Reaching out for help when faced with Postpartum Depression can be one of the most difficult things to do. We urge mothers and families to do so. And while many are faced with fear when doing so, countless take our advice and reach out for the help they deserve. Over the past couple of days, Jessica Porten’s experience when reaching out for support with her Postpartum Depression has gone viral. She did her part. She did everything right. She asked for help. Unfortunately, she was received with an awful experience instead. Her story is heartbreaking.
This post is to highlight Jessica’s story and continue the much-needed dialogue about Postpartum Mental Health Conditions and also to speak to the fear that surfaces when hearing a story like Jessica’s. Thanks to Jessica, and her perseverance to be seen, heard and helped, we are talking more about the number one complication of childbirth. We are breaking the silence and moving towards improved care. I urge those suffering with a postpartum mental health concern, not to allow the fear that surfaces from a story like Jessica’s to silence you. You deserve to be seen, to be heard and to obtain the support that you need.
This post is also to emphasize the tremendous amount of work that continues to be done by clinicians, survivors, advocates and organizations to facilitate that mothers and families receive the support they deserve when faced with a postpartum mental health condition. The improvements are being done and many are geared up to continue advocating.
I’ve attached this link to 2020 Mom, a CA based national non-profit with a mission in closing gaps in maternal mental health care, in order to provide an avenue that features the developments that are being done. The article also contains Jessica’s original FB post.
If you, or someone you know, is bothered by postpartum mental health concerns, speak up. You deserve the support. I personally welcome all contact and will do my part to support you (reach me here). Postpartum Support International, another organization focused on increasing awareness on the topic, can also be reached for support and provides:
Happy New Year!
I share with you a quote that I first came across a couple years back. Since then, I have read it and re-read it at the start of every year. Every year, as the year passes, it slowly becomes less and less prevalent on my mind and before I know it, the fearlessness of allowing myself to make mistakes dilutes. Nonetheless, I find it inspiring to revisit the quote each year and every year, the fearlessness of allowing myself to make mistakes sticks a bit more and more. Here’s to you and me allowing ourselves to make many glorious mistakes in 2018.
" I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever."
- Neil Gaiman
In my last post, I talked about the “adjustment period” to motherhood and highlighted some examples of what a healthy adjustment period looks like, and some red flags to look out for that could signify additional support is needed. With 1 in 7 women experiencing mental health conditions known as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), PMADs are the most common complication of childbirth. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), mental health conditions like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum panic attacks, among others, are so common, that more women will suffer from PMADs than the number of new cases for men and women of Tuberculosis, Leukemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Lupus, and Epilepsy combined in 1 year. Chances are high that you or someone you know will experience a PMAD after the birth of a child.
If you (or someone you know) is feeling like something is not quite right emotionally after the birth of your child, you may need to get help. Not sure if what you are feeling means you might need help? Check out the check-list* below to see how many of the statements you identify with.
*Check-list obtained from “This Isn’t What I Expected – Overcoming Postpartum Depression” by Karen Kleiman MSW, LCSW and Valerie Davis, MD.
___ I can't shake feeling depressed no matter what I do.
___ I cry at least once a day.
___ I feel sad most or all of the time.
___ I can't concentrate.
___ I don't enjoy the things I used to enjoy.
___ I have no interest in making love at all, even though my doctor says I'm now physical able to resume sexual relations.
___ I can't sleep even when my baby sleeps.
___ I feel like a failure all of the time.
___ I have no energy; I am tired all the time.
___ I have no appetite and no enjoyment of food (or, I am having sugar and carbohydrate cravings and compulsively eating all the time).
___ I can't remember the last time I laughed.
___ Every little thing gets on my nerves lately. Sometimes, I am even furious at my baby. Often, I am angry with my husband.
___ I feel that the future is hopeless.
___ It seems like I will feel this way forever. There are times when I feel that it would be better to be dead than to feel this way for one more minute. **
Because adjusting to motherhood is hard, it is common that you will identify with some of the statements from the check-list above, but if you find that you are identifying with 4 or more of the statements, it could suggest that you need to reach out to a PMAD specialist to obtain an assessment. Please feel free to reach out to me personally for help. You can find additional support by visiting Postpartum Support International or Maternal Mental Health Now as well.
Don’t hesitate to do so and follow your instinct. You Are Not Alone. You Are Not to Blame. You Can and Will Get Better with Support.
**If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please obtain help immediately. Do not wait. Call 911, go to your nearest hospital emergency room or call the National Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
In speaking about motherhood, the term “adjustment-period” is almost always used. But, what does that even mean? Or look like? Statistics tell us that approximately 80% of women experience “the baby blues” (also known as postpartum blues) during the adjustment period and that 15-20% of women go on to develop something longer lasting, known as a postpartum syndrome. But, how can we tell where we land with our adjustment to motherhood and if we should be seeking additional support?
A useful tip to help guide us, is to start by looking at the DURATION, FREQUENCY and INTENSITY of some of the changes or feelings we are experiencing. How often are we experiencing the feelings? How long are the feelings lasting? And on a scale of 1-10, how strong are we feeling them? This is useful since so many signs and symptoms of the “baby blues” (postpartum blues) and postpartum syndromes (conditions like depression, anxiety, OCD etc.) can look similar on the surface.
The following are some common changes that we can experience during the "adjustment period" of motherhood. Looking at some of these through the duration, frequency and intensity lens is helpful in understanding the “adjustment period” better and educating ourselves as to when we would need to ask for additional support. The list below includes some changes that could be experienced during this phase of life, along with an example of what a healthy adjustment looks like and an example of a red flag to look out for.
Feeling Overwhelmed / Desire to Run and Escape
Healthy: having this feeling sometimes - maybe the baby has been crying non-stop for the day, but once he’s settled, you are able to regain some calmness and no longer feel like running away.
Red Flag: feeling overwhelmed, like it’s never going to get better, and thinking about escaping on more days than not.
Worry and Fear – “Why isn’t he latching?” “Is she breathing?”
Healthy: occasional worry that is temporary, doesn’t last and you are able to control.
Red Flag: repetitive thoughts and worry about how your baby can be harmed, sometimes causing excessive behaviors, like sanitizing bottles or cleaning, on more days than not.
Sleeplessness and Fatigue
Healthy: able to sleep when given the chance. Feeling rested and less tired after having a chance to sleep.
Red Flag: inability to sleep when given the chance and fatigue that doesn’t go away, even when you have rested. Feeling like this most often than not.
Rollercoaster of Emotions (anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, uncertainty)
Healthy: still being able to experience joy and happiness while negative emotions are experienced only moments in the day.
Red Flag: negative feelings that are long-lasting and feel like they’ll never get better, lasting more often than not.
Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation
Healthy: feeling lonely and isolated due to the additional needs of the baby, but still feeling like you want to connect with others.
Red Flag: pulling away from your support system, no longer connecting with people or feeling motivated to do so, on more days than not.
The changes mentioned above are only a few of the many things that a mother could be going through after having a child. The one take away from this information is DURATION, FREQUENCY and INTENSITY. Adjusting to any change can be challenging, but when we no longer feel like ourselves and are experiencing the effects of the stress due to the change more often than not, that is a red flag. I encourage you to listen to that. In the mist of creating a new normal to the changes that can come due to a baby, we can slowly begin to disregard our needs. We can easily rationalize that many other things come before taking care of ourselves. The reality is, that if we do not take care of ourselves and are experiencing a postpartum syndrome that is unresolved, it will, catch up with us and our family – that same family we’ve worked so hard to maintain safe and secure. The good thing is that with additional support, a postpartum syndrome can be overcome. With help, it can get better.
Many people love it and recommend it. Some say, they couldn’t do without it. On countless occasions, I’ve been told by many, that they wish they had debated less about it and started sooner.
Making the decision to start THERAPY isn’t a light one and it’s common to contemplate it. Not only are there many uncertainties about the process, but also many misconceptions that can impact the decision to start therapy. Although more and more people are opening up about going to therapy (even Jay-Z has a therapist!), the stigma surrounding therapy continues to paralyze far too many people. It is frequently perceived as something only a person with a mental illness or mental health disorder (such as, depression, bipolar etc.) would do. This idea completely discounts the various other reasons that therapy could benefit an individual and is overlooked as an option for support. While therapy can most definitely be valuable when dealing with a mental health illness, it can also be extremely beneficial for anyone needing an additional supportive person to help them work out concerns that arise, in this thing we call life – work, relationships, family, life adjustments and life decisions. The list of life concerns can go on and on and on…
Stop contemplating it, put yourself first and go for it! Therapy can be a part of your self-care (not just bubble baths and exercise! Although there’s a place for them too!). Therapy is a place just for you. It provides a safe, non-judgmental environment where undivided attention is given to freely discuss life concerns. A therapist won’t tell you what to do, or not do, and will be accepting of YOU. If you’ve ever thought about it, I am here to empower and encourage you to TRY IT. Take a stand against the stigma. Because, YOU MATTER.
“The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying small stones.” - Chinese Proverb
Hi and welcome back! In my last post, I shared my personal story with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I might say, it was very nerve-racking for me initially to think about putting myself out there! The final push in deciding to do so, was to help others and to bring awareness to the number one complication of motherhood. I find it a valuable disclosure when working with others who are navigating the world of parenthood. It brings a sense of normality, an “I get you”, which, I believe, can go a long way when supporting someone through their journey.
I hope to make this blog a place where I can offer some normalcy to some of the adjustments that can come along with not just parenthood, but life. I hope to share some of my experiences, along with additional information and tips about important mental health topics and welcome any requests for specific blog topics – just shoot me an email.
Thanks for stopping by and reading! Keep a look out for future posts. =)
I always say my specialty chose me. I still remember the day I found out I was pregnant. I was so excited. Aside from nausea, my pregnancy went well, until it didn’t. At 36 weeks, I was diagnosed with a major pregnancy complication that shook me to my core and that very same week I was induced in order to save my mini’s life. I went in for my weekly appointment, only to return to the ER 1.5 hours later. Four days later I was able to take her home. To top it off, my little mini was born on the same day, actually minutes before, my father’s second life threatening major surgery. Can someone say, rollercoaster of emotions?
Looking back at that time and everything that was going on, I now recognize that it was a fragile time for me. I didn’t realize. I just kept pushing on. It took me almost 1 year after my mini was born to set all the emotional load on my shoulders down, exhale and begin taking care of my emotional health. It took 1 year for me to realize that I had postpartum depression and anxiety. The thing is, I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t sleep, excessively worried about wanting everything to be perfect and I began feeling guilty that I wasn’t handling motherhood better. I knew I felt “off”, but for 1 year I simply thought it was a normal adjustment to motherhood. I suffered in silence and alone, hoping that whatever I was feeling would “just pass”. As I began my healing journey, I was also so ashamed of myself – “How could I not have seen this? A mental health professional trained to support others on their own emotional wellbeing.” The truth is, that it can happen to anyone. It does and it did.
I look back at that time of my life and remember how awfully lonely and confused I felt. Lonely, but never alone. These memories are what motivates me to speak up about my story. You are not alone. I began asking for help, feeling less guilty and setting healthy boundaries, which also meant I was taking better care of myself. There are many different paths one can take to overcome a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, for me, it was reaching out to a therapist that helped me the most. I had a safe place with a professional who supported me in sorting out my feelings and thoughts about all the changes that came along with motherhood. What it meant. What it didn’t. My therapist helped to bring me back to life, my new life. Reaching out for help, made a world of a difference for me. The sunshine rays slowly peaked through the clouds more and more. I learned how to integrate (and continue nourishing) my old self with my new “mommy” self. I suffered but got better. So will you. I did it. You will too. YOU MATTER.