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Why every new mom needs a postpartum mental health plan

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I didn't realize I had postpartum anxiety because of something I read in a pregnancy book, or a magazine, or a pamphlet from my doctor. According to all of those things I had access to back in 2011, postpartum anxiety wasn't even a thing.

I didn't have the tools I needed to recognize that my fear and obsession with all the ways everyone I loved could and would die at that very moment was postpartum OCD. I didn't know that when I couldn't stop Googling every ache, pain and new patch of cellulite looking for symptoms of cancer, and when I felt convinced someone would throw me off of the balcony at Pantages Theater, and when I thought I was dying of a heart attack while driving, that was all postpartum anxiety talking.

I didn't realize that I was full of rage because I was sick. I just thought I was a horrible mother.

Books and magazines and doctors didn't give me the information I needed to reach out for help. The internet did. When my second baby was 9 months old I came across The Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (In Plain Mama English) by Postpartum Progress. My life changed instantly for the better, and that's not hyperbole.

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I finally had a name for what was happening to me, long after the six-week postpartum checkup. I was on medication and on my way to recovering within a month.

On my first phone call with my editor last fall while discussing the outline for my very first book — a manual of sorts for first-time pregnant moms — I laid out why this book HAD to include information about preparing for the possibility of a postpartum mood disorder. And not just a side note, not even just one chapter. This book had to have a thread that connected all of this advice for expecting moms — empowerment, encouragement, and education about the importance of advocating for and taking care of ourselves.

I wanted to talk about creating a mental health plan just like I would discuss preparing for baby-feeding or registering for must-have baby items because expecting moms should know what to look for long before they need to recognize symptoms in themselves. And they should be having conversations with their partners, their parents, and their care providers long before then, too. Postpartum mood disorders are a fact of life for at least 1 in 7 women. That number is higher for women of color.

Moms in the depths of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD or psychosis should already have the words for what they are experiencing so they can reach out right away. And while much more information is available online now than there was even 7 years ago, moms shouldn't have to rely on Google searches at 2 a.m. while they are rocking a baby and fighting away visions of dropping that baby off a staircase to figure out what's really going on.

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My book, "50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First-Time Mom's Pregnancy Guide," is the perfect gift for expecting parents. It's my greatest hope that it becomes the go-to present to pick up for baby showers, and the first thing people think to send to a friend, sister or co-worker to celebrate their pregnancy announcement. It's full of delightful illustrations, and it's an easy, fun read.

Nothing about it screams, "THERE IS INFORMATION IN HERE ABOUT BEING DEPRESSED AND ANXIOUS. THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS BOOK. BE SCARED." And that's the best part because my editor and I treated this part of preparing for a baby just like every other part. No need for alarmism. Just straightforward advice and real talk.

I'm so proud that amongst the mocktail recipes, the tips for taking the best photos of your bump, and the advice for preparing for breastfeeding and formula feeding, that there — in print, on paper pages — are the symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD. I get chills thinking of how many moms will have the tools and the words to seek help because they already read about what's happening to them in a book, and they already made a plan.

Jill Krause's new book, "50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First-Time Mom's Pregnancy Guide," is available on Amazon.com and wherever books are sold.

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Related video from Jill Krause:

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