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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Let's Talk: Post Pregnancy Issue #2 - Post-Partum Depression & Baby Blues

This is something that a lot of women have trouble talking about.  The funny thing is, once you mention it in a group of moms, all of a sudden the ice is broken and the truth comes out.  Post-partum despression (PPD), or at least the "baby blues"  is soooo common and a lot of women suffer from some it to some degree after the birth of their baby. 

*Ahhh.... what a relief it is to hear real women talk about real personal issues - letting their guard down and really communicating and learning from their friends - creating close bonds and friendships with other moms... friendships like you've been trying develop since middle school (more on friendships after mommy-hood in a later post)*

Back on point: Why is this such a "personal" and "hush-hush" post-pregnancy (PP) issue?  Obviously, mental health issues are nothing that most of us wish to divulge openly - if at all - but since PPD is so common after pregnancy, it seems like something that would be more widely discussed... at least among women... or at LEAST between you and your doctor!!

Alas, it is not.

With my first son, the crying started about a week post-partum (PP).  I wasn't sure what I was crying about, all I knew was that I couldn't stop it once it started coming.  It would happen about twice a day and would only last about 5 minutes... but it was everyday... and worrisome. 

(On a side-note, from my research on baby blues, this pattern is very common - not crying and feeling sad ALL day, but for short periods during the day...)

By the time my 6-week PP check-up rolled around, it had stopped (thank God) and there was really nothing to discuss with the doctor.  Which is a good thing because, wouldn't you know it, they never even asked me how I was doing emotionally.  No one did.  And I can tell you that if I had still been feeling depressed and sad at that point, I doubt I would have just come right out with that information on my own without being asked.
My experience the second time around was different.  I think I was so afraid of getting PPD that I sat around the first few hours after getting home from the hospital crying and worrying about getting it.  Thankfully, short of some crazy mood swings (sorry Jamie :) and a couple short crying fits, there has been no daily crying or sadness.  In all honesty, I feel like I just don't even have the time to sit around and be sad and depressed this time.  Whew!  I'm relieved!!  And again, no mention of baby blues or PPD at my PP check-up.

Strike two.

For me, the first few weeks are so tiring and hard - and such a huge adjustment for the entire family. And I think that's why they are the hardest for me.... and probably most families.  However, the risk for PPD exists ANYTIME after pregnancy - so it's always something to consider and watch when you are a new mom!

So, what is the deal with me writing this?  Mostly to point out how the current medical system (at least what I've been exposed to in having two babies) really lacks in resources for following up with new moms in regards to PPD and baby blues.  Being handed a sheet of paper when leaving the hospital with a checklist of symptoms, telling you to "call your healthcare provider" does NOT cut it. I've always felt like a quick phone call from either your OB or the hospital during the first week or two would be a very worthy follow-up.  Time and money well-spent in my opinion.

I feel like the medical system has really let women down in regards to mental well being - "dropped the ball" so to speak. I've got 10 different numbers and resources to contact if I have trouble breastfeeding, but no certain number to call if I have trouble just getting through my day? Of course I could call my OB, or the hospital, or Google it to find some help in my area ... I know that. But when you aren't feeling like yourself and barely have the motivation to get out of the bed in the morning, is it realistic to expect a women to look up a phone number, call, leave a message, be called back, does my insurance cover this, etc... ? Seriously. Not going to happen. 

I know there are advocates out there to help women emotionally after giving birth, but where are they?  Why don't THEY have fliers in my "Going Home" hospital packet along with all the other formula and nipple butter samples?

I thank my lucky stars that this hasn't been a huge issue for me.  And I wish I had the resources, time, and energy to do more about helping women who are silently suffering with post-pregnancy sadness, blues, or depression.  But, if nothing else, I leave you with this:

If you know a new mom, call her and ask how SHE is doing.  In all likelihood, the baby is great.... and she gets asked about the baby 10 times a day...  Ask how SHE is doing.  Stop by.... offer to bring some coffee or a snack.  Share you experiences and knowledge of life right after having a baby.  Just opening up the dialogue could make a huge difference!!

*On a side note: Something to consider when speaking with a new mom - If one more person had told me to "get some rest" or "sleep when the baby sleeps" etc... when I was first coming home from the hospital, I seriously think I might have exploded.    My personal suggestion, DO NOT say these things to new parents.  It actually stressed us out MORE to hear people say this all the time!!  OF COURSE I AM TIRED - I  HAVE A NEWBORN. DUH!  It doesn't help for you to tell me I SHOULD be sleeping!  ahhhh! - OK, I feel better now!  :)*


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great post! You should write a book. Seriously! It's so true how there is not enough medical and social support given to new moms. It's really quite alarming considering how serious PPD can be sometimes. I also had a tough time after my first. Not depression out right... but intermittent crying and even despair off and on. Strange but true. So funny re: telling a new mom to sleep when the baby sleeps. That drives me crazy too. I have never slept once when my baby napped. I keep unconsciously waiting for the baby to wake up to nurse! I admit I'm not the best napper though. Thanks for the great food for thought!


Susan said...

Thank you for the post! It's interesting that you were mentally stronger with the second. My mom always says after the first one, you have zero time to sit around and feel sad. I feel like I have depression now, and I still have 9 more weeks!

On Monday, we watched the childbirth online program from my hospital. And then, that night during one of my bouts of insomnia I started thinking about labor and just burst into tears. OMG.

My pet peeve advice is: A baby is going to change your entire life.

No shit! I think I've been told that a million times - and it's usually by strangers who don't even know me.

Lindsey Brodsky said...

Kate: I hear you on the nap thing ... even at night I will lay there and think: "Don't even let yourself go to sleep - he's restless - it will be any moment now that he wakes!" I'm not as bad about it with the second one, but esp with the first he had to be out of the room on someone else's watch for me to sleep!!

Susan: I don't think there is one single piece of unsolicited advice that helped me. At all!! Esp from strangers! Annoying!

I, too, began getting sad and anxious around the last 2 months. For us, the second baby is the last baby, so something about the last month of pregnancy seemed so 'final'... as miserable and uncomfortable as I was, I didn't want the pregnancy to end. I still have a hard time looking at pictures from the hospital and delievery from both boys - it does make me feel sad that it's all over!

Michel Le said...

I found this post so very helpful and want to thank you! Although I am a couple years away from having children, I have friends with new borns and friends who will be giving birth soon, and I am excited to take your advice. So, thank you for this post, and know that it is positively affecting people!

Lei Carver said...

Nicely written!

downlights said...

great blog! i learn few things in this post, thanks for the share

Momma Chilson said...

Great job! I could not agree more. I am a mom of 14 children, and I have gone through PPD 14 times! I thought I could just get by and say nothing. I did...until about 4 1/2 years ago, I could no longer keep what I felt wrapped up. Our youngest was 18 months and someone made a little joke and the dam broke open! I felt like my life was coming to an end in a black hole. Today I am fine, but live with the haunting of what I have gone through. I can do nothing to change it, but it has been healing to be able to talk to other moms of what I have suffered.

Enjoy your little ones. They grow way to quickly! I wish I could go back in time and slow the clock down!

Vicki said...

This post is so right on. My kids are now teens but I remember those moments. I remember after my second I had even tried to see a therapist. Of course, I got the one in training and she diagnosed me with severe depression. Thankfully I was smart enough to know that she was wrong and asked to see her supervisor. After a 10 minute visit with me, he could see she made a huge mistake. I was just overwhelmed and needed someone to talk to. I've learned to enjoy every crazy moment of motherhood, because they grow up so fast.

Anonymous said...

Hi I am a new mommy! My baby will be 5 months next week and I'm still having crying episodes and feel horrible about the changes in my body! I haven't spoken to anyone I just can't get it out last night I wrote it all in my blog seems to be the only way to get my feelings out!! I spoke with my doctor about it on my post pardum appt and he simply said it'll go away on it's on just rest and get help from family members! That was no help at all

Anonymous said...

Hi! Hope all is well with your little ones! Missing your blog posts.. hope to hear from you sometime! :D