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One of the many things I wish I would have read up on before having babies was what to know about postpartum depression.
DISCLOSURE: I am NOT a medical professional and you should not take anything I state on this website as medical advice. I share my experience and always suggest you talk to your own doctors should you be concerned.
My Wish for Postpartum Mental Health & What I Want You to Know
After talking with other moms after experiencing a maternal mental illness myself, I am honestly so upset that mental health disorders postpartum are not discussed more during pregnancy. SO many of the moms I’ve spoken to over the last couple of years hadn’t had any sort of discussion before their first pregnancy with regard to what to know about postpartum depression, anxiety, or rage.
While I was pregnant with my twins, I wasn’t educated about any maternal mental illnesses aside from the pamphlets in my OB’s waiting room. This then came as a surprise one year later, when I found out that postpartum depression is the single most common birth complication after a multiples pregnancy. Why didn’t anyone warn me? Or at the very least, explain what it was?
Since then, I have made it a life mission to better educate moms with regard to their mental health which is why today we are talking about my experience with postpartum depression.
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A Story About Postpartum Depression
For a long time, I blamed myself for my struggle with depression postpartum and not looking into what to know about postpartum depression. You see, I experienced a very traumatic birth. I was admitted to the hospital at 28 weeks after a routine check-up due to pre-eclampsia. That weekend was by far the scariest weekend of my life. I found myself numb, almost as if I was watching life move around me.
I was suddenly bombarded by doctors explaining the survival rates of babies born this early, what to expect inside of a NICU stay, along with so many other things no pregnant woman ever wants to hear. I was prepared to go into an emergency c-section at any given moment while my blood pressure continued to rise to the extremes.
From that point, I was lucky to keep my twins in for another four weeks before being born via emergency c-section followed by a NICU stay. I was talked to about SO many things during my stay, but the one thing I wasn’t explained in gruesome detail? Postpartum depression or any other maternal mental illnesses. They weren’t explained at all beyond a required “baby blues” video we had to watch prior to being released from the hospital.
Little did I know I was already in the early stages of my PPD journey.
A journey that wouldn’t be confirmed by a doctor until almost two years later.
In the early months at home with my twins, I was inconsolable. I rarely got more than 4 hours of sleep throughout the night between feeding, changing, and pumping. I had cut everyone out of my life. I found myself thinking the worst. Especially when my daughter had colic. Her endless crying left me with the darkest thoughts. I was scared.
I had joined a local mom group and began seeing talk of postpartum depression. So I googled. I ended up reading for hours about PPD and was convinced I had it. So I called my OB. We had an appointment set up, but a few days before they called and told me they couldn’t see me because I was “too far postpartum” or something like that. Said they’d be in touch.
They never called back.
I continued to struggle. A few months later, not even a year PP at this point, I got in touch with an old therapist to talk about my self diagnosis of PPD. Still convinced I was struggling hard with it, we made an appointment and it wasn’t cancelled. However, she did tell me I was too far along to have PPD.
I was stuck. I was angry. I was terrified. I was in such a dark place. But no one was listening when I tried to speak up. No one offered answers.
Until almost another year later, when I finally found someone who listened, confirmed my postpartum depression, and said my PPD triggered my Bipolar Disorder. I came out of that office with two new diagnosis’ and finally, an answer as to why I was in such a dark place.
From there on we started medication and worked through the next steps of therapy and healing.
What to Know About Postpartum Depression (PPD)
The number one thing I have to tell you about PPD is that it is NOT your fault! I thought I was to blame for my PPD for a very long time, but that is absolutely not true. It can simply be an outcome of pregnancy and nothing more. A new baby and the fluctuation of hormones post pregnancy can bring on so many emotions, and sometimes those emotions put us in a dark place.
What PPD Looks Like & What it is
Postpartum depression is often described as feeling in a constant state of overwhelm, deep sadness that does not go away, inability to sleep, along with intense anger and frustration. For me, it was sobbing every day by 4 pm, constant dark thoughts, and the inability to sleep even when the babies were sleeping.
Causes of PPD
Like I mentioned above, it is quite literally an outcome of pregnancy. Now that does not mean everyone experiences it, that part is a big mystery as to why some do and some don’t. But it has been found that if you’ve experienced mild depression in the past, like myself, it can be more common to experience extreme depression postpartum.
Symptoms of PPD
I mentioned a few of my own symptoms of PPD above, but here is a concise list:
- Feeling intense guilt
- Overwhelming, constant sadness
- Intense anger & irritability
- Inability to sleep
- Disconnect from friends/family
- & hopelessness
For more on PPD, read here.
Postpartum Depression vs. Postpartum Anxiety
While PPD and PPA are both maternal mental illnesses, they aren’t one in the same.
Postpartum anxiety is more of a constant worry, where postpartum depression is more of an overwhelming sadness. With PPA, you might worry about all of the horrible things that could happen to your baby, but then with PPD you’d flip to the other side and experience scary thoughts about causing harm to your baby or self.
If you want to learn more about PPA, read my post here.
Coping with PPD
There are so many ways to cope and work through PPD. My biggest suggestion? Start with therapy. Find someone who understands maternal mental health. Talk to them. Take notes of everything you feel while you’re feeling it. Bring that list up in therapy. Be open to trying new things that they suggest, along with what you find on the internet. There are SO many advocates now working towards breaking the stigma of mental health in motherhood. Search some hashtags on Instagram like #1in5, #maternalmentalhealth, and #postpartumdepression.
Aside from those, I suggest:
- finding something just for you that allows you a break from the new motherhood struggles
- talking to one friend. Confide in them. Allow yourself to open up to them.
- get outside, or at least open up the windows or the backdoor
- & ask for help. Help does not make you a failure. Help at home, help for a shower, help with getting into therapy. Any kind of help helps
- Had you ever experienced depression before birth? Yes. I had struggled with mild depression throughout the years leading up to childbirth however nothing to the extent of PPD
- Were you knowledgeable on PPD prior to experiencing it? I did not know what it was at all until reading about it in a local mom group.
- When did you first notice it? About a month into life with newborn twins, when my husband brought up the fact that I was calling him every day at 4 pm sobbing.
- What did you first notice? Honestly, the overwhelming sadness and hopelessness after my husband pointed them out. I didn’t understand why I was feeling that way and wanted to do anything I could to make it stop.
- How were those things impacting your life? It really affected my marriage and intro to parenthood. I wasn’t bonding well, if at all, with my twins. I sort of lived like a robot.
- How far along PP were you when you sought help? About four months, then about 10 months, and finally, nearly two years later is when I finally got the help I needed.
- What was your experience asking for help? Horrible. I wish doctors were better versed with regard to helping moms struggling, or if anything offered the proper resources to get the help we need.
- Did you try medication? Eventually, yes. I tried a few before finding something that helped. I am a huge advocate for at least trying what you can in order to feel better.
- Did you try therapy? Yes, and I still am in therapy.
- What about self-remedies? I read a lot about PPD and coping strategies. The best strategy for myself ended up being writing about my struggles. I started my first blog, twinsandcoffee.com, as a way to connect with other twin moms experiencing the same struggles as myself.
- How has acknowledging your PPD impacted your life since? It has been great. I have been able to work through my struggles with both PPD & Bipolar Disorder and seek proper help. I’ve also been able to share my own story and help other moms in the same position.
- What is it like living with PPD now? I’d have to say it is okay. I am more able to recognize what is going on, and figure out what to do rather than sitting in my kitchen sobbing wondering how I can actually help myself.
- Are you worried about future pregnancies and experiencing PPD again? Yes and no. I am worried about experiencing it again because it is brutal, however, I feel much more equipped to handle it if it were to happen again now that I’ve been through it.
- What would you tell another mom struggling with PPD? FIGHT FOR YOURSELF! If you can’t, ask for help. Ask your spouse to make the calls, your mom, your best friend. Anyone. Take the help and get better. It is possible, and you do NOT have to do it on your own.
- What do you wish you would have known? I wish I would have known what it was and how it would affect me. I wish I would have known where to get help.
I hope my explanation of Postpartum Depression help’s you better understand the maternal mental illness, and allows you to speak up should you be experiencing any of the symptoms. You are not alone, mama. You are not alone.
If you are at the point of wanting to discuss your situation with a therapist, I highly recommend BetterHelp.com. You can read more about them here.