Best Beginnings Out of the Blue Launch

Earlier today I was thrilled when I saw on my Facebook timeline this video of the Duchess of Cambridge announcing the Best Beginnings Out of the Blue launch.  Best Beginnings is a charitable organization created to ensure the best start to life for families in the UK by providing support to expectant and new parents, training healthcare professionals, educating the public and working with the government to effect change.  Best Beginnings was founded by Alison Baum in 2006.  To help ensure the best start to life for children, it is essential for mothers to be well.  But postpartum mood disorders rear their ugly heads in as many as one in five new mothers, and for all too many mothers they are blindsided by these illnesses and don’t know that what they’re experiencing is common and treatable. The consequences can be tragic for the entire family in extreme cases, but in all cases are a negative impact to the new mother and baby.

Out of the Blue is a series of online videos about postpartum mental health conditions, such as postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety, postpartum traumatic stress disorder (postpartum PTSD), postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (Postpartum OCD) and fathers who suffer from PPD.  I hope they add a video about postpartum psychosis as well, as that severe condition can have tragic consequences for the mother and/or baby.

I’ve had much respect for the Duke of Cambridge (can’t get used to calling Prince William this) and Prince Henry of Wales, who reminds me so much of his mother Princess Diana, whose death absolutely crushed me.  But now I have a new respect for the Duchess, not just for her involvement with Best Beginnings, which I’m sure her personal experience having children played a very large part in motivating her, but for her involvement with William and Harry in Heads Together, a not-for-profit whose mission is to end stigma surrounding mental health.  Read more about how Prince Harry became a mental health advocate here (this sentence added on 4/17/17).

Looking from across the pond, I heave a sigh of envy that the UK has such a caring trio of royals whose actions reflect the kind of leadership we so desperately need but lack here in the U.S.  Instead, here we are faced with a delusional, lying, narcissistic, misogynist serving as President and surrounded by a self serving, rich, conflict-ridden administration who could care less about the health and well being of women…..after all, look at the record of the extreme right pushing their pro-life/anti-woman agenda.  SMH

Postpartum Insomnia Series – Story 2: KIM

This is the second of the series of posts about postpartum insomnia.  I met Kim recently via the closed Facebook group for Postpartum Support International.  Insomnia was one of the symptoms that she suffered as a consequence of postpartum anxiety and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Thank you, Kim, for sharing your story on my blog!

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I’ve always been anxious.  It’s been my temperament since day one; just ask my parents.  I wouldn’t know that I’ve also had OCD must of my life until after I had my first child.  Looking back, all I can say is – DUH! – but in the 90s and even beyond, there just wasn’t a lot of information available about these mental “disorders.” My parents even took me to a child psychiatrist, but to no avail.  Admittedly, it’s hard to diagnose someone at such a young age (I was 10), but the more we talk about it the easier it might become, right?

Anyway, before I became pregnant with my first child, I had a miscarriage, specifically a “missed” miscarriage, during the 12-week check, after which the recovery went on far longer than I expected.  It was painful, emotionally and physically speaking, but we got through it and got pregnant again.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t as anxious as I thought I would be this time around.  Despite moving 2.5 hours away from my family while 6 months pregnant, I was confident everything would be fine.  My sister had had 2 kids prior and, to all outward appearances, she had made it look so easy!

Fast forward 3ish months and this baby wasn’t budging.  10 days past my due date, they decided to induce.  Again, little to no progress.  After 16 hours of contractions, they finally made the decision to do a C-section and, low and behold, there was my baby!  Yikes!

From night one, he cried.  And cried.  And cried.  I attempted nursing with very little success, but kept trying.  (Eventually, I’d move to only formula, but not before going through several different types before settling on one that didn’t cause the babe major discomfort that led to hours upon hours of late night screaming).

All of this took a huge toll on me physically, emotionally, mentally.  I felt like, because my husband was working, I needed to be the one to take care of my child during the night time hours.  Sleep was not something that came easily…initially, because of the stress of middle of the night feedings/endless screaming, later because of extreme anxiety/OCD and the consequent insomnia.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from this harrowing postpartum experience is that sleep is ESSENTIAL.  We need that time to reflect, to recharge, to RELAX.

Ultimately, the lack of sleep (I was averaging 2 hours a night on the couch with my son so that my husband could sleep) sent me on a terrifying downward spiral.  I began experiencing awful intrusive thoughts that, even thought I didn’t understand it at the time, are directly associated with high anxiety and OCD.  After some research, I discovered Postpartum Progress, an amazingly informative website that helped me to understand what was happening to me.

Even though I was hesitant to start medication, my OB prescribed me Lexapro.  I began taking it and, the first night, woke up experiencing severe anxiety bordering on a panic attack.  Now, please understand that this is a side effect listed in the pamphlet accompanying the medication.  In a twist of utter injustice, these SSRI (selective serotonin re-update inhibitor) medications can sometimes increase anxiety before decreasing it.  It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it did happen to me.

After 3 days of heightened anxiety and very little sleep, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was a stranger to myself, completely lost in the sleeplessness, anxiety, and panic.  I could hardly take care of myself, let alone my one month old baby.  After a visit to the ER, I made the decision to voluntarily admit myself to a local inpatient mental hospital.  During my 3-day stay, I was able to see different counselors (some more helpful than others), let the Lexapro get into my system, as well as start taking trazodone to help with the insomnia.

It’s not a choice everyone would make.  And, in hindsight, I’m not even sure I would make the same decision again.  However, upon my return home, I was adamant that facing my fears (being alone with my child, especially during the lonely night-time hours) and getting better were my top priorities.  My mother-in-law came to stay for a week as added support and my family was extra attentive to my overall well-being.  I realize that I’m so very fortunate to have this support system and I fervently pray that all of you are similarly blessed.

***If you aren’t, please, PLEASE reach out to someone, anyone.  Join a mom’s group, a Bible study (if that’s your thing), even a Facebook group.  There are SO many people out there who have gone through this.  We just need to start the conversation and keep it rolling.***

I’m not going to lie.  It was a challenging couple of weeks while the medicine took time to really start working. The trazodone helped immensely with my insomnia and the Lexapro helped slow down my mind so I could separate myself from the deceptive thoughts that anxiety allows to creep in. But it got easier every day and, eventually, I began to recognize myself again.  It’s not an easy role shift, I’ll tell you that.  And it really shouldn’t be, regardless of what’s depicted in movies, television, magazines, etc.  There’s a huge learning curve associated with new parenthood.  Some take to it right away; others need a little/lot more time to adjust and that’s OKAY.

But please trust that it WILL come.  You will learn.  You will adjust. And it will be so, so worth it.

15%-21% of Moms Suffer from a Perinatal Mood Disorder

For the longest time they were saying between 1 out of 8 women suffer from a perinatal (before, during or after childbirth) mood disorder.  Then, they said between 1 out of 7.  And more recently, literature indicates it’s now approximately 15%-21%, which is anywhere between 1 out of 5 and 1 out of 6, with 21% experiencing a postpartum mood disorder.

If you are suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, you can see from these numbers and in many places online–from a multitude of Facebook support pages, blogs and on Twitter–and in newspapers that you are not alone.  For example, in today’s Upworthy, my friend Heidi Koss shares her experience after the birth of her daughters.  She is a PPD survivor and now helps other moms suffering from perinatal mood disorders.  Her story was also mentioned in an NPR article a week ago today.

You need to know when you need to get help from a doctor and/or therapist.  Get it early.  Know the facts.  Know the difference between postpartum blues and postpartum depression (PPD).  Know the difference between PPD, postpartum anxietypostpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis.  Click here for helpful information that can help you.

You need help for you.
You need help for your baby(ies).
You need help for your family as a whole, including your significant other.

I just found out tonight about the fate of Carol Coronado about whom I blogged in May 2014.  She suffered from postpartum psychosis (not PPD as some newspapers allude to), didn’t get the right help and was just sentenced to life in jail.  Carol, her babies, and her husband were failed by the system.  The same system that failed to ensure she got help is punishing her for their failure.  Sound fair to you?  No!  Her case sounds similar to Andrea Yates case nearly 15 years ago.  I pray for Carol and her family.  She has suffered enough and does not need to spend the rest of her life in jail.  I saw a Facebook comment about Carol that triggered me to write this post.  The coldness and lack of understanding are a reflection of just how close-minded people can be.  It amazes me, really.  It’s really hard to beat down stigma when you have such barriers in the way.  But don’t let any of that deter you from getting help.  YOU are important.  Forget these clueless people.  Get the help you need.  Don’t delay!

Whenever you read about these stories in the news, please remember the facts.  Get information from the right resources (links above would be great place to start).  And don’t let stigma and ignorance steer you away from understanding and compassion.  Don’t let stigma, ignorance, and the close-mindedness of people (those who choose not to understand and would rather continue their misogynistic, super hokey, religious extremist mindset in which women are second class citizens) steer you away from getting the help you need to be well again!  Stay strong!  There is help out there!  Reach out to me.  Reach out to the Postpartum Support International Facebook page (closed group) for support.

Postpartum Psychosis – Know the Facts and Stop Judging Based on Ignorance

Yesterday, I stumbled across a disturbing article that shows just how mired in stigma postpartum mood disorders (PPMDs) are, particularly postpartum psychosis (PPP), and how people just cannot understand why it is necessary to have a separate category of infanticide in cases where it is proven that an infant < 1 year of age dies by the hands of his/her mother who is suffering from postpartum psychosis.  I am not going to post a link to that article because it is completely ludicrous and not deserving of any further attention than it may already be getting.   Nor am I going to quote any portions of the article or any of the biased comments.  Instead, I’m getting my thoughts out via my own blog.  I wasn’t about to post a comment and be eaten alive by people who haven’t a freakin’ clue and who insist on voicing their self righteous opinions, going off on anti-women and anti-abortion tangents.  Not worth my effort whatsoever.   

All I will say is this.  As long as society doesn’t educate people on the truth behind the various PPMDs, they are going to continue to be stigmatized and mothers suffering from a PPMD will be afraid to get the help they need.   In my opinion, the medical and mental health care communities are largely responsible for not educating the public about PPMDs.   Keeping quiet about PPMDs isn’t going to make them go away. Most people are not aware that the rate of PPD in new moms is ONE IN EIGHT.  I just blogged about that in my last post.   Per the Postpartum Support International website, PPP occurs at a rate of  approximately 1-2 of every 1,000 deliveries (or approximately .01% of births) , with a 5% risk of infanticide/suicide.  And we don’t even know just how many mothers out there fall through the cracks as far as proper diagnosis and treatment for PPMDs are concerned.  

In the United Kingdom, because PPP is recognized as an illness rather than a crime, infanticide by a woman diagnosed with PPP is treated rather than put in jail for murder.  There are about two dozen other countries that have put infanticide laws in place, which they have basically modeled after the British one.  Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. 

How many times do you hear about mothers killing their children via drowning, suffocation or some other terrible means?  Yes, these stories reflect the unthinkable, the unimaginable.  But who knows what condition these mothers were in?  Did these women try to warn anyone that they weren’t feeling themselves?  Did they show signs of severe depression that went ignored by loved ones and even doctors?   Did they get help but were prescribed the wrong course of treatment? 

People ignorant about PPMDs don’t understand why a mother who isn’t feeling well after childbirth doesn’t just get help.  These people prefer to stay in the rut of ignorance they’ve fallen into and can’t (or refuse to) climb out of.  These people would prefer to blame the new mom for their actions without considering what the woman’s situation may have been like.   In my humble opinion, if a new mom is diagnosed with PPP by an expert in that field, that determination MUST be factored in during the trial for sentencing purposes.

Barriers to progress include, but are not limited to, the following…..as I’ve said time and time again:

  • All too many mothers are still afraid of speaking up and getting help today.  Look at the stigma and the awful things that get written in the media and on blogs.  Due to lack of public awareness campaigns, all too many mothers still don’t know enough about PPMDs to know when they are suffering from one, let alone how to get help.  
  • Not all mothers who need help have access to doctors, therapists and support services within their communities that are adequately equipped and trained to help moms suffering from PPMDs. 
  • Not all mothers have family members that can help care for the new baby and the new mom.   There are all too many moms out there fending for themselves and their babies on their own, including single moms and moms whose husbands don’t help at all, either because they’re always at work or are unwilling to help (yes, there are men like this).

The main keys behind reducing the occurrence of PPMDs among new moms include:

  • SUPPORT:  Ensuring moms get the emotional and practical support they need after childbirth
  • EDUCATION:  Ensuring an increase in public awareness about PPMDs, including what they are, why they occur, how to minimize risk of occurrence, and how to recognize when someone has a PPMD and how they can get help (medical/therapy)
  • EARLY DETECTION AND PROPER TREATMENT:  Ensuring all medical/mental healthcare practitioners are trained to detect, diagnose, and treat PPMDs properly

Until these 3 points are satisfied, women will continue to fall through the cracks with sometimes tragic consequences, and they are victims of a society that all too often focuses its priorities in the wrong places. 

I’ve blogged about these 3 points before, but I haven’t really ever blogged about PPP or postpartum OCD (which is all too often confused with PPP).   Both Postpartum Progress and Beyond Postpartum contain many helpful posts–too many to list here–on both these PPMDs.   Just visit these blogs and do a search of those two terms.

What is PPP?

PPP can occur anywhere from 24 hours to 2-3 weeks postpartum.  PPP is always considered a medical emergency that requires the mother to be hospitalized so she can be monitored and treated.  A woman with PPP typically alternates between reality and losing touch with reality, with episodes characterized by command hallucinations to kill the baby or delusions that the infant is possessed.  You may think that the one case you hear about that involves delusions relating to the devil—think Andrea Yates—is a purely isolated case.  Unfortunately, it’s not.

The leading risk factor for PPP is a personal and/or family history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis, or mental illness.   Bipolar disorder (more commonly known as manic depression) is characterized by extreme mood swings (thus, bipolar) alternating between highs (mania)—where they may experience elevated moods and increased energy levels, confidence, productivity, sociability and creativity—and lows (depression).  

There is risk that some woman suffering from PPP—who experience symptoms of both mania and depression—can mistakenly be misdiagnosed with and treated for PPD.  The danger of this is that some medications used to treat PPD can actually aggravate the symptoms and lead to disastrous consequences, as in the case of Andrea Yates, which I will talk about later in this post. 

PPP can be hard to diagnose because the woman can have periods of high energy, which can be mistaken for happiness.  This period is characterized by so much energy to the point of never feeling tired and no need for sleep.  During the first couple of weeks after her baby is born, a woman in the hypomanic phase feels energized and on top of the world, thinking to herself: “Gee, this is how those supermoms out there feel.  Motherhood is just as easy as those moms make it look.”  After leaving the hospital and without ever needing to rest, she goes straight into taking care of the baby along with doing all the housework, cooking and shopping without any help whatsoever.    

Symptoms of hypomania/mania may include some or all of the following:

  • Increased energy; hyperactivity; restlessness
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Feeling elated
  • Racing/disorganized thoughts
  • Increased energy, productivity, creativity
  • Feeling overly confident
  • More talkative, rapid speech
  • More outgoing
  • Impulsive behavior

Because the symptoms of hypomania have the tendency to create the impression that the new mother is merely excited about the baby and motherhood, PPP has the tendency to be missed until after the hypomanic phase is over and a mother sinks into a deep depression, after which the following symptoms may develop and become dangerous if she doesn’t get help quickly.  

  • Hallucinations (visual/auditory)—hearing, seeing, feeling and even smelling things that aren’t really there—often characterized by voices or a vision of someone instructing the mother to kill the baby.  Inability to distinguish between reality and hallucinations; when hallucinating, fully believing what she is thinking, hearing and/or seeing represents reality.
  • Paranoia and irrational/delusional thoughts/fears, such as denial of the baby’s birth or other random feelings of suspicion that can cause violent behavior.  In the midst of a violently psychotic episode, some even seem to gain superhuman powers, such as being able to rip a radiator out of the hospital wall.
  • Feeling like your thoughts are no longer your own and you can no longer control them.
  • Rambling and incoherent speech
  • Confusion, incoherence and poor judgment
  • Extreme and rapid mood swings
  • Extreme agitation
  • Belief that she must kill herself and/or the baby

A woman in the delusional state of PPP should never be taken lightly by those around her, as there is a high incidence of suicide and/or infanticide when PPP goes undiagnosed and untreated.  It’s during the extreme lows that new mothers with psychosis may try to commit suicide and/or hurt/kill her baby.  It’s really sad when you hear about those who succeed. 

What Loved Ones Should Be Aware Of:

Firstly, at the slightest hint of suicidal or infanticidal thoughts by a new mother, medical help should be sought immediately and the baby should not be left alone with her—not even for a minute.  All it takes is a minute for disastrous consequences to occur.  Do not wait to see if things get any better.  I’ve read of many instances where the behavior was ignored until it was too late. The mother should be hospitalized to protect her life and that of her baby’s.  The hospital is a place where the mother and baby can be safe, cared for and monitored until the mother is able to provide adequate care for herself and her baby. Going to an ER is the best way to guarantee medical attention immediately, since most doctors will not likely be able to see her right away without an appointment made in advance.

In any of these situations, call 911 or the national suicide hotline (National Hopeline Network) at 800-784-2433.

You should seek help for her immediately when any of the following occurs—don’t wait:

  • At the first sign of a change in personality or bizarre behavior.
  • If she insists she does not need rest and seems highly energized.  If she doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the fact that she’s just given birth and should take it easy.  For example, planting flowers is not typically unusual behavior but should be questioned if a new mom is doing it upon arriving home after a c-section.
  • When you can’t seem to get through to her.
  • She seems confused or on a different wavelength or lost touch with reality.
  • Where there is weird/paranoid/delusional behavior (says/thinks illogical things about things/people).
  • If she complains of imagining or hearing things.

 

Andrea Yates

Pretty much everyone in this country has heard about the Andrea Yates case.  After each of her children were born, she suffered PPD but never sought treatment until her 5th child was born and she developed PPP.  She still didn’t seek any help because she did not realize the dangers of her PPP.  On June 20, 2001, she decided she had to drown her children in order to save them from Satan.  Instead of receiving treatment for her PPP, she was sentenced to life in prison.  On January 6, 2005 the Texas Court of Appeals reversed the convictions due to the determination that the psychiatrist who served as a prosecution witness had given materially false testimony during the trial.  On July 26, 2006, with an expert testifying in her defense, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity, as defined by the state of Texas.  She is now staying at a low security state mental hospital in Texas. 

Had she and those in her life known that her symptoms indicated she needed immediate hospitalization, her children would still be alive today.   Not heeding her psychiatrist’s warning never to leave her alone with the children, her husband Rusty did just that.  Between the time he left to go to work and the time his mother came to help with the children—a span of an hour—Andrea drowned all 5 of her children.  In fact, without consulting the doctor and against medical advice, Rusty began to leave his wife alone with the children for several weeks prior to the drownings.  It appears that Rusty is in large part responsible for what happened, not only for ignoring the psychiatrist’s warning but also to persuade Andrea they should continue to have children despite warnings from Andrea’s psychiatrist against doing so. 

Additionally, Dr. Lucy Puryear, the expert witness for the defense regarding PPP, indicated she did not think Andrea would have ever drowned her children if it hadn’t been for the religious influences of her minister, Michael Woroniecki.  Per Wikipedia, it was because of him that Rusty and Andrea “built a framework of homicidal and suicidal delusions in [Andrea’s] ill mind through ‘relentless gloom and doom sermonizing’….and [Andrea] had come to believe [through his sermons and a 1996 video they had received from the minister] that she was a ‘bad mother’ who was spiritually and behaviorally damaging her children, and that it was better to kill herself and her offspring rather than to allow them to continue ‘stumbling’ and go to hell.”

This tragedy would not have happened if everyone with whom the Yates came into contact during those years in which Andrea was obviously not well were educated about her risk for and dangers of PPP, advised them on what to do and actually tried to do something along the lines of helping to provide adequate social support and even intervention.  In terms of Andrea’s risk for PPP, Andrea’s father and brother both had bipolar disorder and her mother, sister and other brother had a history of major depression.  Her story is a prime example of how our healthcare system and society overall fail mothers.  Even today, most people know about the Andrea Yates case but very few individuals realize that she had suffered from PPP.  Only those educated about PPD and PPP or have experienced either one firsthand can truly emphathize with her.  The general public thinks such a monster deserves to be put away for life or have her own life taken away for snuffing out the lives of all 5 of her children.  Her story shows how desperately in need we are of putting public awareness of perinatal mood disorders up at the top of the priorities in this country.

Difference between Postpartum OCD and PPP

It is unfortunate and quite scary that these distinctions still elude many doctors, which does nothing to motivate mothers to reveal their experiences.  Unfortunately, because not all healthcare professionals are adequately trained about postpartum mood disorders, they are unable to successfully distinguish between postpartum OCD symptoms and PPP.  If you are experiencing postpartum OCD symptoms, share them as soon as possible with someone you trust and who is nonjudgmental and sympathetic, most preferably a therapist who can help treat your condition. If you do not know any therapists or don’t know anyone that can recommend one to you, you can contact Postpartum Support International for names of therapists in your area.    

The mother with postpartum OCD experiences recurring, obsessive, sickening, frightening and mostly violent thoughts/mental images. The postpartum OCD mother, realizing these uncontrollable, unwelcome thoughts are repulsive, irrational and not normal, would never let any harm come to her baby—even taking specific steps to protect the baby, like making sure she is never left alone with the baby and letting someone else take care of the baby until she is herself again.  Deep inside she knows she loves and would never hurt her baby, but her thoughts are terrifying enough to make her doubt herself and feel anxious about being left alone with the baby. 

The mother with PPP, on the other hand, has delusional beliefs about the baby (e.g., baby is a demon or Satan said she had to kill the baby in order to save the baby’s soul), and is capable of acting on her thoughts of harming the baby.  Women with PPP are unable to tell right from wrong, fully believing the delusion they are experiencing is real.  The PPP mother may—thinking that she is doing something difficult but morally right—hurt and possibly even kill her baby and/or herself as a consequence of her delusions.

In short, a woman with postpartum OCD realizes that these thoughts are disturbing, not normal and not real, while a woman with PPP isn’t disturbed by these thoughts because she thinks they are real, rational and in some cases are coming from someone else, like God or Satan (unfortunately there is something to the saying “the devil made me do it”) telling her that the baby is possessed or destined for a terrible fate, and she must follow his instructions if she hopes to set things straight.

Pain, Sadness Hiding Behind Smiles…Never Assume and Think That All is Blissful for the New Mom

Never assume….never take for granted that everyone always has smooth deliveries and postpartum experiences…..never think that just because she’s smiling that everything is fine and blissful, as it always has to be after the birth of a baby.

I just got through reading a touching letter on Susan Stone’s blog written by a father who lost his daughter to postpartum depression (PPD) and is encouraging people to petition for the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act.   His daughter seemed fine though people realized too late that she appeared to be more consumed with worry in the days leading up to her suicide.    Touched and with tears in my eyes, I started to write this post.

Something has to be done to stop the silent suffering of so many new mothers, bring more public awareness on PPD, and more healthcare professionals (GPs, OB/GYNs) up to speed on detecting PPD before it spirals out of control and leads to sometimes disastrous consequences.  What we need to do is prevent these situations from happening in the first place.  The only way we can make progress is through public awareness, which includes dispelling the myths of motherhood.  Now, if you happen to be one of the proponents of those ridiculous myths because you feel threatened or whatever the reason might be, then take a reality pill and get with the program.  Jump off that la-la train that you’ve been riding.  You cannot possibly ignore the fact that PPD is the #1 complication of childbirth, with 1 out of 8 women suffering from it.  If you still want to ignore it, then that’s YOUR problem.  Don’t make it anyone else’s. 

How many more lives should be torn apart from an illness most people still think is a make-believe illness?  Some marriages do not survive.  Children of women with untreated PPD may end up with cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral delays and potentially anti-social issues down the road.  For God’s sake, some women whose illnesses spiral out of control don’t even make it through alive. 

Sure, mothers have been giving birth for thousands and thousands of years. Just because most women with PPD don’t speak up doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And you mothers out there….if you don’t speak up, people will continue to go on scoffing at the idea that PPD does exist.

Why the fear?  Why the secrecy?  Why not speak up?

You may be wondering why the heck, then, doesn’t a mother who’s not feeling herself get help in the first place, then think about this.  

  • Many (like me) don’t even know what is happening to them in the first place. 
  • Many go see their doctor about why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling, but are told that what they’re feeling (baby blues) is normal and should go away by itself; yes, doctors still misdiagnose even today (more on this in my next post – stay tuned). 
  • Many are afraid of what their family/friends may think. 
  • Many are afraid others will look down at them and call them weak/bad mothers. 
  • Many may even fear that if they speak up, their children will be taken away.  After all, media is doing a great job in painting the wrong picture about PPD  (see earlier post on ABC’s Private Practice) and the public seems to think, ever since the Andrea Yates case, that everyone who has PPD is at minimum a bad mother or will turn into an Andrea Yates.    Well, Andrea Yates had postpartum psychosis (PPP)–which occurs in 1 in 500 to 1,000 mothers– and was never successfully diagnosed and treated, and look at the disastrous consequences that resulted.   The healthcare system failed her and those around her didn’t help her.  Instead, the public chooses to put the blame squarely on her shoulders. This is why public awareness and education are CRITICAL!

Basically, with the exception that the birth of a child is a life-changing experience for all women, though in different ways and to different degrees, no one woman’s motherhood experience is the same as any other. The only experiences you will hear are the mothers who have positive experiences gushing to everyone they know and run across “I love being a mother. Being a mother is such a fulfilling, wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s all I ever dreamed motherhood to be.” Since you only ever hear about the positive experiences, women whose experiences aren’t as positive will tend to keep their feelings to themselves.  It takes courage and a desire to empower other women to speak up.  Slowly, the numbers of women who speak up are growing until hopefully, one day, this suffering in silence nonsense will finally come to an end.  I’m hoping this momentum continues to the point until the motherhood myths disappear and mother-centered programs (mental/physical health and practical/social support) during the postpartum period become the norm rather than the exception.

Don’t compare yourself to other mothers that appear to be coping extremely well with motherhood–those who never look tired, always look happy and seem to do it all without needing any help at all. I know how tempting and almost second nature it is, but you must resist doing so.  Don’t assume that, just because other new mothers around you seem to have a picture-perfect motherhood experience, they’re natural mothers because they seem to know what to do and do everything right, and even look great  even immediately after having given birth. It could also be that some of these women have hired help in the form of a doula/nanny/housekeeper, which does in fact help new mothers get the rest they need to recover (see previous post on social support).  Unfortunately, however, not everyone has the ability to hire such help. 

You don’t know what truly goes on behind closed doors.   Just like others won’t know something’s wrong unless you open up, you’ll never know whether these seemingly perfect mothers are just putting up a façade. It’s scary how common it is for a woman to disguise how she’s truly feeling–it’s called make-up and good acting–all so others won’t know she’s not coping as well as she thinks she should.  She wants to give the impression that she’s handling it like the supermom that other mothers give the impression they are and how she wants to be viewed as.  This is one of the reasons why even today people are surprised to hear that PPD is the #1 complication of childbirth.  

No one’s life is perfect, despite appearances.

Please see a doctor if you don’t feel yourself even after 2-3 weeks postpartum, and you’re feeling down, unable to smile, unable to enjoy anything and/or unable to sleep even when the baby sleeps.