Post Partum Depression

“Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.” Billy Wilder

Looking back, I could see some serious warning signs for postpartum depression before I took my first pregnancy test, but I chose to naively assume that I was immune. Unfortunately, my ignorance nearly cost me my life.

I was no stranger to depression when my husband and I began “trying” to get pregnant four years into our marriage. In fact, by the time I got the (positive) results from my prenatal blood work, I had been on antidepressants for at least 10 years. However, it had been years since my last depressive episode and, except for some fatigue and frustration during the weeks of intense morning sickness, I was emotionally stable and very excited about the pregnancy.

By most accounts (and according to all the major websites focusing on postpartum depression including Mayo Clinic, The Center for Postpartum Adjustment, WebMD and even Wikipedia) I was not at serious risk for postpartum depression, despite my medical history because:

  • I was in a loving, supportive relationship with my husband and extended family.
  • We had planned for this pregnancy financially and emotionally (as much as possible).
  • I had close friends and family members with whom to share my excitement (and discuss my fears).
  • I had a (surprisingly) positive body-image despite the history of an eating disorder (gaining weight was not an issue while concentrating on my health and the growth of my baby).
  • I was planning to breastfeed (as bottle feeding can be a risk factor).
  • There was no history of PPD in my family (to the best of our knowledge).

 

Yet, less than 24 hours after the delivery, strangely numb from the epidural (I had found a high risk specialist who would allow me to have a vaginal delivery, provided I agree to a second-stage assist), I wanted to hurt myself. I told my obstetrician immediately. However, I faced numerous obstacles to getting proper help despite having the highest score possible on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the most well recognized assessment for postpartum depressive symptoms.

For over a year, I consulted various psychologists and psychiatrists and took cocktails of powerful psychotropic medications without success. Two hospitalizations (for a total of four weeks) and experimental therapies (that wiped out my short term memory) still did nothing to improve my anxiety which developed into deep despair and eventually became a numbing trance. Eventually, I got tired of the trial and error with my body chemistry, and I made a personal decision to fight back (with the support of my husband and family).

 

Although highly simplified, these were the critical steps to healing:

  • I initiated a ton of research on nutrition and hormones (and added significantly more Omega-3 rich fish, coconut oil, whole milk, avocados, nuts and seeds to my diet as a result),
  • I confronted my unrealistic expectations of motherhood (initially, I did not consciously realize how much I expected myself to be perfect),
  • I accepted help (although my family stood by me through everything, I had to mentally accept that my son was better off in the care of others while I healed),
  • and learned to forgive myself for a situation that was out of my control (I, like many mothers suffering from PPD, blamed myself for being “weak”).

 

When my second child arrived five years later, I was significantly more prepared. Following the guidelines from Baby Center and AskMoxie, I:

  • began meditating (and napping) during my pregnancy,
  • warned my extended family, doctors and friends of the possible need for additional assistance following the birth (and educated those closest to me about the warning signs),
  • ate nutrient dense foods during and after the pregnancy (specifically those high in healthy fats and calcium) and
  • exercised up to the day of delivery (careful not to overexert myself, but also mindful of the emotional and physical benefits of regular movement).

After the (completely natural this time) birth of my second child I:

  • immediately began gentle exercise (walking, light weights and basic abdominal/core conditioning)
  • went outside in the sun for at least ten minutes every day (thankfully, mother nature cooperated with this one),
  • drank tons of water and ate healthfully,
  • took some time off work (with my first child, I was answering work-related questions in recovery) and napped during the day,
  • nursed exclusively and on demand,
  • spent every possible moment holding my baby (and her big brother, but he pushed me away) and, most importantly,
  • cut myself some slack.

 

Being proactive really paid off. I experienced only very mild irritability, occasional anxiety and some crying (essentially the most common “baby blues”) in the first few weeks (and again when the sleep deprivation kicked in). Being fully present during the days and weeks following my daughter’s birth was truly a blessing, but I mourned the bonding time I missed with my son. I regret not being there for him in a way I have for my daughter and I worry (often) about what long-term consequences he will have as a result. But, I am grateful for the opportunity to fully appreciate my children now that I am healthy.

If it takes a village to raise a child, we need (as women, as sisters, as friends) to create a community of support for new moms during the critical postpartum days (weeks, months…).

What are you doing/have you done to prepare for the postpartum period?

How (specifically) have you supported another mom after her child’s birth?

 

For our local West MI moms, please check into getting help from MomsBloom and look into our events page for local PPD support groups.

natural living momsJana Christian, mother of two, recently transitioned to full-time stay-at-home mom. Her extensive knowledge about and passion for health and nutrition have helped her resolve her own personal health issues (including a life-threatening eating disorder and severe postpartum depression) and adjust her family’s diet to accommodate multiple food allergies and environmental sensitivities. Jana takes her job very seriously and can unusually either be found at the library researching new theories or in the kitchen baking bread. You can read her blog at Write on Jana.

 

 



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This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

About donielle

Donielle is a natural momma of two, lover of real foods, and owner and editor of Grand Rapids Natural Living and Naturally Knocked Up. You can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up some nourishing foods, cuddled on the couch reading books to the littles, avoiding the laundry and Mt. Saint Dishes, or tapping away on the laptop. Her husband puts up with her sometimes crazy "hippie" ways, but loves her regardless. Welcome to my home away from home.

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