Postpartum Depression

Posted by  | Tuesday, August 30, 2011  at 4:49 PM  

It may seem hard to believe that one could be feeling depressed when greeted by this adorable smile. But, I'm hoping to shed some light on the little talked about topic of postpartum depression. This is a topic that I've intended to write a post about for 3 years now, but never have! It seemed too daunting to write. But last night, I had coffee with a friend and when she told me of another friend of hers battling with PPD, I knew I needed to share my experience.

For those that have endured long months of a colicky baby, its easy to understand how one could develop postpartum depression. In fact, a study in 2005 found a strong link between the two. After having dealt with colic with both of our daughters, I believe that it certainly contributed to the postpartum depression I experienced. (I should note, however, that if you haven't read my post about what I think caused our "colic" you should go read that.)

Before I continue - let me clarify what defines "postpartum depression." Many Moms experience up to two weeks of the "baby blues" that start immediately following delivery. (This is also not widely discussed and something I was completely unprepared for the first time around!) You know the days when you cry all the time, usually over nothing. (In my case, a Pampers commercial.)  But just as quickly as it came, it disappears and you start feeling normal again. Postpartum depressions goes beyond this! With my last two pregnancies, my "baby blues" passed and I was feeling great only to have PPD creep back in over time.

Here is a GREAT (and reliable!) medical resource describing postpartum depression. Here is my experience.

Adeline was born in March of 2008 after what we now know to be our easiest pregnancy and delivery! After about a 2 week "honeymoon" - the colic started. Adeline cried every single night from 6pm-11pm. It was almost like clockwork when it would start! She was a fussy baby for sure and one that was truly colicky as defined by "more than three hours per day for more than three weeks" of crying. I often had to leave the house at night to escape the crying. (My husband could endure this much easier than I could!)

When she was 4 weeks old, I started having gallbladder attacks that were the start of an infected gallbladder, surgery and a horrible C.Diff infection afterwards. Gallbladder pain was unlike any other pain I had EVER experienced. It was the worst pain of my life. Even worse than labor! (I can say that now that I labored with Anna! :) The C.Diff infection eventually got to the point of bathroom trips 15 or more times per day. These two things in addition to the excessive crying led to some serious anxiety. I even had several anxiety attacks - which are scary themselves. This all peaked when she was around 3 months old and I finally decided to talk with my doctor.

I was surprised to realize that PPD can manifest itself as anxiety like I was experiencing. I didn't feel "depressed" - just sort of down a lot of the time and overly anxious about ridiculous things. He recommended a course of Zoloft. After some prayer and counsel, I decided to take it. (I was breastfeeding and it is considered ok.)

Before I continue, let me share this wonderful article by John Piper regarding Christians and anti-depressant use. I wholeheartedly agree with his take. (This is not intended to open a huge can of worms - though feel free to respectfully disagree!) He says,

"Just like you take aspirin to get you through a very serious back-ache, you might, for a season, take some kind of medicine that would enable you to get your bearings mentally so that you can then operate without the medicine."

I only took Zoloft at the lowest dose for about 3 months, but it was night and day when I started taking it. Until I was feeling better, I had no idea how bad it had actually been. I actually enjoyed my baby again! (Even if she did cry for hours on end!)

Fast forward a few years to our latest pregnancy and delivery. Anna is now 3 months old. Her colic has calmed much sooner than Adeline's did and we are SO thankful! She is still a fussy baby, but nowhere to extent of her sister. (I credit proper breastfeeding this time around!) However, this delivery and recovery was my toughest. The baby blues came and went as predicted and there were a few weeks that I felt normal despite her colicky days! 

However, I've recently started to wonder if PPD tried to rear its ugly head again this time around. I've had some anxiety over my medical situation this time around (having had my ovaries removed because of tumors and now being in "menopause.") though not as severe as the last time. Another factor this time is the sleep deprivation. My husband works two jobs and leaves the house at 3:30am. I was very spoiled by all of his nighttime help and moral support for the last two babies. But this time, I'm on my own at night so he can sleep. This has been much more difficult that I anticipated!

The fact that I am in menopause (having no ovaries to produce female hormones) could be one explanation for the difficult days where I find myself struggling to stay joyful. I'm waiting to take any hormones I need so I can breastfeed as long as possible. Once I restore those hormones, these feelings may subside some. 

I'm very thankful for a wonderful OB (or the entire group of OBs!) with whom I feel totally comfortable discussing all of this with. I've talked with a few of them on different occasions about what I was feeling and what to look out for and when to consider medication again. For now, I'm content and feel comfortable waiting. I'm so thankful that Anna is sleeping better and our days are starting to feel more normal! I'm finding that the difficult days are fewer than before! Praise the Lord! 

I hope that by sharing my struggle with postpartum depression, someone else might not feel so alone! My advice is to stay open about how you're feeling. If you have any questions about whether or not what you're feeling is normal, seek out help! Be very careful not to let pride or fear of man stop you from getting the help you may need. (I struggled with this too!) Ask God to give you wisdom to know when to seek help and the humility to do so. Know that He will be faithful to bring you through this!

I would love to hear from others who may have had similar experiences. Please feel free to share as much or as little as you'd like! Thanks for reading!


Leah F said...

Thank you so much for being so honest about this. I think many more women face PPD than would ever admit it. I hope that you will continue to share this journey with us!

Michael & Sarah said...

Oh, Christina - thank you so much for sharing... I experienced what I now know was "severe" PPD with Sydney and waited longer than I should have to get help. (My doctor just looked at me as I explained my symptoms, like "You should have KNOWN what this is!" So much for minoring in Psych...and having a family history of depressive disorders.) With Ethan I was battle ready and it made all the difference in the world, and now operating "normally" having gone off the meds about a year ago. I experience some lows, but they're normal and are typically related to a certain time of the month... :) PPD seems to be such a stigmatized thing in our society and I have no idea why... (maybe if we all talked about it more!)

The Pearce Family said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I experienced PPD after my daughter was born. It manifested itself in the form of anxiety and panic attacks and reeked havoc on my life. As a Christian woman I was ashamed to admit I was suffering from anxiety and endured it for a year before finally admitting I needed help. I was put on Celexa and felt like a new woman! I weaned myself off my meds when we decided to try for a third. I'm 32 weeks pregnant now and I'm fully prepared to start Zoloft if I need to. I think women really need to be informed of this condition and encouraged when medication is prescribed. As moms we don't want to have to depend on meds to make us feel like our normal selves but I've learned over time that if aren't 100% physically we can't be 100% mentally or spiritually. Thanks again for your post!

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