#LoveAnotherMother on February 11 to Help Make a Change

We’re really excited to participate in National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health’s first ever National Day of Action. We believe in the heart and soul of #loveanothermother; it’s kinda what we do!

#LoveAnotherMother National Day of Action

In short, NCMMH is asking all of us to Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, blog, and otherwise inundate our online social spheres with support for Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act of 2015 (HR 3235 and S 2311).

What’s covered in this bill?

  • H.R. 3235 directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants available to States to establish, expand, or maintain programs for maternal depression screening and treatment of women who are pregnant, or who have given birth in the past 12 months.

  • Eligible programs will offer appropriate training to health care professionals, make available relevant information and resources, and provide enhanced treatment options for women who may be suffering from postpartum depression.

We support these endeavors—and we know the Warrior Moms in our community do as well.

Get Involved with #LoveAnotherMother

We’re asking you to take to social media on Thursday, February 11th to tell/ask/encourage/demand your Representatives and Senators to support this bill. NCMMH offers up these great, premade Tweets.

  • For the HOUSE: #LoveAnotherMother @Rep’sTwitterHandleHere Support Moms and families! Cosponsor #HR3235! Bring #PPD Out of the Shadows b/c #MomsMatter

  • For the SENATE: #LoveAnotherMother @Rep’sTwitterHandleHere Support Moms and families! Cosponsor S2311! Bring #PPD Out of the Shadows b/c #MomsMatter

You can easily find the Twitter handles of your Reps here:

You can also save this image to your own device and use it while sharing.

#LoveAnotherMother

Or, and we encourage you to, use your Representative’s Twitter/etc handles and the appropriate hashtags—#LoveAnotherMother and #MomsMatter—and tell your Representatives and Senators your story. Explain what this bill means to you, to your baby, to your family, to your community, to our society. Explain what you’ve been through; share your struggles and your triumphs. We know that using storytelling in activism appeals not only to those you’re attempting to persuade but to the online community who sees these tweets roll by. This also works exceptionally well on Instagram when you use your own picture and tell your own story. If you blog, you can write your own post, and then Tweet or post it on Facebook (again with handles and hashtags!). There are lots of ways to get involved and share.

By sharing your story and imploring your Representatives and Senators to support this bill, you’re also simultaneously educating those you connect with online about the realities of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Dual function, further reach. Your voice matters, and we encourage you to use it to foster change for moms in the future.

Whatever you choose to share, share it on February 11th. We’ll be following along with the hashtag and retweeting as best we can. We know that our Warrior Moms can make a difference. Let’s do our thing.

How Postpartum Depression Affects Sex Drive

We decided to write a series of posts about sex, postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and all the emotions and questions that surround the topic. We’re starting with the sex drive, or lack thereof, because moms experiencing PPD wonder if their sex drive will ever come back, if it’s “just them,” and other important questions.

How Postpartum Depression Affects Sex Drive

How Postpartum Depression Affects Sex Drive -postpartumprogress.com

First and foremost, you should know that lack of sleep and exhaustion can definitely affect your sex drive. Chances are that your doctor advised you to avoid sexual intercourse for six weeks, longer if you experienced complications during delivery. But that six week mark doesn’t magically mean you’ll want to have sex. In fact, it can feel like the furthest thing from your mind.

We asked our Warrior Mom Ambassadors about their experiences with PPD and sex drive. They were more than willing to share their experiences in hopes of helping other moms feel not-so-alone.

These moms speak to the lack of desire to have sex after their baby was born due to postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Some of them shared how they felt “touched out” at the end of the day due to constant contact with their baby.

I lost ALL desire and drive during the time I had PPD. The loss of drive, combined with my depression and anxiety put a strain on my marriage. My husband felt that I was no longer attracted to or in love with him. I’m 4 years postpartum and only now do I feel my sex drive returning.

What sex drive? It was gone. Bye. Done. I didn’t want anyone to touch me at all and had to force myself to be affectionate with my baby. The idea of touching and being touched was just a big NO. -Graeme S.

I have this really specific memory of Valentine’s Day, when I would have been very nearly five months postpartum. My husband touched me, very sweetly, probably a hug, and he said something about how amazing it felt to be so close. (He’s mushy, and he says stuff like this all the time.) All I could think was “I feel nothing. Nothing. Nothing. CALL MY DOCTOR.” To clarify: my normal has always been a pretty high sex drive, so when it goes, I get SCARED. It’s like a limb suddenly going numb. You’d go to the doctor if you couldn’t feel your arm, right? That sent me to the doctor.

When I was at my worst, all I could do was cry, so sex wasn’t really even on the radar. In fact, I tried once during this time and just bawled my eyes out. My poor husband felt so bad.But my normal libido (what’s left after carrying for a baby!) returned once I started feeling better. -Stephanie

One mom shared that one of her symptoms with Postpartum OCD was sexual intrusive thoughts which affected not only her sex drive but her desire to discuss sex.

I had, among others, sexual intrusive thoughts. So, the thought of sex terrified me because “what if I had one of those intrusive thoughts during sex?” I told my husband if that happened I would never be able to live with myself. So, I avoided sex like the plague for a long time. My husband was very understanding but I didn’t even want to talk about sex, so it was a very difficult period for us. (anon) Not sure if this is what you were looking for?

A couple of moms mentioned the fear of having another baby and experiencing postpartum depression again as one reason for avoiding sex.

I lost interest in sex while I had PPD. I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding most of the last 4 years between my 2 kids. Now I am so terrified of having another baby (and PPD) that I still have very little interest.

They say that new mamas often have low sex drive. I think I have negative sex drive, like lower than zero. We thought it was my anti-depressants but I’ve been off them for months. My son is 19 months old and I think the truth of it is that I’m terrified of getting pregnant again. Because I’ve learned so much about hormones and mental health I’m not ever going to take birth control or try another IUD and am not yet comfortable with other contraceptives. There’s a long road ahead of us. But this too shall pass.

Other mamas recognized that the medication they took for their postpartum mood and anxiety disorder negatively affected their sex drive.

I had no desire to have sex. I was already hospitalized by my 6 week postpartum appointment. After the hospitalization I was so heavily medicated I don’t think I could’ve enjoyed it and definitely didn’t want it. My husband was kind and never demanded it. Slowly my meds were reduced enough to give me a spark of desire, but like now (on depression meds), hubby doesn’t want to even try unless he knows I’ll enjoy it and by enjoy it that means climaxing. How am I supposed to know?! I too wanted it then and now to feel that he still found me sexy. It took some time.

I have had zero desire since getting on the right meds after the birth of my son. It makes me feel like a bad wife but he doesn’t have the same interest either. I wish I didn’t have to choose between meds that make me feel better and having an intimate relationship with my husband.

My Postpartum Anxiety and OCD manifested partly as an obsession with getting back to “normal” in the bedroom as quickly as possible. After all they give you the green light at 6 weeks postpartum, and I was supposed to be an amazing mom AND wife, right? I wanted everything back to “normal” as quickly as possible. When it took longer to heal,and the sleep deprivation and exhaustion made intimacy difficult, I began to obsess over it, and I became extremely emotional about the topic.

When I began a course of medication that *finally* allowed me to feel like myself again and the anxiety and depression lifted? The sexual side effects compounded what was already hard and left me feeling hopeless and disconnected from my husband. I felt like I was choosing between being sane and having a sexually fulfilling marriage. I was fortunate to have a doctor who took my concerns about the sexual side effects seriously and helped me navigate med adjustments and alternative treatment options. But honestly, there were many days when I just wanted to give up. Give up on sex. Give up on trying different meds and treatments. It felt so unfair for it to be so hard.

I’ve been pregnant/nursing from age 29-39 (still nursing baby 5 and I’m thisclose to age 40). Yes there have been breaks where I have claimed my body back, and managed my PPD/PPA with medication, however the meds combined with breastfeeding give me zero sex drive. Like, don’t even touch me at all. You can give me a hug but don’t you dare think it will lead to something else. It’s almost cringe-worthy, which is so awful to write but completely accurate in how I feel.

Some other mamas talked about how their partner didn’t want to have sex.

Actually for me it was my husband who wanted to stay away. I felt like if we had sex, I knew he still thought I was attractive. With everything I was feeling and thinking, I needed “normal.” When he didn’t want to have sex, it made me feel even more lost and like a failure. He struggles with depression too, but we handle it differently, he thought it was best to give me space, and that just made me sink deeper

The thought of sex made me gag. I didn’t want to be touched in any way by anyone. Really – after being poked and prodded all over my body and the depression gripping me tightly before and after labor, I was left wanting nothing more than to curl up into a ball in the corner of my shower and not move or speak.

Compounding this, my husband was also falling into a depressive cycle and had little interest. We went months and months without sex and it really began to put a strain on our relationship because of the lost intimacy. It still is nothing like it was before we had our son and is an area we’re trying to work on.

And one mom talked about how she just wanted to have sex because she felt guilty about her postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

I may be unusual in that I was actually MORE interested in sex when I had PPD/PPA, but probably not for the right reasons. I felt so guilty for what I was putting my family through. Sex was the one thing I could do to make my husband happy. And, it also helped me escape from my thoughts for a little while.

As you can see, a lot of different things affect a mom’s libido when she’s dealing with postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or other mood and anxiety disorders. It can start out simply with the feeling of being touched out by the end of the day or be based on medication side effects—and then it can snowball into an inability to even broach the topic with your partner.

The good news is, as you saw a number of mamas mention, once they started to feel better, their sex drives returned. We’ll talk about that in more depth in an upcoming post. We just wanted to share that the lack of sexual desire is not uncommon when you’re suffering from postpartum depression. You aren’t alone in that feeling and you shouldn’t feel like it’s “your fault.”

Next week we’ll be continuing our discussion about sex and PPD by delving into sexual trauma. It’s certain to be an important piece. If you have something to add to the post, please contact me at editor@postpartumprogress.org. In the meantime, please feel free to share what you feel comfortable sharing regarding your sex drive as you fought PPD.

#DayofLight: Spreading Truth and Hope

#DayofLight: Spreading Truth and Hope -postpartumprogress.com

Today marks the third annual #DayofLight, a beautiful movement created by Brandi Jeter in 2014. From her post yesterday:

“This is what depression looks like in my life. This is just one way that depression looks. The more we share our stories, the more people will know that there are other people out there that are surviving and thriving despite the dark cloud.”

The point behind the #DayofLight is to talk about our depression, openly and honestly. We know that the isolating feelings of depression can make us feel like we’re totally alone, when the reality is that we’re not. We’re surrounded by people who love and care for us and our well-being. By sharing our stories, we’re not only welcoming vulnerability and courage into our life, we’re helping others who might not be ready to share, who think they’re “the only one,” who read our posts and say, “Oh, me too.”

That ““me too” is so very important.

We encourage you today to take to your blogs, your social media accounts, your what have you, and write about your depression. Maybe you just want to write a line about the hashtag, #DayofLight. Maybe you want to share your story for the first time—or the 12th. Maybe you want to share resources where moms can seek postpartum depression specialists or peer support groups. Maybe you just really want to tell other moms that they’re not alone.

It’s a good day to do it, to reach out, to share, to stand tall and proud. You’re more than your depression. You’re more than the darkness. You are the light within you, shining brightly. Share it with others. If you share on you various social media accounts or your blog, we’d love to see them as well. Feel free to share links or join in our discussion on Facebook.

Lost Leave: A Tale of Taming Postpartum Anxiety & Depression

[Editor’s Note: In today’s guest post, Jen Bullet shares an encouraging story of how her doctors supported her through Postpartum Anxiety with medication, time, and reassurance. It’s important to share these success stories to ease the fears of moms initially seeking care. -Jenna]

Lost Leave: A Tale of Taming Postpartum Anxiety & Depression -postpartumprogress.com

When you return to work, everyone asks you if it is tough to leave your baby. I have perfected my answer to this question. I say that it is bittersweet. Which it is. As much as I miss Max, my three-month-old son, I also am excited to be back at work, and gaining back a little bit of the “me” I used to be.

My answers start to be less perfected when people ask me how my maternity leave was. How do I answer this question without fully disclosing the experience I had? Does anyone really want to hear that I struggled with what seemed like debilitating Postpartum Anxiety—a sibling to Postpartum Depression? Do people really care that my body was in a state of constant panic, and that I suffered through weeks of insomnia? Can I actually tell people that I felt nervous all the time … or that it seemed like a stranger was trapped in my body? Would people look at me funny if I said I barely made it through each day and sometimes had to count the hours or minutes until my husband came home?

That is the reality of at least half of my maternity leave. I existed in a state of panic. I felt like I had adrenaline pulsing through my veins. I had a pit in my stomach at all times. I had to sleep with an ice pack at night to soothe my burning chest. My arms and legs tingled relentlessly. I spent most of my days worrying. Would I be able to sleep tonight? If I didn’t sleep, would I be able to take care of Max tomorrow? What would happen if I couldn’t take care of Max? I worried all night long. I lay awake even as Max slept. My mind just wouldn’t shut off.

I would get up at two in the morning and feed Max. When he would go back to sleep, I would go back to bed and try to sleep as well, but sleep wouldn’t come. Soon the birds would be chirping, and Max would be up again for a 5:00 AM feeding. My day would begin. I would think to myself, “How will I ever make it to 6:30 PM?” I would struggle through the day. I would struggle through the next day, and the day after that.

During this time, I emailed my OBGYN asking her if I could take an over-the-counter sleep aid. I was nervous about breastfeeding and taking medications. She said yes. The first night I took it, it worked. The second night, it did not work, and it didn’t work after that. I called her after several days of no sleep. I was at the end of my rope.

Is there anything else I can take? She said I could try a pain reliever with a sleep aid included, but she said we may need to explore prescriptions. My six-week-postpartum appointment was coming up the following week, and we agreed to discuss further in that appointment.

But then I emailed her over the weekend. Something was really wrong; I needed help. She sent me the name of a counselor and said we would discuss medications at my appointment.

Not surprisingly, I “failed” my Edinburgh Postpartum test. Someone else might have scoffed at the term failure used by my doctor. However, I appreciated her candor. I was definitely not myself. In the short-term, she prescribed me a prescription strength sleep aid and an anti-anxiety medication. She also put me on an antidepressant. She said it would take two weeks for the medication to start working.

So now, in addition to worrying about whether or not I could sleep, I started worrying about how the medications I was taking might affect my breastfeeding. I rarely take prescriptions. I’m just not a pill person. So this was a shock to my personal sensibilities. My days were still filled with dread, nervousness, and constant mind chatter. I would tell myself that I just needed to make it to two weeks, and the medication would kick in. It took closer to five weeks, and two increased dosages for me to even out. Taking anti-depressants is not a magic fix.

My recovery truly started the day after my six-week-postpartum OB exam. It was a Friday, and I had my first appointment with Bridget, a counselor at The Blossom Method. I literally don’t think I would be whole again had it not been for her. I joke with my mom that everyone needs a Bridget in their lives. Week by week, she helped me build coping strategies and coached me to live in the moment—and stop envisioning the worst-case scenario.

She encouraged me to break my days into three hour chunks. Instead of jumping ahead and letting my mind start to worry about something that might or might not happen, I should train myself to stay present in each three hour chunk of time. She also encouraged me to see a psychiatrist who had experience in perinatal mood disorders. Dr. Venable tried several different medications and finally found a combination which helped me sleep, stay calm and, eventually, even out.

We often hear about how broken our healthcare system is. I know that in many instances it is, and I am lucky to have excellent insurance. I know that I am privileged. That said, I was amazed at how supportive and responsive the healthcare community was to my situation. Dr. Venable, Dr. McNair—my OBGYN—and Bridget would get back to me on weekends, at night, and other inconvenient times. They tried to calm my nerves about taking medication and breastfeeding. They helped me understand that treating mom meant that Max was getting better care.

I also asked the pediatrician about the drugs I was taking and feeding Max. He echoed the sentiments shared by my other doctors. I felt like I had a team of people—including my incredibly supportive husband and family—all focused on helping me succeed. I used every skill I had learned in the business world to drive my progress forward: follow-up, take action and try again when I failed.

What I have learned about Postpartum Anxiety and Depression is that there is no easy fix. It takes work. You will take one step forward and then two steps back. You will need to be aggressive about seeking help. This is not something you should try to muscle through on your own. When you do seek help, you will find amazing support systems and medical care. You will also make it back to baseline and once again feel comfortable in your own skin. You will be the amazing mother that your child loves so dearly.

My final observation is that so many women struggle with postpartum challenges, and yet we hardly ever talk about it. It makes me sad to think that there are women out there struggling alone and too embarrassed or ashamed to share with others. I wish we could paint a real picture of what those first few months are like, because they are equal parts wonderful and challenging.

Bridget had me take the Edinburgh test the first day I saw her. Initially, I scored a 25 out of 30. Failure, indeed. A few weeks ago, she had me take it again. I scored a 5. I’m not on certain medications anymore.

I’ve read lots of stories about women who have struggled with a number of different postpartum challenges, many of them much more difficult than mine. I am reminded of how strong women are, and how able they are to overcome adversity. I also know that I don’t regret for one moment having my son. I only regret not being able to fully appreciate what I now look back on as my lost maternity leave.

~Jen Bullet