POST PARTUM MOOD DISORDERS
Sometimes pregnancy and its aftermath can leave us feeling pretty shitty. You’re supposed to be feeling so happy, and joyous and contented but instead you feel anxious and overwhelmed and depressed. Well, you are not alone.
Disorders of mood and feelings are very common during pregnancy and after. "Baby blues" refers to a milder form of depressed mood that lasts less than 1-2 weeks after childbirth and is experienced by up to 80% (!) of new moms.
Post-partum depression is a more severe, longer lasting, and much more life disrupting episode of depression that occurs in up to 15% (!!) of moms after delivery.
In addition, women can experience post-partum anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more rarely psychosis. Newer guidelines for post-natal medical follow up encourage moms to get checked by a medical provider no later than 3 weeks after delivery.
This is an optimal time to talk with your doctor about how you are doing emotionally. Because not only are mood disorders common, they can cause a great deal of suffering. They are also very treatable.
There is no more important way to take care of your baby and family than to take care of yourself. If you are not doing well emotionally, please seek help.
Here are some other places to get started in getting help:
Postpartum Depression Fact Sheet from NIH:
About Postpartum Anxiety:
If this is an emergency and you need immediate assistance, please call 911.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-TALK (8255). This 24-hour suicide prevention helpline specializes in handling all situations related to suicide and emotional distress.
A LETTER TO THOSE OF YOU WITH POST-PARTUM DEPRESSION:
When people go thru a major depression, they often feel like they are at the dark end of a tunnel with no light on the other side. They feel like they will never find joy in the simple things of life again. The process of getting to the other end of the tunnel when you don't see the light there yet is one of faith. It's about having faith in the process of therapy and medication over time. Having faith that you will find your way back into the light of a lovely world.
You may not see how that can be right now, but you CAN get back to a more balanced life again. You can get back to a place where you find joy in life.
In the process, you will grow as a person and in the end you will be stronger for it. Personal growth is often uncomfortable. OK. Sometimes it’s downright painful. But when we face the things in life that we fear, we find that the doors to the world open up for us.
You don't need to do this kind of thing alone. You do it with the support of a good therapist who will help you work thru what is going on in your thoughts and the help of medications which can help rebalance the chemistry in your brain and the hormones in your body.
So, what comes first? The chicken or the egg? Is it the biochemical imbalance in the brain or the life events that cause depression?
Frankly, it doesn't really matter which goes out of whack first. When they are really out of whack you treat both. Be aware that finding the right anti-depressant / anti-anxiety medicine for you is a process of trial and error. What works for a friend may not for you and vice versa.
However, these days there are many very well tolerated medications and most people can find something that helps them feel a bit more normal, a bit more stable, and a bit more able to function. So, keep up communication with whomever is prescribing your medication as you work thru what works best for you. They will help you find the right one if you need it.
The process of therapy is an investment in your health and wellbeing. Make sure you're comfortable with your therapist and it will become the best investment of your life. You will be building the foundation of self-understanding that can become a solid bedrock for your life ahead. And you will be learning the mental and emotional skills for handling life's slings and arrows with more resilience.
Be gentle with yourself in this process. And, at the same time, with the support of your therapist, look hard at the things that scare you. Understanding what is behind the fear will set you free.
Therapy doesn’t have to be something you do for years on end. Often a modest period of crisis intervention can help people get back on an even keel.
Another tool you can employ as you fight this battle to regain the life you want is called "guided imagery." One of the main goals of these recordings is to stimulate a relaxation response. So, this can be especially helpful for anxiety.
During my pregnancy, I had anxiety that was way, way, way beyond anything I'd personally experienced before. My ob/gyn directed me towards a series of CD's by "Bellaruth Naprastek." You can find these easily on-line. The one I found most helpful was for “Insomnia” but I also used it for general stress relief and anxiety.
You down load the recording onto whatever mobile device you have and then spend 30 minutes a day just listening and letting her guide you thru a series of images. It's basically a form of meditation that doesn't require years of training and can be done even by someone who's anxious and has trouble getting their mind to quiet down. I highly recommend trying this too.
We all go thru some really, really hard times in life. You can find your way thru to a good place again. It will be a process. It will be hard at times. When you work your way thru it you will be a stronger person and a better parent too.
And as you get older these accumulated strengths from meeting life's hardest challenges will make each successive challenge easier to manage. The best thing you'll ever give your kids is your own emotional health. Focus a bit on you and they will be fine.
Good luck and hang in there! Have faith in the process and work of healing. Don't go it alone. Seek out some professional help.
Remember, no parent is an island...
May 28, 2019