Support for Military Moms with Postpartum Mood Disorders

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On this Veteran’s Day, the Postpartum Progress community would like to send out a giant thank you to all of our brave and dedicated military men and women, as well as a special note of thanks to the families who continue to make sacrifices on the home front.

Support for Military Moms
Source: Defense Logistics Agency.

Military moms, including veterans, those on active duty, and the spouses of service men, can be at greater risk for postpartum mood disorders. So today, as we offer our thanks and support, please take this opportunity to think of the military moms in your life. Do you know a pregnant or new mom who has been in combat? Do you know a mom who’s spouse is currently on deployment? Does she seem to be struggling?

Are you a military mom yourself? Are you struggling?

It is vital to watch out for the symptoms of postpartum depression or other mental illness. Here are the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety in easy to understand language. Take a moment today to familiarize yourself and bookmark this page in honor of our veterans who need support.

If you recognize the signs in a loved one, it’s so important to reach out to them, and help them find professional support.

If you are struggling yourself, I know from experience that opening up about these feelings is very scary. You may be feeling like a failure as a mom. A few years ago, I know I felt that way, but please believe me, it’s not true. Reaching out is the first step to true healing.

With your military training, postpartum depression may also leave you feeling weak. Why can’t you just use your skills to pull yourself up and push through?! Because postpartum depression doesn’t work that way. It’s a genuine illness that needs medical treatment, just like if you were wounded in combat. A doctor must help you to heal. But please know, you are absolutely not alone in this battle and if you reach out you can win the fight.

Please keep this list handy if you or a loved one needs help and support.

Resources for Military Moms and Families

Military OneSource: Confidential Help Call: 800-342-9647

Veterans Crisis Line: Free Confidential 24/7 Support for Veterans and their friends and family. Call: 800-273-8255 and Press 1, or Text 838255. Online chat is also available.

PSI Support for Military Families

Are you familiar with other mental health resources for military moms? Please post them in the comments. 

Also, please don’t forget about our own Postpartum Progress Private Forum, a free peer-to-peer online forum for women with perinatal and postpartum mood disorders. Connecting online with others who “get it” has been a huge part of my own healing process, so I highly recommend it. Here’s how to join:

1. Go to this link:
2. Underneath the Warrior Mom logo on the left hand side of your screen, input your email address and click “Request An Invitation.”
3. You’ll then receive an email from Smart Patients inviting you to join Smart Patients. Be sure to check your spam file if you don’t see it in your inbox. 
4. Click the link in the email and choose a name and password.
5. You will then be automatically added to the Postpartum community on Smart Patients. From that point on, clicking this link – — will take you to the community

Thank you again to our Veterans and military service people. We support you today and every day.

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Anxiety Doesn’t Own Me: How I Beat Pregnancy Anxiety

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Note: Today’s guest post is written by warrior mom Andrea Bates from Good Girl Gone Redneck, addressing the often overlooked issue of pregnancy and anxiety.

How I Beat Pregnancy Anxiety

When I found out I was pregnant, I was over the moon excited. Beyond thrilled. And, if I’m being honest, a little bit shocked.

As someone submerged in the mental health field, I was on the ball. I knew what to look for. I knew what could happen.

I knew about postpartum depression. I knew about maternal mental health. I knew from anxiety. I experienced it in my regular life.

Pre-motherhood. Regular. You know? The basic days of work and school, caring for pets, becoming a wife. Moving across several states. Away from friends and family.

I knew anxiety. I knew it could hit me. I was ready.

But I never knew how hard it would hit.

My experience was during pregnancy. People focus on postpartum mental health a lot. Many mamas don’t know that they can experience this during pregnancy, as well.

I’m here to tell you it happens.

Even when you’re armed with information.

Even when you think you know what you’re looking for.

You know so much, and yet—when it hits you? You’re never quite ready.

I had no idea the thoughts would come so quickly.

Would race—unstoppable—through my head.

I didn’t know my heart would pound. The tears would fall.

I didn’t know my fears would escalate.

I didn’t know I’d fear for my baby’s life for no reason.

For. No. Reason.

Nothing was wrong. Pregnant women have fears. For certain. These were beyond the “norm.” These were intense.

I rationalized with myself. I told myself the doctors would tell me if something was wrong with my baby.

I knew they would. Of course they would!

Realistically I knew that.

But it didn’t matter.

I tossed and turned in bed as my husband slept blissfully beside me.

How could he just SLEEP? Didn’t he know how terrifying this was? Wasn’t he worried about our baby?

I reached a point where it was time.

I spoke with my doctor and started medication.

I have no shame.

Medication helped me remain calm. Helped me get through pregnancy with restful nights.

Turned off those racing voices.

Prepped me for motherhood in some ways, as I truly believe that addressing my anxiety during pregnancy helped me to avoid experiencing more intense postpartum anxiety. Keeping the lines of communication with my doctors wide open ensured that I was being watched and helped right away.

I was fortunate to have this help early on. My anxiety after my daughter was born was certainly there. It shifted through stages as she grew and changed. There were days I felt it like a brick on my chest. But I made it. I found my way through. I shifted the brick. Tossed it to the side.

I confess, it still shows up every now and then. My daughter is eight. I still get anxious. I still feel moments where things are out of my hands and my mind jumps ahead. But I talk myself through it. I turn to friends. I find the support and reminders I need that things will be okay. I will be okay.

After all, look at what I’ve already survived. Look at what I’ve made it through. I’ll be fine.


Original image credit: mateusd.

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The Catastrophizing of Postpartum Anxiety

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postpartum depression storiesAnxiety left unchecked turns everything into a crisis.  My postpartum anxiety mainly centered around my daughters.  I was convinced that each cough, each fever and every infection was the one that would send my daughters into the hospital.  I constantly checked each of the girls’ foreheads.  I would ask my husband daily to check to see if they felt warm.  Whenever the girls would get sick, I felt so helpless and powerless.  It took lots of work to recognize that this was just fear, but old habits are hard to break.  I still check both girls at night before I go to bed to make sure that they are still breathing.  On the days that I leave the house before they wake up, I check in on them in the morning as well to make sure that they are still breathing.

Part of this anxiety stemmed from my own childhood.  I lost my baby brother when I was three years old.  This manifested itself in a fear that babies are very fragile.  Babies don’t keep.  This led to an irrational fear that my girls will die even though they are perfectly healthy.  We had to change pediatricians after our beloved first pediatrician left medicine.  When we met our new pediatrician, I let her know that I ask a lot more questions than the average mom.  I told her that I struggle with anxiety and that my anxiety is heightened around my daughters’ health.  For each doctor visit, I prepare a list of questions for the doctor.  This helps me to focus on the questions I need to ask and to keep the anxiety at bay.

Another part of my anxiety stems from my youngest daughter’s medical condition.  The day before I was to return to work from maternity leave, she was admitted into our local children’s hospital for a urinary tract infection.  She has bladder reflux which makes her prone to urinary tract infections.  Since she was less than three months old, our pediatrician admitted her into the hospital to be treated with IV antibiotics.  Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to kidney infections which made me as a second time mama freak out.  What if it developed into something worse?

Then I felt guilty.  My daughter was on the wing with kids who struggle with epilepsy and other neurological disorders.  So many other children were in the hospital who were seriously ill.  I could eat food in my daughter’s room.  I did not need to gown up prior to entering my daughter’s room.  Our stay was very temporary unlike the children who had been in the hospital for months compared to our three-day stay.

It look therapy for me and lots of writing for me to find peace and catharsis from this experience.  Her hospitalization traumatized me.  I am so grateful that I had a pediatrician who supported our entire family during this experience of my daughter’s hospitalization and her subsequent diagnosis.  Trauma leaves an impact on us.  I had to recognize the fact that my anxiety was exacerbated by this trauma.  Once I understood the root of this fear, I could manage my reactions.

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Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

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emotional healthOne of the main themes on our Patient Forum is the fear that something is physically wrong with the struggling mama.  This fear can paralyze a mama from action.  First things first, get a physical to make sure that you do not have any physical conditions that could be exacerbating your anxiety and depression.  I did find out through my recovery from PPA and PPD that I also struggled with a gastrointestinal issue that flared when my anxiety was at its peak.  Other Warrior Moms have discovered that they had thyroiditis that can mimic the symptoms of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.

What does anxiety and panic feel like?  For me it feels like I am suffocating under the weight of total overwhelm.  Anxiety begins as prickles to me.  All the sounds seem too loud.  I cannot concentrate.  I start to lose patience.  My level of irritation rises.  My hands begin to shake.  I feel like my entire body is erupting in hives.  I start to itch at my scalp or my arms.  My ability to do several things at once comes to a screeching halt.  I shake my head to try to clear the mental fog that is forming.  I develop tunnel vision.

When my anxiety is left unchecked and festers into a panic attack, I am left physically and emotionally drained.  It is the equivalent of doing fartleks, speed sprints for those of you non-runners.  I am gasping for air.  I am nearing hyperventilation.  My fingers and toes are tingling.  I lose sensation in my face.  My entire face flushes.  It begins in my ears and rises from my neck . After the panic attack subsides, I lose all color in my face.  I am chilled to the bone after sweating profusely.  I feel like someone has literally wrung me out like a limp dishcloth.  I feel as exhausted as I do after running my fastest sprints.  I want to curl up wherever I am under soft blankets with my favorite pillow and take a nap.

Although I loathed the physical symptoms of anxiety and panic during the depths of my struggle with postpartum anxiety, I think of them now as warming signs.  I still struggle with anxiety from time to time.  My physical symptoms are reminders to me that I need to stop and get quiet.  When I am physically present in my body during yoga or meditation, I can focus on my emotional and mental state.  I can start to cue into how I am feeling, and I can take action.  I use all the tools in my tool box to combat my anxiety: writing, meditation, yoga, sleep, exercise, eating healthy, therapy and medication.

How does your anxiety manifest itself for you?  Is it different from mine?  Is it similar? Have you also found co-existing conditions along with your postpartum anxiety?




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