The following is a true story of one person’s experience with postpartum anxiety and prenatal depression. Depression and anxiety, like anything else, can look differently for different people. For some it is more mild and for others it is more extreme.
For more information on postpartum depression and anxiety you can visit http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english or http://postpartumstress.com/about/ for a list of symptoms and resources. If you believe you have postpartum depression or anxiety, please seek the advice of your doctor or midwife to talk about your symptoms and steps to take towards healing.
I didn’t realize that I’d suffered from any mental health issues around my first baby until I was due with my second. My pregnancy and birth were easy with my first (rainbow) baby. I did have some anxiety but that is to be expected after having a miscarriage. When I was several months pregnant with my second baby I saw articles about postpartum anxiety and realized that it fit my experience with my son.
After he was born, I was sure I could just easily set him in the bassinet and everyone would sleep happily. He did not want to sleep in the bassinet. But I would struggle sleeping if he was in my bed because I was sure he would suffocate. If, on the odd chance he did sleep in his bed, I couldn’t sleep because I was sure he would die of SIDS. After a struggle for several days, I ended up sleeping propped up with him on my body. We slept this way for 6 MONTHS! It didn’t help that friends and family would say “it’s easy, just lay him in his bed”. Thankfully my husband was supportive of whatever I needed. Now that I have a 6 month old again, I realize how absurd it was that he slept on my body that long. I wish I had found an outlet for my anxiety so that we could have had better sleep.
With my second pregnancy, I had to be on extra progesterone for the first trimester. It wasn’t until I came off of it that I realized the level of depression it had caused in me. I struggled to do basic household tasks. I got through each day by listening to Harry Potter audio books. Every morning I would have to think about where I was in the book and what exciting part was coming up. I struggled to enjoy spending time with my year old son.
In both instances I realized after the fact that I had been suffering from a mental health issue. I remember family telling me that they had no idea I was depressed because I acted so normally. I now realize how important it is to speak up about your feelings so that others can help you diagnose them. In neither instance was I ever a threat to myself or my children, but it could have gotten there had I not found ways of coping. It is SO important that women share their feelings around pregnancy/birth and find help if they need it.
If you are struggling with a postpartum mood disorder, please see your care provider immediately. The hospitals in the area have classes that address postpartum depression during prenatal education so you can learn the signs and symptoms.
You may also contact the following for postpartum support:
Postpartum Support International: www.postpartum.net or 1-800-944-4773. They list out reliable resources in your area that are available for no charge.
Colby Cohen-Archer at The Postpartum Adjustment Center: 859-212-3265. She specializes with women struggling during pregnancy, postpartum, infertility, miscarriage, and parenting.