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.
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?