The thing about postpartum depression is you often don’t realise you have it. You feel like you’re struggling, and that’s supposed to happen when you become a mom, right? But everyone around knows the truth: you went crazy.
Birth Triggered My Mood Disorder
When my first son was born I was mentally and emotionally opened up and reassembled and I’m not certain all the parts ended up in the right places. Some, luckily, ended up in better places.
I’m sure there were a couple parts left over, too.
You see, it was SARS fever in Ontario. The early spring of 2003 saw an epidemic of this respiratory disease in our area and all hospitals were shut down to non-essential services. My hospital registration clinic appointment was cancelled.
It also meant that when I went into labour 3 weeks before my due date the only people allowed to be at the hospital during and after labour was my husband and my midwives. The result: my husband would take photos and videos of my beautiful newborn son and then go out to dinner and visit with our family to introduce the baby remotely. I spent the first days of my life as a mother almost totally alone with a newborn I didn’t know how to take care of.
On top of that, my wee babe had jaundice and we were required to stay in hospital for three days. Breastfeeding got off to a rocky start and noone thought to sit with me and make sure I knew what I was doing.
Common Symptoms Of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Between the lonely start, the challenges with breastfeeding and a little chemical imbalance in my brain, I started to suffer from a postpartum mood disorder.
I would cry a fair bit. I’d feel like I had no idea what to do with my son. The loneliness of being a new mother on maternity leave made me feel isolated and a little paranoid. I’d have bouts of panic about how we were going to get dinner made and I’d call my husband crying and demanding he come up with a solution immediately – work be damned! I fought with my husband a lot more. I almost never slept.
When someone suggested I might have depression I got mad. When a family member declared that having postpartum depression would explain why I was such a bitch, I was ashamed and felt hopeless. The truth was, I didn’t really feel like anything was different inside my head, but it sure looked that way to the outside world. When you are in the middle of a major depression or anxiety you don’t often recognize the crisis you are in.
I finally, nearly a year after my son was born, went to my family doctor and told her that I was miserable and might have a PMAD (postpartum mood and anxiety disorder). She helped me find a medication to try and suggested some talk therapy. Within a couple of weeks I was feeling a lot more comfortable with the world, more masterful as a parent and less emotionally volatile.
I continued to take medication for a year. After that I decided that I felt pretty good and was far enough away from being a new mom that I believed medicine was no longer necessary. Slowly but surely I began feeling unbalanced again.
Postpartum Depression Returns
When I got pregnant with my second son, the hormones of pregnancy and the positive attention being pregnant often brings to women was enough to mask my mood disorder. Sure enough, after son number two was born my postpartum mood and anxiety disorder came raging back.
People who experience a postpartum mood disorder with their first baby have a much higher chance of having a postpartum mood disorder with their next and subsequent births.
Again I went on medication, Again, when I felt better some six months later I went off my medication. I now know that feeling good and then discontinuing medication is a common problem with people who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.
Don’t Suffer In Silence
If you feel like maybe being a new parent is overwhelming, feel like running away from the emotional strain of parenting your new child, find yourself crying a lot more often and getting very easily frustrated in the months after your baby is born, take note. It might be the normal strains of parenting but it might also be a mood disorder.
The Edinburough Postnatal Depression Scale is a tool you can use to gauge whether you may be at elevated risk of a postpartum mood disorder. We suggest you test yourself every few months after baby arrives, starting at about 2-3 weeks after birth, to see if you may need to talk to a professional about support. Postpartum doulas can help make your life a lot easier after baby arrives they aren’t a substitute for good medical and mental health care when you are suffering in the postpartum period.
Local Help For Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders
If you suspect you are suffering from a postpartum mood disorder in the Hamilton area there are many things you can do. You can contact the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic by calling (905) 522-1155 ext. 33979. Cree Lambeck is a Psychotherapist who specializes in perinatal mental health and can be reached by calling 905-536-2024. Additionally, you can talk to your family doctor about options that may be right for you. The doulas at Hamilton Family Doulas provide exceptional postpartum support which may help you recover and cope. We would love to help you understand all of your options and be an integral part of your postpartum wellness plan.
If you live outside of the greater Hamilton Ontario area you can find helpful resources at Postpartum Progress. As well as the Canadian Mental Health Association.
This article was updated on January 26, 2019.