Postpartum Depression and other Perinatal Mood Disorders

ARE YOU OR A LOVED ONE PREDISPOSED TO POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?

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We want to believe that it won’t happen to us. I’m different. The baby will fit into my lifestyle. I’ve never experienced depression before. I’ll be fine.

Expectant mothers create birth plans, decorate the nursery and debate between cloth or disposable diapers. They don’t often prepare for the possibility of experiencing a postpartum mood disorder.

There is a rise in education and awareness regarding postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, psychosis and PTSD, which is amazing, but there is also a rise in the ways which we are able to get caught up in the comparison and judgement game.

Look up SOCIAL MEDIA + DEPRESSION IN MOMS and see what you get.

It’s time to take this awareness and create something useful that allows us to prepare without attaching a negative stigma to it. It’s time to acknowledge that it could happen to any human being on this planet regardless of who you are, where you come from and what you’ve experienced. Applied knowledge is power and the best way to apply this knowledge is to be prepared.

To start with, it’s important to understand that there are different types pf depression. For reference, here is an article from Health.com: https://www.health.com/depression/types-of-depression. Generally, when we look at depression in the postpartum period it is considered to be triggered by things like hormonal changes, lifestyle changes and lack of sleep. I’ve come to realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many factors involved in a woman’s predisposition for PPD.

Recognizing the potential for experiencing a postpartum mood disorder takes courage.

I get it. I fell into the category of “the baby will fit into my lifestyle” and when I had twins, my world came crashing down.

Knowing what I know now, I was headed straight into postpartum depression and anxiety and it had to do with a lot more than the change in my lifestyle.

Once the clouds lifted and I started feeling more like myself again, I dove headfirst into learning everything I could about why I, a seemingly healthy person both mentally and physically, ended up with postpartum depression and anxiety. The most alarming thing that I discovered was the lack of pre-screening for this potentially very dangerous postpartum experience.

During my research, I came to fully understand the gravity of this missing link. Both mothers and children were losing their lives to postpartum mood disorders. It’s a hard reality to swallow. I had been an active person with a zest for life, but there were days that I wanted to end it. During those darker days, I would often imagine driving off the side of a bridge whenever I left the house. Even now, almost 3 years later, typing those words creates a lump in my throat.

This has to change, starting now.

And because pre-screening isn’t regulated into our healthcare system during the prenatal period, it’s up to us to gain understanding and spread awareness. So let’s get into it!

Risk Factors for Experiencing a Postpartum Mood Disorder

  • A previous history of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder such as postpartum depression (PPD), anxiety or psychosis
  • Depression or anxiety during a current pregnancy
  • A previous history of depression or bipolar disorder
  • Family history of mental illness including depression or bipolar disorder
  • History of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Previous miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Difficulty conceiving, difficult pregnancy and/or delivery
  • Previous traumatic birth experience (PTSD)
  • New baby has reflux such as colic or reflux
  • Poor support from partner, family and friends
  • Difficulty managing existing children’s needs
  • Mom of multiples
  • Being a single mom
  • Experiencing a recent trauma or stressful event such as: domestic violence, verbal abuse, poverty, loss of a loved one, divorce or financial difficulties

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start and I would venture to say that if you (or a loved one who is expecting) can circle even one of the above, it’s a good idea to prepare for the possibility of experiencing a postpartum mood disorder. So now what?

Create a Maternal Mental Health Wellness Plan

There is no saying that by taking any of the following steps, you will be able to completely avoid a postpartum mood disorder. However, you can greatly reduce your chances and/or reduce the severity of the experience. For example, you may have days of low energy and feeling down, but instead of that leading to feelings of worthlessness and everyone would be better off without you, it’s simply a bad day and you have strategies to cope and the awareness to question how you feel rather than believe the lies that your mind is telling you.

Create a Support Team

 It’s important to have a circle that includes your partner, family and close friends. On top of helping you out in various ways when the baby arrives, your circle should be well aware of the warning signs of postpartum mood disorders (I’ve provided links and resources at the end) and they should also be aware that you discovered some risk factors in your pre-screening. Let them know what they are, let them know that a phone call from you may likely be a call for help.

Consider Your Nutritional Intake

It is a well-documented fact that what we eat can affect our mental health. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of healthy eating before the baby arrives and to have a proper postpartum nourishment and replenishment plan. Supplements can be a game changer as well (they were for me!) – continue taking your prenatal vitamin and consider adding in a few others such as high quality EPA/DHA, B12, Vitamin D, Iron and a few more. Your body is depleted after pregnancy and childbirth and it can be difficult to replenish through nutritious food alone. An invaluable resource for this topic (and many others!) is a wonderful book called The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr. Oscar Serrallach. This information literally changed my life. Alternatively, you can visit the website: http://oscarserrallach.com **Please take time to review supplementation options with your healthcare professional as they can run blood tests and recommend proper dosage.**

Create a Sleep Support Schedule

The lack of sleep is often joked about, but it is NO JOKE. I’ve read in multiple articles that sleep deprivation is still used a form of torture in some places. Just because you are becoming a mom (or already are one) does not mean that you must now live your life in an exhausted state. I’ve mentioned creating a support team, schedule in times in which someone can come and relieve you during the day or even help you out during the night. Postpartum doulas are an option and can be a great shower gift suggestion. If you are not sure where to turn, speak to your doctor for suggestions, chime in to a local mom group to see what other moms are doing. Create a plan with your partner – many women think that because their partner is working every day that it is their responsibility to take care of the night duties. Please remember that caring for yourself, a baby and possibly more children is also a full time job. You guys should be in this together.

Keep Moving

I don’t suggest jumping back into your cross fit classes right away (I’m a big advocate for planning a lying-in period of 40 days), but I do suggest getting out for walks, maybe some restorative yoga when you get the go ahead from your OB. At the very least, exercise releases serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that sends feel good messages from one part of the brain to the other. The messages include mood, appetite, sleep and social behaviour to name a few.

Talk to Someone

Don’t wait until you are in the thick of the darkness! I already mentioned prepping your circle with your risk factors, but if you check off a number of the risk factors that we talked about above, I strongly suggest that you get talking about things before you even feel a tingle of a symptom. Speak to your doctor, get yourself set up with a counsellor or support group before baby arrives and plan to continue for a solid year. Consider asking one or more members of your support circle to join you. The more people looking out for you the better!

Reduce the Overwhelm

Get off of social media! If this is something that you just can’t do, at the very least, choose your mom groups carefully. Don’t commit to things for at least the first 3 months. Make a list of the things that currently fill your day and then slash the list in half. Create a support team and use them. In my opinion, the biggest stress for new moms is the pressure they feel to get back on their feet and to be able to accomplish their to-do list and all of their new duties as a mom on their own, all in cool fashion. We don’t win a prize for doing it all. Take the pressure off, don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. Our lives are filled with seasons and they don’t last. Find peace and harmony in this season, honour yourself and what you just created. This time is for you, your baby, your partner, your family. The to-do lists and the commitments can wait.

Avoid the “I’m a mom, I’m supposed to feel like this” Trap

I mentioned it above, but I’ll mention it again because I believe this is what ultimately saved my life. Becoming a mom does not automatically mean that you are now meant to live in an exhausted state. If something feels off, it likely is. Your body is designed to send you messages when something is not right. It may be in the form of an instinct, a physical feeling or a nagging thought. It may be something internal or external. If you take ONE thing away from this article, it’s this: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. I visited a doctor several times but what I was being told did not feel right. I took matters into my own hands and refused to believe that this was just motherhood. Never, ever, ever should you just “accept” being tired, being last, being overwhelmed, not feeling like yourself. Question the things that don’t make sense. Talk to someone. Talk to me.

The more you are able acknowledge the possibility of postpartum mood disorders, the better prepared you will be to avoid or minimize the experience.

The above suggestions are based on my own experience and what I feel did and/or would have made a big difference for me. I consider myself lucky to be here, there were many times that I didn’t think I would ever find my way out of the darkness. Thankfully, I had people in my life who just kept showing up, shining a light and giving me their hand. I’m forever grateful to be here, enjoying my girls and my wonderful life.

I strongly encourage women to share their pre-screening, signs and symptoms and a PPD checklist with their family and friends. It’s ok to not be ok. Talk about it. There is always someone willing to give you their hand, and I am one of them. Lean on me anytime, beautiful Mama.

To learn more about the signs and symptoms of postpartum mood disorders, please visit:

WHO TO CALL FOR HELP!

Please reach out: If you feel like harming yourself or your baby seek help immediately – Call 911 or go to your local hospital emergency department.

If you are experiencing a lot of stress or other mental health concerns, contact:

Written by: Rebecca Bakker – The New Mom Planner

PRE-SCREENING http://www.newmomplanner.com/education/

POSTPARTUM DISORDERS http://www.newmomplanner.com/education/postpartumdisorders/