Hello all, if you didn’t know May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I wanted to share my own experience with postpartum depression – something few speak of.
While having a high risk pregnancy with my fifth child – due to Chiari, and off my Chiari medication – due to the lack of medical knowledge on side effects the child may have, all resulted in postpartum depression. My decompression surgery for Chiari was done in 2013 and despite having had surgery, I continued to have chronic pain. I was also told of the possibility of a second surgery. The thought of a second surgery and being pregnant without taking pain medicine had me feeling an intense sadness. On September 2015, what I thought would be a quick trip to the ER for abdominal pain, ended in an emergency c-section. I’ve been through four prior c-sections and so when the baby didn’t cry, my motherly instinct told me something was wrong. In spite of my concern the nurses and doctors assured me everything was OK and the baby was taken to the hospital nursery. Once there he began to turn purple, began gasping for air and was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU. His lungs were underdeveloped and he was not receiving enough oxygen. He would stay in NICU receiving medical treatment for the next 15 days. My depression just continued to grow. But, with a baby in NICU, making sure I was pumping enough breast milk to provide his nurses and thinking of the other children at home, I did not have to time to think of myself.
Fast forward 2017, I was pregnant with my youngest, this again was considered a high risk pregnancy due to my Chiari diagnosis. After multiple trips to the ER with early contractions, I received steroid shots to help the babies lungs. She was born on February 2017 by emergency c-section. Her lungs were in great shape, thanks to the medication they had given me while still pregnant. She was still though considered a preemie and had to spend time in NICU for preventative measures. I again, continued to spiral in my depression. I knew it wasn’t the baby blues. She was the most perfect baby girl, with these piercing light eyes and there I was feeling no bond with my child. I unable to get out of bed – not because of the obvious pain from a c-section, but because I felt this internal sadness. The thought of even having to feed my new born overwhelmed me with anxiety and fear. I laid in my hospital bed not knowing how I would get up to visit my baby in NICU. The view of the door seemed eternal as if it would take miles of walking just to reach it. When I got home, the deep sadness continued. I mentioned it to my obstetrician and he assured me that it was the baby blues, but to have peace of mind, that I should go see a therapist. I didn’t.
However, by the end of 2017, having to care for a new born, 5 other children and still feeling sad, anxious, uninterested in just about everything and fatigued, I sought help in form of a psychologist. I also began thinking what going to a therapist would mean, I felt a sense of embarrassment, what would people say if they’d find out, what would my family think, would they think I’m crazy, unstable, unfit?! The thoughts were overwhelming. It went against what I thought the world would think of me. But it became the best decision I could have made for myself and my family.
Know The Signs
Postpartum Depression (PPD): This occurs after the baby is born, you have insomnia, feel sadness, loss of appetite, noticing difficulty bonding with baby, irritability, loss of appetite, hopelessness, you find yourself not being able to concentrate. This requires medical diagnosis and if you go untreated, these symptoms can last months or even longer.
Baby Blues: The symptoms for baby blues can be very similar to postpartum depression and can include mood swings. However, the symptoms are short lived, you experience them for a shorter amount of time. And with help from your spouse, partner and family, you can overcome the baby blues. The baby blues is the least severe of postpartum depression, it tends to be ‘normal’ for moms that have just given birth, however if they don’t go away in a few weeks, it may be postpartum depression.
If I could tell you anything from my experience with postpartum depression is not to wait. I waited and missed vital time in receiving medical help. I was too embarrassed to speak on feelings I thought people would view as lunatic and absurd! On the contrary, my family were the most supportive. The one thing I am in constant need, is the reminder that I shouldn’t care or think of what the world thinks of me. Put yourself first, your mental health is a priority. If you feel in need of mental help, seek it – because acknowledging that you need help is vital and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Also, speaking one day on this topic of postpartum depression, my therapist – whom also has patients at a local hospital, told me that the hospital is now screening pregnant women. They are screened before and after the birth of their child for signs of postpartum depression. How amazing is that! I can only say that we are truly moving in the right direction, just as a newborn needs care, the mental state of the mother does too. I can only hope that this same protocol is done in every Hospital nation wide, so that no mother goes untreated.
Happy Mental Awareness Month.
Photo: Daniel Páscoa