Today I am officially throwing my post in the ring for the postpartum depression blogging week. There’s a great post by Dr. Grohol on the main blog, and several other postpartum depression advocates have been writing some really good stuff so far this week. I’ve read many of the responses to these posts, some supportive and some in opposition. I’d like to share some of my own thoughts on this, especially what might have made the difference for me.
I read something about how not messing with our biology (ie: no medication) would allow natural hormones to do their thing, thus inducing a bonding experience. I thought about this for some time and wondered how that approach might have affected me. Because my first daughter came so quickly, I had absolutely no medication for my birthing experience. I had just the usual IV for fluids. I never took birth control either before that pregnancy, only years later when my husband and I decided to have no more children. I had no psychiatric medications of any kind during this experience either. My birthing experience was actually quite “natural”, at least with regards to my body.
Despite this lack of artificial hormones or SSRI’s or even pain medication, I still had postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder for three and a half years. I had one other pregnancy in between, and THAT seemed to be my “cure” for a while. although honestly, I didn’t even understand the pattern was happening that way. I’ve only figured that out very much after the fact. I never really felt bad during my pregnancies. It was only after the birth that I experienced the gradual decline of PPD then the ups and downs of PMDD.
Here’s what else happened after this. My daughter was born with a cleft palate and lip. She had many doctor’s visits and a handful of surgeries during her first year. I was in front of so many medical professionals I lost count. Not one single person asked me how I was really coping with all of this. Don’t get me wrong – they were amazing with my daughter’s care and they were so compassionate toward us as a family. But no one – knowing I’m a first-time mother with a high-need child having surgeries – even gave me literature about the stress of having a baby with a comprehensive birth defect (like cleft palate and lip). Nobody. Really??
This is about the time of year I got pregnant with her, so my experience is nearly 10 years old. I am so glad to see so much more literature and exposure than there must have been back then. Back then, as if it were the 1850’s or something. I really think that some kind of “best practice” education for medical professionals would help inform them of the chance that their patients or the moms of their patients may be having trouble with the stress.
I’m not saying screen people randomly, but giving literature about how to really take care of yourself as a mom AND include the possibility that strong stress symptoms may actually be a more significant problem – postpartum depression. Or, if a nurse would have been so moved to just ask more personally how I was doing – REALLY doing – I don’t think it would have been too long and I’d have spilled something out. Not diagnosing me without my permission, not handing me a pill – making a connection and extending a hand. That’s education, support, and advocacy happening right in the moment it’s most needed.
For these reasons, I support the MOTHERS Act for advocacy, education, and awareness about postpartum depression. I wish I knew what happened to all my natural hormone pumps after my first pregnancy. They simply did not turn on for me.