The newest member of my family is a handsome 9-month-old baby boy named Isaac. His smile and persistent happy energy have been such a joy to his sister, dad, and I over the course of his little life.
Even with all the joy and laughter Isaac brings, his birth ushered me into one of the darkest periods of my life mentally. From the moment he was born, my mental health has never been the same.
The month of May has been maternal mental health month. I want to join and help spread awareness about a group of conditions that aren’t well understood or discussed enough – perinatal mood disorders. These disorders include prenatal depression, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum psychosis.
Here are a few of the definitions for the above terminology:
So what causes these conditions? The research says that a combination of factors are at play – life stress, the physical and emotional demand of taking care of a new baby, the changes in hormones that occurs during and after pregnancy, a history of depression or bipolar or postpartum depression, or lack of sufficient support from family/friends after delivery. The list goes on and on.
Let me paint a picture for you.
Imagine that you just gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. He is only one week old. Breastfeeding isn’t going well and you’re still figuring out how to consistently get baby to latch on. Your breasts are sore and swollen, you’re sore down there from just pushing a baby out, you’re limping around trying to heal, you’re sleep deprived, you haven’t taken a shower in two days, AND you have to scramble to feed the baby every 3 hours or so, all while taking care of any other members of your household (husband, other kids, etc). This is the plight of most new moms.
This was me 9 months ago. And I did not realize I had experienced postpartum depression in the midst of all of this. I didn’t name it myself. I just thought I was being more emotional than usual.
Statistically, about 1 in 7 new moms will experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, these conditions can easily go unnoticed or untreated, which could cost a mother even her very life. For me, it came as a shock to be diagnosed with postpartum depression. Having never had any real mental health issues prior to this and not experiencing this with my first pregnancy, I didn’t expect it. Those first few months of Isaac’s life, I woke up many days with a knot in my chest and a lump in my throat, feeling sad, overwhelmed, and hopeless. I would talk to my mom, my sisters, and a few close friends and it didn’t seem like enough.
After my doctor diagnosed me, they gave me options for treatment. The treatment options for perinatal depression include psychotherapy (counseling or talk therapy), cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and medication such as antidepressants. I chose counseling, and thus began my healing journey. Counseling has become a place where I discuss everything from my mental health to my emotions to coping to self-care to the challenges of motherhood. It has truly become a safe place for me to say anything and everything and above all, it’s given me the tools to address my postpartum depression.
I want to help end the stigma associated with postpartum depression. To every person reading this, whether you are a future mom, new mom, seasoned mom, or a support person such as a spouse, friend or family member – perinatal mood disorders are real. Please check on new moms and offer them the support that they desperately need. Oftentimes, family members are the first to notice signs of perinatal depression. If you begin to feel any of the symptoms listed above postpartum, please contact your doctor. Don’t be shy or ashamed. Postpartum depression could cost you your life, and your life is so worth living. God created you and has an amazing plan for your life. Your family and friends and baby need you here and alive.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- Isaiah 41:10
God and therapy are what have gotten me through this postpartum season alive and still thriving. If you or your loved one are struggling with perinatal depression, know that you will make it through too. Please leave a comment down below message me on my social media pages if you would like to share about your own experience or need support yourself.
Author - Beryl
Beryl has a passion for writing pieces that uplift, inspire, and encourage you to bloom. She's been blogging since October 2018.