place. It's far easier to address long before you ever have your baby."

Seah suggests cooking and freezing meals before you give birth so you don't have to worry about it after. She recommends healing foods like herbal soups, stews, and things that are easy to cook in bulk and freeze. "Nutrition is so important for postpartum healing," says Seah. "With a newborn you're just constantly feeding them, changing a diaper, putting them to sleep, and it's rinse and repeat for the entire day. It's so easy to forget to feed yourself." Take care of yourself first, so you can take care of your baby.

Another affordable way you can prepare to have support postpartum is to use your baby shower as an opportunity to have friends and family sign up for ways to help you after the baby arrives. "Nobody needs all those onesies, most of that stuff never gets used. I see most people have so much stuff that they never get to and it ends up in Goodwill piles," says Fishbein. Instead, have people cook and freeze meals for after the baby, donate to a postpartum doula fund, sign up to walk your dog, do dishes, whatever you need that will make your life easier after you give birth.

Rely on family and friends.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, so gather your family and friends after the birth—it will save you money and get you the support you need. "I feel the immediate answer to this situation is for people to do the best they can to create their family pods for themselves," Samsarah Morgan, founder of Oakland Better Birth Foundation, tells Parents.

Stigma surrounding postpartum mental health often prevents folks from reaching out, or knowing that it's normal to experience feelings of isolation and emotional highs and lows in the weeks following the birth of their child. "We have a dysfunctional culture that does not support pregnancy, labor, or postpartum," says Morgan. It doesn't support parents. So of course people in these groups are going to have lots of issues."

There are many cultures that have traditional and cultural practices that support new moms in the first month after giving birth. In East and South Asian cultures, mothers come stay with their daughters to help with cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the baby so it gives the new mom time to rest and heal.

A mother of three herself, Fishbein says she experienced depression after not having much help following the birth of her first two children. "There was a little grey cloud over me for many months," says Fishbein. "I decided when my third baby was due to arrive that I was going to get all the help. And I literally had help everyday with my kids, with meals, with my house, breastfeeding, and I sailed through my postpartum time."

Meal Train is a free platform that you can sign up for that lets people send meals to your home. It will save you time and money on food so you can rest and focus on yourself and your new baby.

Hire a postpartum doula—and ask about sliding scale fees.

While the cost of a doula can vary depending on where you live, you can still find a doula that works for your budget. Hiring a postpartum doula can really give you the emotional and physical support you need during the fourth trimester. "This whole idea that doulas are out of reach just isn't true," says Fishbein. A newly certified postpartum doula might be able to work at a lower fee, and many doulas also offer sliding scale fees.

"A postpartum doula can help the new momma get acquainted with her little baby and can help establish an environment where the mom can stay in bed with the baby, which is really what she needs to do," says Morgan. They can also help with meal prepping, light housework, and staying with the baby so you can go take a shower, sleep, eat, and have some time to take care of your own needs. Doulas are trained professionals that can help you heal from your birth, especially if you have birth trauma, which over 45 percent of women report experiencing. "My focus is a lot on nourishment and rest and encouraging my clients to not feel like they need to bounce back right away," says Seah of her work as a postpartum doula.

Look for free support groups.

Not everyone has a support system they can count on—especially during the pandemic when many are far away from their family and friends. This is where support groups come in, and no one knows exactly what you're going through like another person who has just given birth. Postpartum Support International has free weekly and monthly online meetings for new moms, as well as for dads, for Black mothers specifically, and for queer parents. The Asian Birth Collective is a California-based platform that provides resources for Asian and/or BIPOC birthing people from birth and postpartum doulas to organizations. Homeless Prenatal, an organization that works to support homeless and low-income families through pregnancy and parenthood, is also offering free virtual support groups in English and Spanish to help with PPD.

Dads and partners need support too. Sometimes it can feel like they can't ask for help or don't even know that they need it because the focus is on the person who gave birth. Support for dads and partners is important so they can find the community they need, and can better understand how to help the new mom.

Find a therapist.

Although therapy is not always the most affordable or accessible, looking for a therapist who has sliding-scale fees—or finding an organization that offers free or affordable individual counseling—can be a great option to help with PPD.

"In my perinatal wellness counseling practice, I often work with intentional solo parents, as I myself am, and happily offer an adjusted fee schedule to those who would benefit," Dr. Meghan Lewis, founder of the LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Center, tells Parents. "In my estimation, easily accessible perinatal support is the hallmark of an evolving and just humanity."

Seah also points out that there is a lot of stigma against taking medication for PPD, which makes it even harder for folks to get the help they need. "To all the birthing people out there, if you think you need medication to help you get over your postpartum depression, there's nothing wrong with that and there are many organizations and people out there that will support that decision," says Seah.

Preparing ahead of time for the fourth trimester and leaning on different support systems are great ways to get postpartum care that isn't a huge financial burden. Getting the help you need postpartum doesn't need to be costly—and it's definitely an investment you won't regret.

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