I am always very open to everyone about my journey through postpartum baby blues and depression; it has been something I’m very passionate about! Postpartum Progress is my favorite website to refer moms to, and I would love for everyone (moms, dads, even non-parents!) to glance through the website so they know what to expect. Today’s guest post is written by a mama who experienced postpartum depression, and what she learned during her journey to healing.
During the first year of Noah’s life, I felt overwhelmed, angry, anxious, obsessive and worried about normal and not so normal, everyday things. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I would start to wonder if maybe I needed help, but I would talk myself out of it. I would think, “You aren’t that bad off.” Or, “You don’t really need help, what you need is to get over it!” Or, “Tomorrow will be better, just wait a few more days.”
I didn’t know if what I was feeling was normal or not. I was a first time mom and I had the unfortunate situation of having a baby with serious medical issues. I had never experienced anything comparable to this time in my life.
What is Wrong with Me?
According to MayoClinic.com, there are 3 possible situations that women may experience after birth:
- Baby Blues
- Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Psychosis
Baby blues is described as “mood swings and crying spells that fade quickly” after childbirth. Symptoms can include: mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, crying, decreased concentration, and trouble sleeping. Signs and symptoms only last a few days to a week or two.
Postpartum depression (PPD) often resembles baby blues initially, but signs and symptoms are longer-lasting and more intense eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms can include: loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, loss of interest in sex, lack of joy in life, feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy, severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawal from family and friends, and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. When left untreated, PPD can last for many months or longer.
Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition that usually develops within two weeks after birth. The symptoms are even more severe and also include: confusion and disorientation, hallucinations and delusions, paranoia, and attempts to harm yourself or your baby. This condition is very serious. Please seek help immediately. Talk with your doctor, go to the ER, or call 911 depending on the circumstances.
Previous depression: If you have experienced depression in the past, there is a higher chance of developing PPD after birth.
Traumatic childhood or other traumatic experience: Sometimes big life changes (like having a baby!) can trigger past traumas. This can trigger an emotional response and adds additional risk of PPD.
Unusual or difficult situation with baby: If you have difficult circumstances or are dealing with medical issues with your baby, this adds an additional risk for PPD.
Relationship problems or a weak support system
Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
Stressful events over the past year (complications in pregnancy, illness, job loss, etc)
PPD after previous pregnancies
Getting Help to Feel Better
I wish I had told someone earlier that I was struggling; I think it is essential to let your spouse/partner/family/friends know what is going on. It’s important not only so that they can support you, but so they can seek help for you if needed. It can be helpful for your loved ones to know what to look for ahead of time. Discussing postpartum depression should be included in your conversations before birth– along with your birth plan. It is beneficial to talk about post birth plans and briefly discuss the signs and symptoms of the above three diagnoses.
It was around six months after my son’s birth that I finally made a phone call to my doctor. I told her that I was dealing with a lot and that I was anxious and worried and had finally realized I did not want to keep feeling this way. I explained that some days I felt ok and questioned needing help, while other days I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I chose to work with a NaProTECHNOLOGY doctor for treatment of PPD. I had previously worked with one for treatment of my PCOS (PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome) as well as for pregnancy support while pregnant. NaProTECHNOLOGY has a protocol for postpartum depression that utilizes a bio-identical progesterone. The dosage and length of treatment is determined by the severity of your symptoms. I was treated three times during a six month period. It was fascinating to “watch” the pattern– I followed the protocol and was a completely different person 2-3 days into treatment. (I have witnesses that will back this up!) Exactly 52 days later I started feeling like a crazy person again, did another treatment and felt great, and then 52 days later, same thing…my period came back at exactly one year postpartum!
(For more information about NaProTECHNOLOGY, go to: www.naprotechnology.com. For more information on how to find a NaProTECHNOLOGY Medical Consultant, go to: www.fertilitycare.org. Local to Houston is Caritas Complete Women’s Care.)
Medications and counseling are additional treatment options for PPD. One of the common concerns moms have is whether medications are safe to take while breastfeeding. The short answer is yes, there are medications that are safe to take while breastfeeding. Kellymom.com provides helpful information on the safety of different medication choices while breastfeeding.
Another great resource is the InfantRisk Center at Texas Tech University Health Science Center. They run a call center where anyone can call and discuss the safety and risks of taking prescription medications and over the counter drugs while pregnant and/or breastfeeding. They are open Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm CST. Contact them at: (806)-352-2519. Also their website is: http://www.infantrisk.com/#sthash.tA4IGNCO.dpuf
There are risks to consider, but in each case it is important to weigh the benefits and the risks and make an informed decision with your healthcare provider.
Other Things to Consider
Thyroid – Get your thyroid checked. Sometimes after birth, our thyroid can go a little crazy. Be sure to rule this out (or in!).
Nutrition and Hydration – Are you eating enough? Are you drinking enough water? Also, what are you eating? Is it what your body needs to promote healing and health?
Get your hormone levels checked! Again after birth, hormone balance can shift, affecting emotions in addition to causing other physical symptoms.
You are Worth It
You are a great mom! PPD is nothing to be ashamed of. PPD is normal and it happens to many women. It is so important to remember that you are worthy of getting help, of feeling better. You deserve wellness (and your family deserves for you to be well)! Please reach out, mention it to someone, find a PPD buddy– someone who has been there, done that and is able to support you through it while you get some help. When we have lost hope, sometimes we need someone else to hold our hope for us. I know there are many women who would love to be that person for you.
10 Things to Remember about PPD
Tell someone you are struggling.
Call your doctor to share how you feel and discuss treatment options.
Remember you are normal and this is nothing to be ashamed of.
PPD is not a reflection on how good a parent you are.
PPD can get better with help. You won’t always feel this way.
You are not ALONE.
PPD looks like different things in different women. There is no one size fits all.
PPD can show up anytime during the 1st year postpartum.
You are not to blame.
With PPD, life becomes that much harder. Even without PPD, a new baby changes things. Give yourself room to breathe and adjust. Be gentle with yourself.
Author Autumn McCarthy, LCSW lives in Plano, TX. She is a personal life coach and stay at home full-time mom to her son, Noah. Autumn and her husband, Chris have been married for 7 years. Autumn is a Le Leche League Leader in McKinney, TX. Autumn is also an accredited Attachment Parenting International (API) Leader in her community. To read more about Autumn and her coaching services, please go to her website: www.autumnmccarthy.com.