Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Postpartum Depression

Even though the topic of postpartum depression has become more politically correct to diagnose and talk about in the 21st century, it has by no means alleviated the taboo or stigma attached to it. First, let's clear up some misconceptions.
-Postpartum depression is the change in emotional behavior caused by the imbalance of hormones after delivering a baby. It is completely natural and there is NOTHING a woman can do to control it.
-There are 3 levels of postpartum depression:
1) Baby blues. This is the typical experience most women have after delivery (80%) which includes lots of crying or the feeling of being overwhelmed; really just an emotional roller coaster. On average, the baby blues are worst for the first two weeks and are usually gone altogether by 4-6 weeks and require no medication, just getting as much sleep and help as possible.
2) Postpartum depression affects about 20% of women and is a more serious threat to mommy and baby. This level is usually diagnosed by thoughts for the woman to hurt herself or hurt the baby or if the "baby blues" symptoms continue past the first 4-6 weeks of the baby's life. Anti-depressants are a standard option to help with PPD and within a few weeks a woman should be feeling a little more leveled in her emotions.
3) Postpartum psychosis: Very few women are diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, but it is extremely dangerous and is usually characterized by the mother losing touch with reality, including hallucinations, illogical thought processing, and suicidal/homicidal thoughts.
- More women suffer from postpartum depression every year than the amount of people who break an ankle or have a stroke.
-Only 20% of women actually talk to their healthcare provider about their postpartum feelings. Most women feel ashamed to even ask questions.

I am blogging about this because even though I knew a lot about postpartum due to working at a pregnancy crisis center, it's just not the same as experiencing it. For me, it started with getting a virus when Titus was 5 days old that laste for a week and caused me to feel constantly nauseous and have diarrhea and a fever. I became extremely anxious about getting Titus sick, about not being able to keep up my milk supply, and about the radical shift my life had taken overnight.
Even after my virus went away I continued to experience the nausea, diarrhea, and fever on and off throughout the day. On top of that I started not being able to sleep, my heart would race and my stomach would clinch throughout the day. The worst was that my lack of appetite/nausea got so bad that I barely ate for 10 days and lost all 27lbs of baby weight before his two week check up (just FYI, I would trade in a second an extra 10lbs to have skipped the first two weeks). My doctor told me that he thought it was all stemming from my postpartum hormones and there was not really much we could do about that because as long as you breastfeed your hormone levels remain about the same from week 3 on.
I was devastated. I had been feeling so sick and anxious and generally unhappy all the time that I felt like if I was left alone with Titus I wouldn't be competent or healthy enough to care for him. Now I was being told it would continue to be like this indefinitely? I started crying in the Target parking lot while my mom just hugged me and told me it would be okay. They offered to put me on anti-depressants but warned me that a) even if it got rid of my anxiety it might add other side effects, like constant drowsiness or a general feeling of "weirdness," and b) that it could take 2 weeks for the medicine to kick in and even longer after that to get me on the "right" medication and dosage to work right for me.
I knew at this point there was going to be no easy fix so we needed to figure out what to do next.
Garland and I talked it over and decided that while anti-depressants were not off the table altogether, we would like to try a few things on our own before going that route. Examples: 
-We started giving Titus a bottle in the middle of the night so that Garland could feed and I could get some extra sleep.
-We worked really hard to make sure I got out of the house every day and that we even got out of the house WITHOUT Titus from time to time, even just to run to Sonic.
-I stopped being so stringent about his feeding schedule and just let him eat and sleep whenever he wanted (I would only suggest this after baby has gained back his birth weight and is healthy).
-I made a "thankful list" of all the things that were going well so I could pray and thank God for all he had given me instead of focusing on everything that was going wrong.
-I had to make a concerted effort to NOT think about the future. In fact, it became my prayer for God to just get me through the next hour (I continue to pray this several times a day).
-I tried to do some "normal" things, like blogging and cleaning the bathrooms.
-I had my mom write down some encouraging bible verses on note cards and when I'm feeling overwhelmed or anxious or sick I just read those over and over again. Sometimes this is the most I have energy to do, but I know that the Lord is providing me with what I need to get through each day.

Overall, the one thing that has helped me most to cope with my "baby blues" came from a friend who had a very difficult postpartum experience as well. She told me that it's okay to have a "mourning period" over the loss of my old life. All the things I loved about my life before Titus came (my job, social outings, my busy schedule, one on one time with Garland, SLEEP, staying up late, living my life based solely on what I want to do, etc) no longer existed. I found myself crying because I missed Garland even when he was sitting on the couch right beside me-even our nights at home together are just not the same, we are focusing on sustaining another life instead of each other. Then I would feel guilty that I missed my life before my baby; I felt like an awful mommy for ever feeling like it was better before he came. But realizing that I am literally having to bury my old life in exchange for a new, much less self-centered life has helped me to cope and to know that  feeling this way does not mean I do not love my baby. It just means that becoming selfless is a very difficult road to travel.

We are past week 3 and I am feeling less anxious and healthier every day. I know it gets better, everyone keeps telling me to wait until 4-6-8 weeks and it will be easier. But at this point, I am living day by day, and at a lot of points, hour by hour. I would not have been able to make it through these first three weeks if it had not been for my loving God. He was my constant friend and companion even in my mourning.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mothers with their young.

Isaiah 40:11



  1. Sarah,

    This is Jessica, James Gibson's wife. He showed me your blog entry for today. I went through the same thing you are going through with my first baby, Addison. It looks like you have a really good perspective and understanding of what you are dealing with. At the time I had Addison I didn't know anyone who had dealt with the things I was feeling and going through. It would have been such a blessing to hear someone say it's ok. It will get better and there will come a time where you feel full of joy again. If you ever want to talk, or get together I'm available. Praying for you and your new family.

  2. I totally treated up, Sarah. You have got such perseverance. So proud of you! Titus has a wonderful momma. Praying that it gets easier!

    1. *teared

      I DESPISE my phone's predictive text.