Did you suffer postpartum depression? Act could help others!

I recently received a note about a new bill before the United States Congress that is designed to help research and treat postpartum depression.

The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act will help provide support services to women suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis – a serious and disabling condition that affects about 14 percent of new mothers. It will help educate mothers and their families about these conditions. In addition, it will support expanded research into the causes, diagnoses and treatments for postpartum depression and psychosis.

You may think postpartum depression would never happen to you or dismiss it as not serious, but I wanted to share with you my experience with postpartum depression after I had my first child Rose. I had never suffered any type of depression before, but the first few months of my daughter’s life were some of the darkest I have ever experienced.

I struggled for a year to get pregnant with our first daughter. We were so joyful when we finally got pregnant and anxiously awaited her arrival. But when the baby finally came I was miserable.

I was sleep-deprived, which is normal. I was crying all the time, which I thought was normal – apparently it was not!  I had undiagnosed yeast on my breasts, which made nursing unbelievably painful, but I didn’t know that wasn’t normal. (It took three months to get the yeast diagnosed and treated correctly.)

I resented the baby. I felt like she was this huge drain. I wasn’t joyful to show her off to friends and family. I just wanted to lie in the dark and cry. I dreaded nursing her. I just wanted her to sleep and leave me alone.

I had very negative feelings toward my baby. It was terrible to feel that way, and I didn’t understand why.

I didn’t recognize postpartum depression. How could you be depressed when you’ve got this beautiful baby that you’ve always wanted in your arms? I had no idea it was going on.

My obstetrician never said “Hey, I think you have depression.” My pediatrician never said “I’m concerned about you.” The lactation specialist at Piedmont Hospital is who recognized what was happening to me.

She said, “Every time I talk to you you’re crying. I think you’re having some postpartum depression. We need to talk about getting you help.”

Just having it pinpointed and acknowledged made a huge difference. “Oh that’s what’s going on.”

I never went on medicine, but things did get better over time. The lactation specialists helped me treat the yeast, which eventually made the nursing less painful. I guess my hormones gradually leveled out. I got more sleep, and I got better at caring for our first-born. But it took a solid three months for me to begin to feel a little bit normal.

When I was pregnant with my second I was really worried about falling into that hole again. I talked about what had happened the first time with my midwives (I switched practices because my first experience was so bad!), and they were prepared to monitor me. We discussed the possibility of needing an anti-depressant after the baby came home. They brought me in sooner than normal after the delivery to make sure I wasn’t having signs of depression. I also wrote up a postpartum plan that I gave to my husband and family detailing what I needed help with so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.

Luckily I didn’t have a problem the second time. I felt totally different when I brought my second baby home. The morning after we came home I went around to all my neighbors’ houses literally in my robe to show them my new beautiful baby boy!

I don’t know why it happened the first time but it was very scary, and I don’t want other women to go through that. You can learn more about postpartum depression and The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act on these Web sites.

Read The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act

A pre-written letter you can send to your senator to help pass the bill.

Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression

Did you ever suffer through postpartum depression? What were your symptoms? Who recognized it? How did you treat it? What is your best advice for new mothers to recognize it and avoid it?

28 comments Add your comment

Nadia

April 26th, 2009
11:58 pm

Great topic!

I think it is important for all pregnant women to read about the signs, symptoms, and factors that increase your risk. I think it is hormonal, but I also think it can be made worse by things going on in your life (money problems, marriage problems, etc.). I am no expert. I just looked it up on-line and am spitting out what I read.

I experienced it with my second child. I knew something was wrong because I was not myself at all. I did not have it in the first couple of weeks after the birth. When it hit, I was crying all the time. All I thought about was that I was going to die while my kids were young (I have sisters who died young from breast cancer). For a lot of people, they are not interested in their newborns when they have PPD. I was the opposite in that all I cared about were my kids. I took care of my kids just fine (fed them, changed diapers), but I felt horrible. I do not think I am exaggerating by saying that the word “cancer” was in my thoughts at least 100 times an hour. It was constant. I was obsessed with the thought of dying and leaving my young children.

It only went on for probably a week before I went to my doctor. It was so sudden and so extreme of a mood change for me that it was obvious I needed help. My husband would come home for work and I would collapse on him and cry. I swear I am not being dramatic…that is just the way it is when you have it. I am not normally a collapse against my husband kind of girl. that is how we knew something was not right.

My doctor prescribed an anti-depressant for me. It was safe to take while breastfeeding. It worked for me. I still thought about cancer constantly, but I stopped crying about it and was able to start functioning again. I stayed on it for several years before I weaned myself off. I had tried to get off of it a year or so earlier, and it was not the time yet.

Nadia

April 27th, 2009
12:14 am

Wanted to add:

I was always skeptical when I heard about women having this. I never suffered from PMS and thought women just used it as an excuse to be witches for a week every month. I have seen now that hormonal changes really can mess with you.

DB

April 27th, 2009
7:04 am

(Can’t open today’s blog in IE, btw)

I had a bout of depression after my second child was born, but was never sure whether it was PPD or just ol’ fashioned depression. Tried a couple of medications for about a year, and for me, the drugs were worse than the depression, completely shutting down the sex drive. After about a year, I decided the side-effects weren’t worth it, and stopped the medication. I realized that, for me, the same symptoms that were diagnosed as depressed stayed under control when I had enough sleep and got enough exercise.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 27th, 2009
7:51 am

NOOOO — I’ll go in and fix it as soon as I get the kids off to school — It’s not me, it’s the stupid stripping program — you have to strip the codes even if you paste it in correctly!!!!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 27th, 2009
8:17 am

Nadia — I think most mothers worry at some point about “oh my goodness what happens if I die” I think it’s natural to think about mortality with this fragile little life in your arms. It sounds like those “normal” fears were amplified 1000 by hormones and depression — I had a friend who went through the dying fear really harshly — she had a very, very hard time wtih it and talked about it all the time!! I’m going to call her and tell her to read your comment – i think it would make her feel better!!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 27th, 2009
8:28 am

Ok should be fixed!! that is soo annoying!

Michelle

April 27th, 2009
8:32 am

Oh yes…PPD was AWFUL! I wonder if part of it (for first time moms) is the expectation of being a new mom being such a great and wonderful experience? It is such a let down when you don’t have “instant” bonding and there is just SO MUCH work. I also had a hard time started nursing, and then once I went back to work, my milk dried up almost overnight! Your spouse doesn’t understand what you feel or need. Oh…and everyone is always gushing about the wonderful experience, etc. It almost makes you feel like a failure.

I didn’t start getting treated until about 6 months after I had my son. I finally told my doctor. I was exhausted ALL the time. I didn’t want to take care of the baby. I wanted to come home from work, get him fed, changed and to bed ASAP so I could go to bed too. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was SO angry all the time too! EVERYTHING made me angry. Within about 1 week of taking medication, I was beginning to feel normal. By the end of a month, I felt like my old self again! I couldn’t get enough snuggle time with my boy!

It’s been 6 years and I’m still taking the medication. I just cannot seem to get off of it! Part of it is the physical side effects (extreme dizziness). The medication does make me much easier to live with though!

new mom

April 27th, 2009
9:09 am

I have often wondered if I suffered from PPD, but after reading more about it, I don’t think that I technically had it. However, I did have some really bad days and wondered if I’d survive to see my girl grow up. I think my problem was sleep deprivation. The worst stretch was about a week after we brought her home—I had 4-5 days in a row in which I only got 2 hrs sleep max, and those 2 hrs were never continuous. Usually it was 45 minutes to an hour at a time. Lack of sleep will start messing with your head after a while, and one day I was convinced that I was such a bad mother that our daughter would be better off if I would die and my husband could find a ‘good mommy’ to marry.

I think another factor was that I was nursing, and convinced that she couldn’t ever have a bottle or she would never nurse again. I don’t regret my decision to nurse her, and still plan to nurse our next baby, but I will go easier on myself and not sweat it if I occasionally need a break and my husband gives baby a bottle. Nursing ‘round the clock’ for me equaled no sleep. It was probably 3 months before our daughter was sleeping for 4 hours at a time at night. The first time she slept for 6 hours straight, around 4 months old, I wanted to throw a party!

Becky

April 27th, 2009
9:19 am

I don’t have children, so I can’t really give an input into this..Like Nadia though, whenever I heard people talk about it, I thought they were nuts..Also, like Michelle said, you are suppose to be thrilled beyond anything with your new baby, then reality sets in..Work, no sleep, work, no sleep..So to all that have had this or anythin they think was like it, good luck with getting over through it..

Nadia

April 27th, 2009
9:22 am

Michelle, you are so right. I think a lot of moms do not experience that instant bonding, and that makes them feel like bad moms, like they are missing their “maternal instinct”. That happened to one of my sisters. Luckily, another sister told her it was completely normal, and that she did not instantly bond with 2 of her 3 children.

I also think women need to seek the advice of a lactation consultant right away if they are having trouble nursing. It does not always come naturally, and that can make some moms feel like they are failures.

JJ

April 27th, 2009
9:27 am

I didn’t experience PPD, as I was going through a separation at the time. I had to focus on my new baby, and me, and figure out what I was going to do. I had 8 weeks off work, a brand new baby, and my husband was gone. My parents were 2,000 miles away in Utah. Thankfully, my mom came down here after the birth and stayed for 2 weeks. She had to get back to take care of her mother and my father (who had just been diagnosed with bladder cancer). So they gave me a ticket, and me and my 5 week old baby got on a plane and spent 2 weeks in Salt Lake City. They were so supportive and helpful. The hardest part was coming back home. What to do, what to do?

I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, divorced the looser and went on my merry way. Eighteen years later, two houses later, a wonderful job, and numerous friends and a loving supportive family.

Without all that, I doubt I would be where I am today.

Jesse's Girl

April 27th, 2009
9:52 am

Thank you for sharing this!! I too had an experience…although it was a rare off-shoot of PPD. With the girls, I was fine…it was The Boy that nearly did me in:) I knew immediately that I had gotten preggers…after 2, ya just know! It was a huge shock. I was going through serious career changes at the time….trying to build my client base…working crazy studio hours…trying to make a bigger name for myself. This was not in my plans and I was crushed..to be brutally honest. I was having the baby…but never had a moment’s joy about it. I began to feel…for lack of a better word…psychotic. Not sleeping, not eating, but running around all of the itme…I could not slow down. My mind was literally “ON” 24/7. About 4 weeks in, my docs at Piedmont wanted to do a high-resolution ultrasound after a blood test revealed some concerning hormonal issues. They discovered my problems were “depression like”. The hormones that regulate pregnancy were in over-drive due to extremely high levels of testosterone….they said with near certainty that the baby was a boy because of this issue. I thought “Great…I’m having Satan!”

That same US also revealed a problem with the baby…he was developing with no brain. I came out of that appt with the strong suggestion to have a DNC. I thought it was my fault and that God was punishing me for not wanting the baby. Which only served to deepen the depressed feelings. I refused meds because I didn’t want to screw the kid up anymore than I felt I already had. Jesse and I took some time to really pray about it and decided that a DNC was best because we couldn’t face delivering a dead or dying baby then explaining that to the girls. I had to force myself everyday to get up and carry on with regular routines….which helped immensely with feeling better. I refused to allow myself to give into the depression. The docs kept telling me it wasn’t like a normal pregnancy depression…that because of the high levels of hormones, it would not go away until the pregnancy was over. I secretly thougth I was suffering from schizophrenia!!!:)

We made the appt for the DNC and I was just about to go back when I looked at Jesse and said “We need to leave right now”. A calm came over me….I know it was God…and I knew that as crazy as I was, it was going to be ok. That the baby would be ok. The docs were very concerned because they were certain that we would deliver a dead child. They waited 4 weeks to do another US because they didn’t see the point in it. But when they did it, they saw what I already knew would be there….a little boy with normal brain development. I was still crazy as HELL through the entire pregnancy….and still am:)…but we both made it!! His sisters will argue that his brain never fully developed:) But its more the gene pool than anything else!

Depression in any form can be so incredibly serious when you are pregnant. GET HELP!!!! It is not normal to feel insane….if your docs are not receptive, find one that is!!! I realize that my issue was different from traditional PPD….but crazy is crazy:) Get help as soon a you notice anything out of the ordinary!!!

JATL

April 27th, 2009
10:08 am

PPD is VERY real and can take several different “avenues”. New moms (and it can happen if you’re a new mom to your second or third even if it didn’t happen previously) need to realize that after the initial week or two of hormone craziness and typical “baby blues” -continuing depression (or before if you have thoughts of harming yourself or the baby), is not ok and can be treated! I had no problems after my first, but after my second I had CRUSHING anxiety. It wasn’t so much depression as it was anxiety -near panic almost all the time. I was given Zoloft for it, and it has helped tremendously. Don’t let yourself languish with those feelings. Even if you’re not exhibiting typical depression symptoms, but you feel really off or have panicky feelings all the time -talk to your doctor immediately! You don’t have to feel that way.

Great topic! If for some reason your doctor isn’t responsive, go to another one!

Michelle

April 27th, 2009
10:41 am

I think getting the “act” passed is a great step! There should be MUCH more education about this during/after pregnancy visits. I think in the last couple of months of follow ups, the MD (or whomever) should begin discussing PPD, signs/symptoms, causes, etc. I know some women just feel like failures because no one in their family had this problem with their kids! I don’t think the education should stop at the OB/GYN office either. I think the first few pediatrician visits should include a “parent” type interview to screen for PPD! I think this would have been VERY helpful in my case!

I am in the medical profession and finally took it upon myself to get help. I just KNEW I didn’t feel right! I knew by 6 months old I should have been enjoying my baby a lot more than I was!

I also think it is important as mothers, sisters, aunts, etc. to tell our family and friends about how PPD can affect them! This is NOTHING to be ashamed of!

Cammi317

April 27th, 2009
11:35 am

It’s weird, but I know I must have had it at the time my daughter was born, but the actual symptoms manifested later on. I never took any medication, I just slowly began to work myself out of it…to be honest, in some respects it’s still there. I didn’t mind holding her or nursing her as an infant. It was not until she was about 1 1/2 that the symptoms began manifesting. It took me until she was about 5 to realize what was going on. I would sleep half the day away on weekends. I started having to remind myself to tell her that I loved her, because although I did, it would not flow naturally for me to tell her so. I tell her automatically everyday now. I had to remind myself not to pull away when she tried to hug or kiss me (I still have issues with that and she’s 11. And it’s only with her, not nieces or nephews or family friends). If there is such a thing as long-term functioning PPD, I am a living example.

JG...

April 27th, 2009
12:34 pm

…I don’t blame you one bit for wanting to get away from the Democratic National Convention (DNC) – but if you were awaiting a D & C (dilation and curettage) then that is another story completely!!!!!

Jesse's Girl

April 27th, 2009
12:57 pm

Ha ha!!!! Thanks for the correction…never actually wrote it out!!

nurse&mother

April 27th, 2009
2:06 pm

I had severe baby blues after my first. I didn’t realize that I had it. I was very young (almost 24). I didn’t know what I had until I attended an OB nursing conference a few years later. My symptoms included: anxiety (couldn’t eat more than 2 bites literally for about a week- lost about 11 pounds not including the baby’s weight), felt like crying for months, feelings of helplessness, etc. I too thought this was normal. I suffered in silence for a long time. Eventually, things resolved. Changing my work schedule and spending more time with my loved ones helped a lot.

Now the second time around, I was older and wiser. I was actually prepared to discuss this with my doctor if I had a repeat episode. Fortunately, I didn’t. I was also concerned about the time of year that my son was born (winter). I notice that I am not as productive in the winter months (maybe a touch of seasonal affective disorder?), although it doesn’t impair me.

I too felt like Theresa the second time around. I was happy and so thrilled to have the second child I had always wanted. I actually can’t remember having any of the old feelings from before. It was like night and day! I still didn’t get much sleep, but who does the first month or two?

nurse&mother

April 27th, 2009
2:09 pm

I would like to add that there is a tremendous let down when this beautiful baby is no longer inside of you (at least that was one of my feelings). It was so comforting knowing that this living being was inside of me. After delivery, I felt very alone. I realize that this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but PPD is not very rational.

Jesse's Girl

April 27th, 2009
3:36 pm

I am a miserable pregnant woman…evil, low-down, set you on fire miserable:) There was jubilation when I delivered all 3 of them…..getting them out could not happen fast enough. So funny how every woman’s experience is as unique as the children they give birth to! With the girls…I was dancing in the streets after the births….so happy to be a mom and to have them “out”. With The Boy…I spent his collicky nights just holding him and apologizing for being such an evil pregnant mommy:) I was thankful to have him with me and in my arms…collick or no. It took me a little longer to dance in the streets with him simply because I was constantly holding him and snugglin with him and girl #2 on the couch!! (girl #1 was at school)

catlady

April 27th, 2009
5:30 pm

Is anyone aware if there has been any look at the SES breakdown of mothers with PPSD? Personally, I have seen many more middle and upper class women suffer from this than poor and lower class. Is it that higher SES women are more likely to get diagnosed, or that lower SES women have to adopt a “let’s get on with it” attitude until it resolves itself?

Jesse's Girl

April 27th, 2009
8:23 pm

Such a cool tangent Catlady!!! Interesting….

JJ

April 28th, 2009
8:18 am

Can we please have a new topic. This was was too depressing…..LOL….

Becky

April 28th, 2009
8:36 am

I know this may sound dumb, but women that are around a lot of babies before theirs are born, does this help them not suffer from PPD? I mean if you are a little more used to being around children, does this help more with “bonding”? Just wondering…

nurse&mother

April 28th, 2009
1:07 pm

Becky, I would think this could cut down on a little anxiety. I think that was a little bit of a factor. I do think mine was multi-faceted. For me, not knowing how/what to do was a huge stressor. Can’t speak for everyone, though.

Becky

April 28th, 2009
1:31 pm

Thank you for your input. I know that all of my sisters that have children, had been around babies all of their lives & none of them ever mentioned having PPD..Of course, as old as my nieces & nephews are, I’m not even sure if the term PPD was known of then..

StephanJade

October 21st, 2009
12:34 pm

Cool blog you got here. It would be great to read something more about this topic.

Greg Marlow

November 11th, 2009
6:22 am

I can’t say that I suffered from PPD but I did suffer anxiety, panic and psychosis as a result of low sodium (hyponatremia). With the sudden change in hormones at the end of pregnancy, one can see how low sodium might be a cause for PPD. In my case, the doctors did not diagnose hyponatremia because my sodium level changed frequently. By trial and error I found that a diet with a salt concentration close to that of blood i.e. 8g salt (NaCl) for each liter of water (food and drink), cured my mental symptoms. Hopefully my experience will be of some help for those suffering from PPD.