Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Unhappily Pregnant

Derniere ligne droite or Pregnancy Last Days

"Derniere ligne droite or Pregnancy Last Days" by f. clerc @ flickr.com

#PPDChat yesterday focused on Pregnancy and Depression. A lot of questions came up and I wanted to continue the conversation today. Welcome to Just Talkin’ Tuesday.

Have you ever tried to find a photo of a pregnant woman in which she is not smiling or glowing?

It’s HARD.

I found one, but it was not easy.

Everywhere you look there are glowing happy pregnant women. Here’s a page from a modeling agency dedicated to providing pregnant models. Every single last one of them is grinning.

Pregnancy, just as postpartum, is supposed to be one of the happiest times of a woman’s life. But what if your mood doesn’t match the one you are supposed to have? The one we are groomed to have? After all, even as young girls, many of us spent hours upon hours playing with baby dolls, fantasizing about having a baby of our own one day. I used to shove stuffed animals under my shirt and “give birth.” Oh, if only it were that easy!

No one mentions the natural mood swings. No one mentions that more women may become depressed during pregnancy than after pregnancy. No one tells us the anxiety pregnancy may rain down upon us. No one tells us the immense guilt waiting to consume us as we are overwhelmed and consumed with thoughts of suicide. No one tells us these things. Instead, we are continually bombarded with pictures of perfection, conflicting advice about everything from how to cope with morning sickness to how get rid of those annoying stretch marks to what to buy for our baby’s bedding to what diapers to buy to how to feed our children. Can you say Information Overload? It’s enough to get a mentally healthy mom super stressed at a time when she is supposed to be avoiding stress to begin with!

A pregnant mother’s depression may be triggered by a number of things. It may be an unexpected pregnancy, her partner or family may not be supportive, she may be experiencing unrelated stresses, she may already have children at home and the physical stress of a pregnancy may have her more than worn down, or she may already struggle with depression or another mental illness. Whatever the cause may be, it’s simply not expected for a mom to be anything but happy during a pregnancy.

So who should mom turn to? Where should she go? How can she tell the difference between pregnancy mood swings and something more serious? Mom can start with her doctor. If he dismisses her and she feels in her gut that something more than pregnancy hormones is causing her issues, she can (and should) seek a second opinion. Ask your original doctor or friends for a referral to another physician. She can also contact Postpartum Support International and speak with a Coordinator in her area who will help her locate a knowledgeable doctor or therapist. Telling the difference between mood swings and something more serious involves paying attention to your weeks rather than your days. If you have weeks filled with more down days, anxiety you just can’t kick, and nothing you do seems to bring you out of your funk, then it’s a very real possibility you may need to speak with a professional about how you’re feeling.

I found myself depressed during my second pregnancy. My first episode of postpartum was not treated. I believe this fed into my depression during my second pregnancy. I had not learned any coping methods or of the importance of taking care of myself. I drifted further and further into the darkness, swallowed whole by morning sickness (all-day sickness for me), the lack of desire to eat, take care of our 16 month old daughter, and no desire to take my prenatal vitamins because they triggered nausea. I even thought at one time what would happen if I didn’t  take my prenatal vitamins. Then my daughter was born nearly 5 weeks early with a cleft palate. Turns out there was nothing I could have done to keep her cleft palate from occurring as it forms within the first 4-6 weeks of pregnancy, well before many women are even aware they are pregnant. Still, I beat myself up about not taking my vitamins. I still do every now and then. But I now enjoy spending time with my daughter.

I also found myself depressed during the first 6 months of my third pregnancy. It was an unplanned pregnancy. I would go to every visit and wish they would not find a heartbeat. If the heartbeat wasn’t there, the baby wasn’t there and this pregnancy would just become a figment of my imagination. It hurts me to type that. As I would lie on the table waiting for the nurse to check the heartbeat with the doppler, I closed my eyes and prayed so hard she wouldn’t find it. Many times she had a hard time finding it and I would get excited. But then she would find it, pronounce it healthy and leave the room. I would cry as I stared blankly out the window, disappointed that once again, the baby had survived another month. I know this sounds horrible. I know it’s harsh and I know there are mothers who try very hard to have children or have angel babies. But there I sat, beyond words filled with heartbreak about this growing gift in my belly. I never talked to anyone about either depression. I wish I had. The difference between the two was that with my son, I was already on medication as I had suffered severe and debilitating Postpartum OCD after the birth of our second daughter (fed, I’m sure, by the depression I suffered during my pregnancy with her).  I was also in counseling. I found therapy very helpful in reframing things. And by the time this pregnancy was underway, I was also blogging here and getting started in Postpartum Advocacy. Things were looking very different indeed. I focused more on preparing for myself and caring for myself which then allowed me to take care of my family and the little one inside my belly. With my son, the fog eventually lifted and once I could feel him moving inside me, things began to look up. I realize I am fortunate the fog lifted. It didn’t magically lift though as it took a lot of hard work on my part and the help of professionals.

Please don’t struggle alone if you are pregnant and suspect you may be depressed. There is help. There is hope. Medication while pregnant is one of the biggest concerns for depressed moms. But there are medications you can take during pregnancy that have a minimal risk to mom and baby. Talk with your doctor about your options in this department.

Have you struggled through depression during pregnancy? Worried you might end up with depression during pregnancy because you’ve had a Postpartum Mood Disorder? Share your concerns, tips, and success stories here. When you comment, you’ll be entered to win a copy of Pregnant on Prozac by Shoshana Bennett. This is one of the best resources out there for mamas when it comes to pregnancy and mental illness. I happen to have an extra copy of the book here and want to pass it on to someone who could really use the information within it’s pages. This give away is not sponsored or endorsed by Shoshana Bennett, just something I’m wanting to give away to a mama in need. If you win the book and don’t need it for yourself, perhaps you could share it with your OB, Midwife, or Therapist so they could pass it on to someone who would find it helpful. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment by Monday, September 13 at 8pm EST. I’ll be choosing the winner that night via Random.org. For an extra entry, please Tweet about this post and then leave an additional comment with a link to your tweet. You can also receive an additional entry by subscribing to My Postpartum Voice via Email and leaving an additional comment telling me you’re subscribed (and if you’re already subscribed, that counts!)

So let’s get to talking about Pregnancy & Depression. It doesn’t deserve to live in the darkness any longer.

6 thoughts on “Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Unhappily Pregnant

  1. AllisonO of O My Family

    i worry about this the second time around. i also worry about meds and pregnancy because i was so drug free last time both for pregnancy and labor. i also know how much i wany more children, though. it’s a tricky thing, family planning after experiencing PMD.

  2. rebecca

    Thank you for posting this. I am continuously amazed how women can share these stories so eloquently, so “dead on” … and yet I can barely find words to describe my personal struggle. Sharing them is another story entirely.

    I am in the throes of this right now, triggered by literally all of the things you mention, and also by quickly tapering off my meds once I found out I was pregnant. Now that I’ve tapered, I’m afraid to try another new medicine with another new doctor, and I’m afraid there isn’t an alternative solution that will work for me other than medication…

    But I can’t say enough how much reading what I’m going through helps me to get out of the fog in my head. I don’t know how I’m going to get better, or what I’m going to do, but seeing stories such as yours gives me a little hope that I’m not alone, and this isn’t as hopeless as it feels right now.

  3. Cat

    I know this is an old blog entry but I just wanted to thank the author for writing this. I didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago that I am experiencing depression during my pregnancy, and knowing that this is common and that my thoughts and feelings are not “Wrong” has been really empowering and an overwhelming relief.

    My partner, who is no longer in the picture, would often berate me and hold my behaviors over my head as “evidence” to assassinate my character and call into question my ability to be a “strong” and “capable” mother. I would lay in bed and cry, and he would remind me that I was only feeling sorry for myself and that I have nothing bad going on in my life, so I needed to stop acting like a child. He also held it against me that I “never acted excited” as if it meant I didn’t want my child or was incapable of being a loving parent.

    Since I ended the relationship, which was itself a cause of stress, I have begun to realize that my feelings do not make me ungrateful, weak, incapable, childish, or selfish. My behaviors very closely match well-studied and well-documented cases of prenatal depression, and what I am in need of is support, encouragement, and compassion–not criticism and scolding.

    I will be seeking therapy immediately during this time, and am anticipating discussing taking antidepressants for the remainder of my pregnancy. There is no shame in taking a pill, and sometimes yoga isn’t enough to help me. I am so glad to know I am not alone and that my feelings are normal. My biggest fear and concern is that I will not bond with or will not love my child when he or she arrives. I DO want my baby, I have moments of joy and happiness….but I’m afraid that all the things I was told during the first weeks of my pregnancy are really true–and that I have these thoughts and feelings because I’m an incapable parent and will resent my child the rest of its life.

    Has anyone else worried the same?

  4. Pingback: Getting Help for Depression During Pregnancy

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