By Melissa Lawlor, CNM, IBCLC, Robin’s Nest Midwifery PLLC
Photos: Photographed by dKol Photography
Except, maybe, this isn’t always your reality.
Following are the emotionally raw words from brave mothers across the United States who had the courage to share their stories of surviving postpartum depression and anxiety. Their message is one of faith and hope. You are not alone in your battle. There is help and treatment available.
“I felt out of control.”
“I had crazy thoughts of my baby dying. I was sure my baby would stop breathing. I envisioned falling down stairs with my baby.”
“I was just so tired. Exhausted. I needed sleep but couldn’t sleep.”
“The panic in my head and chest! My heart would beat out of my chest and I couldn’t breathe! I needed to breathe fresh, cold air. The room was closing in on me.”
“If I tell someone, they will take my baby away from me.”
“What kind of mother feels this way? A bad one, that’s what!”
Postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD/A) is underreported. The reality is, in the first year following birth, PPD/A affects one in seven women. Risk factors for PPD/A include the following: women who have experienced birth trauma, miscarried or had a stillbirth; mothers of NICU babies; mothers of multiples; women who have had infertility treatment, previous history of depression or anxiety, bi-polar disorder or thyroid dysfunction. Approximately 10 percent of partners exhibit signs of PPD/A. The challenges of new parenthood combined with wildly shifting hormones and sleepless nights create a chaotic environment with decreased coping skills. Add in the masquerade of perfect social-media mothers, no community support and loss of identity roles, and it is no wonder levels of PPD/A are increasing.
Loneliness and not wanting to tell anyone about their emotions were common themes in the stories women shared. Women described being angry, feeling overwhelmed, embarrassed, numb, disengaged and having paralyzing sadness. Guilt wove through every narration, especially over lack of bonding with their baby.
With increased public awareness surrounding postpartum depression and anxiety, OB/GYNs, midwives and pediatricians are utilizing a specialized screening tool called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). This self-rating scale is easy to administer and proven to be effective at identifying at-risk women who may benefit from follow-up care.
Treatment for PPD/A is patient-centered, involving healing modalities that prove beneficial for Mom, baby and family. The combination of SSRIs (antidepressants) and psychotherapy have the strongest evidence-based research and the most positive results. But complementary practices include taking Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, vitamin D3 and probiotic supplements; exercise; acupuncture; meditation; yoga; massage; hypnotherapy; support groups; EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and light therapy.
You are not alone staggering through the cold, murky darkness, my brave woman. A rescue beacon waits.
For more information on PPD/A, please visit www.postpartum.net. █