It has been about a week and half since I went live and opened up a bit about my experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. The out-pouring I have received since then has been amazing! It really helped me with my anxiety and apprehension in approaching this conversation with you all.
From the moment that 2 Hearts 1 Dress became even the faintest concept, I knew that it was meant to be so very much more than just a retail store that provided clothing and accessories. It is meant to be a resource center, I dream of offering Classes and Information Sessions, Support Groups, Moms Nights and more.
As part of that I have decided to launch some Blog Posts, right here on our site, and will link them to our FB page. I urge you to share them, to interact, to seek help when needed and to reach out to other moms. Know that if you are experiencing it, many others are too, and the best way for us to join together and beat these struggles as human beings is to be honest, seek help, and offer help.
I want to talk a little more about Postpartum Mood Disorders, mainly to give you a better idea of what they look like, what it can feel like and what to watch for so you know when to seek help for yourself or a loved one. Until I was in the depths of my depression I had no idea that there was even more to the list than just PPD. I had no idea that Anxiety and Depression were separate issues. I had no clue that there were levels of problems, and just lumped them all together in my brain. When in fact there are actually several disorders that can occur, and some are more prevalent than others.
Postpartum Depression, or PPD, is the most common, but even with that said it occurs more than many people realize, and even the mother herself may not understand that what she is experiencing is actually PPD, leading her to not check that box when asked by family members or her care provider. Depression can start during pregnancy as well, which is referred to as Antepartum, or Prenatal Depression.
It is estimated that 15% of women experience one or both of these. These percentages rise when the mother is a teen or dealing with poverty. Symptoms can appear anytime from the start of pregnancy to a year after delivery, and can include feeling angry or irritable, a lack of interest or connection with the baby, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, crying and sadness, feeling guilty, ashamed or hopeless, no longer enjoying activities that once mattered, or thoughts of harming the baby or yourself.
Having experienced depression before is something you should speak with your doctor about during pregnancy, allowing them to keep an eye out, and help provide tools that may help before this becomes an issue.
A mother experiencing Postpartum Anxiety may experience extreme worries and fears, often over the general safety and health of her baby but can extend to other areas of life as well. She may also experience panic attacks. Approximately 6% of women experience this during pregnancy, and that number rises to 10% for postpartum. It can be companied by depression, but it could also show up on its own.
Anxiety can appear as overly concerned, constantly worrying that something bad is going to happen, not being able to sleep for fear that the baby may need something, or something may happen to the child when you are not watching. It can feel like you need to keep moving or doing something.
For me personally this happened when my youngest Harvey was in the NICU. The hospital allowed me to stay a few extra days so that I could be closer to him. In between being in the NICU with him, I would return to my room in an effort to rest. I couldn’t get to sleep though, the moment I drifted off I would shoot up in the bed to look at the clock to make sure it wasn’t time to go feed him, check my phone to make sure they hadn’t tried to call. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was going to happen, and I wouldn’t be there. But I also had a lot of guilt about not being home with my other children. I felt awful for missing an awards ceremony because I hadn’t been home to get the notice that it was happening, and my son received 2 awards that I wasn’t present to see.
There are also more severe types of Postpartum Anxiety, such as Postpartum Panic Disorder, which is a form of anxiety leaving mom feel very nervous and having reoccurring Panic Attacks. There is also Postpartum Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder. Women experiencing PPOCD do not have to have OCD, and this disorder can affect men as well. This disorder shows up as repetitive obsessive thoughts of mental images, leading a mom to repeatedly complete tasks, like vacuuming, or checking on the baby, to help alleviate a fear, even if they are aware that the fear is not rational, or likely. Most women experiencing this feel like the fears come out of nowhere, but have little to no control over that, leading to the compulsive and obsessive habits.
Sometimes delivery doesn’t go as planned, and that can lead to a form of Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder. This happens approximately 9% of the time, and can be triggered by anything, but commonly is related to unplanned C-sections, a health risk to the baby or mom while delivering or laboring, such as baby’s heart rate dropping suddenly, prolapsed cord, hemorrhaging etc.
The symptoms with this are generally the same as with any other Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as reliving the moment over and over, having nightmares about it, avoiding dealing with things related to the trauma, such as places, or people, a feeling of detachment, and anxiety and panic attacks.
In severe situations a Postpartum mom can experience Postpartum Psychosis or PPP. This condition requires immediate attention and is rare. It is estimated that only 1-2 of every 1,000 births lead to this disorder. The onset is sudden, and generally occurs within 2 weeks of delivery. Symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, feeling intensely irritated, little to no need for sleep, Paranoia, difficulty communicating, and hyperactivity.
Women are at a higher risk for experiencing Postpartum Mood Disorder if they have previously experienced depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges., have a family history suffer from Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or have inadequate support. Additionally, experiencing complications in pregnancy, child-birth or breastfeeding, or stress with finances, marriage or recent major life events such as moving, loss, or job changes or the stress of having multiple children can also attribute. Certain health issues can also raise the odds for experiencing depression, such as a thyroid imbalance or diabetes.
Personally, I battle a thyroid imbalance, and I also have struggled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. There are times when it is worse than others, and sometimes it’s better. Having my thyroid levels properly monitored helps, making sure I get plenty of sleep and am eating well balanced meals helps. But there are also other ways of making sure I take care of myself, like getting out with friends, having a hobby, or something I enjoy, occasionally doing something that makes me feel good about myself, whether that is as simple as getting my nails done, or paying for someone else’s coffee. Buying a new top, or simply spending a little time curled up in my bed reading a book. I had to start remembering that I was more than just a mom, I was a person. A person who had needs and desires and friends. A person who thrives when I am surrounded by people who can make me laugh, and not always talking about what my kid ate or did that day. Being able to focus on my marriage, on my health, on my dreams. These things matter and not taking time for myself really took a toll on who I was as a person. I nearly forgot who that was for a while. I kept hearing people say things like “the old Stacey never would have…” or “When did you stop…” and I realized that I had become so invested in being a good mom that I forgot how to be just me.
All of these conditions are temporary, and all are treatable. It is important to know that even if you are experiencing one or more of these, that it will end, and you are not alone. Please reach out, please let someone know, so that they can help you, so that they can check on you, and so you are not left dealing with this alone. Let your doctor, midwife or any other health care provider know what you are dealing with. They will be able to ask questions, and help you to form a plan, and from personal experience, even just a plan on how to handle something instantly makes you feel better.
If you think you are dealing with one of these, or think someone you know is, please do some research. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is so much available knowledge out there, find a group of people you can ask questions to, find a way to offer some help, even if it just ends up being bringing over a meal, letting her take a nap, and listening to her cry. These are real issues, and it is time that we shed some light on them, instead of dealing with them in the dark.