Once again, I am an open book when it comes to the postpartum depression I experienced with my now 3-year-old son Henry. I have written multiple blog posts about it and shared how I managed to finally overcome the depression after almost having a nervous breakdown. I am currently bottle feeding my newborn son, Simon, and taking depression and anxiety medication as a precautionary measure.
These posts have really seemed to resonate with my readers. It’s not very often that a woman actually puts her mental health issues out there for the world to read. Saying you experienced something that personal normally comes with a stigma. But you know what, call me crazy, I don’t care any more what other people think about me. I want to help other women that have experienced PPD or may experience it in the future.
Last week, I was able to have a conversation with Dr. Judith Thorne, a full time mental health provider for Doctor on Demand. She specializes in mental health issues in women. We chatted on the phone for about an hour and she really provided me with some exceptional information ― from a real professional ― that I wish I had known before I had Henry.
We discussed triggers that may make a woman more susceptible to PPD, personality traits and situations that you might not realize could be risk factors. I really wish I had known about these before I had my first son and I might have been more prepared.
Previous Mental/Emotional Issues:
This spoke to me on a very personal level. I was put on depression medication after my parents went through an extremely messy divorce while I was in middle school. The divorce wasn’t finalized until my sophomore year in high school. I always said I didn’t need the medicine, but anytime I tried to get off of it, I could tell I was going down that hole again. So when I found out I was pregnant with Henry, I completely stopped my medicine cold turkey. And I didn’t resume it right after giving birth because I felt that I had to breastfeed. Because breast is always best, right? Wrong. A healthy happy mother and fed is best.
Perfectionist/Type A Personality:
This has always been a struggle for me. I have always wanted to be the best at everything. Lists were ― and still are ― my best friend. Everything had to be organized. If I made a mistake, I would beat myself up about it. I wanted to excel in all areas of life. I was a workaholic. I would keep myself up at night worrying about all the things that needed to be accomplished the next day.
Boy, did this explain my situation. I found out that I was pregnant before I was married. I was engaged and planning my dream wedding to my dream fiance ― that was pushed up 10 months. I was so disappointed in myself and so concerned about how all the people in my life would view me after that. I was going to let down so many people that loved me. I always felt like someone was gossiping about me behind my back. That I wasn’t married but I was expecting a baby. Such a shame, because I had always seemed like such a nice girl. A hard worker that seemed to have it all together. What made it worse is that I was working in a very public position planning events and was always running into people. There was no avoiding it.
Other risk factors include having a recent miscarriage, a difficult labor, no family support within 30 minutes or a spouse/partner that isn’t supportive, among many others.
If you are pregnant or have recently had a baby, and any of these describe you, reach out to someone. You have to take care of YOU before you can take care of your baby. As women, we think that we can do it all ourselves. That we are unstoppable. And we can do so much. We create humans in our bodies! But we cannot do everything. Not all the time.
So don’t be scared. Utilize your support system. Ask for help. Let a visitor do a load of laundry. Take a nap when the baby is sleeping. Let your husband take the night shift. It’s called self care, and nothing about that is selfish. This is not your new normal.
A great resource if any of this resonates with you is postpartum.net. You can chat with an expert or search for a professional in your area that can help. Dr. Thorne also offers some great tips in these blog pieces, “5 Things You Need To Know About Postpartum Depression” and “Understanding Postpartum Depression.”
1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression. But you can get better. You just have to be brave enough to reach out and get the help you need. I promise, it is so worth it and it might just save your life.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.