The Stress of a Sick Baby & Fighting for a Diagnosis

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Nathalie Eisenberg. She experienced a number of things during and after the birth of her son that helped push her toward a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. Her story is important. -Jenna]

The Stress of a Sick Baby & Fighting for a Diagnosis

I’m a 31 year old mother of 2 from NYC. Born and raised in Brooklyn to be exact. I have been following Postpartum Progress since the birth of my first child Jack. I’ll take you back six years ago.

Actually, I’ll take you back 24 years first.

I knew about mental illness since the very early age of seven. To make a long story short, I began having severe panic attacks when I was seven years old. I was lying on my bed one night and just started feeling petrified. My mother rushed me to the emergency room as I told her I felt I was dying and that something was very wrong.

I was discharged that night with a diagnosis of panic disorder and was recommended to schedule a follow up with a psychologist or counselor. Since that night, up until I was 14 years old, I had about one to three panic attacks a day. I didn’t go anywhere without my mother as she was the only one who knew how to deal with my attacks. The attacks were absolutely terrible. Aside from a very fast heart rate, my limbs would become so stiff with fright that my body would contort and cramp. I received counseling for many years and eventually the panic attacks subsided and left all together.

Fast-forward 17-18 years to the age of 24-25. I was pregnant with my first child and was ecstatic to find out it was a boy. I was eight months pregnant when I finished my graduate course work at Teachers College, Columbia University in speech and language pathology (December 2009). My plans were to give birth and return back to work in three to four months.

My pregnancy was fairly smooth, that is up until January of 2010 when I started having severe migraines. During my first migraine attack, I thought I was having a stroke. My face and tongue went numb, as well as my hands. I would lose my peripheral vision for about an hour and become confused about my environment. I was hospitalized and results were inconclusive for possible seizures. They started me on Keppra just in case I was having silent seizures.

Fast forward to the day of the birth. I was in labor for 20 hours, pretty average for a first birth. But for the first seven centimeters I denied myself the use of an epidural. Actually, my goal was to go completely natural. But as I hit the seven centimeter mark, the pain was so disturbingly and incredibly unbearable that I eventually got one after seven hospital staff convinced me. I agreed with them. I was screaming up the maternity ward! It was pretty disturbing.

I eventually gave birth and had a short hemorrhage right after. This caused me to be immobile for about two days. I could not hold myself up. I couldn’t stand. Therefore, I couldn’t hold the baby or keep him in my room without another family member assisting me. I returned home in pretty bad condition. I went straight into my room and shut the door.

I just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep. Of course, I was EXHAUSTED and really couldn’t stand up for too long without feeling faint. I had a lot of people over that first week. A lot. Everyday. I was petrified and very nervous too. My mom started going to work less and less so that she could assist me at home. Perhaps she saw early on that something was not right.

Then we had a neighborhood blackout… YUP. It truly was the last thing I needed but perhaps made clear what was already brewing. What I mean by this is that I completely freaked out during the blackout. I started becoming very disoriented and confused. I remember looking out the window and feeling that I couldn’t trust anyone outside; that they weren’t to be trusted.

I told my mom. “Ma something is wrong. My mind isn’t working right.” She knew my history of course, with my anxiety that is. But I thought that that issue was long gone. I was a totally different person now.

As a few days went by, I remained pretty much the same; on edge and just very out of touch. And then I was feeding my son one night, perhaps a week and a half after his birth, when he shook in my arms and fell asleep. Yup, literally. His head made a subtle shaking movement and he went from being fully awake to being asleep. I knew immediately something was wrong. I called the ambulance and we headed to the ER.

As I write this, it is hard for me to think and put into words the moments and days that follow…

As soon as we arrived at the ER it was recommended that my son have a spinal tap to rule out the possibility of meningitis. I was petrified and was really starting to go under. Under, under in my brain. Into a dark abyss. A place of consciousness and unconsciousness. A place where you are alive but dying. I heard him scream and scream and scream. The screaming wouldn’t stop as they tried and tried to get a sample of fluid from his spine. I felt like no mother. I was nothing. Nothing for allowing what those nurses and doctors had just done to my son. I got a glimpse of them having to hold him down with their knees.

Initially, results came back stating that my son had meningitis. I was convinced at this point I was going to lose him. The ER we were at had to transfer us to a hospital that had a pediatric intensive care unit. So Jack and I, with my entire family following behind, headed in an ambulance to Schneider’s in Long Island, NY. During the ride, I looked at my beautiful son, a part of me trying to accept that I might lose him.

When we arrived, I exited the ambulance a different person. The transformation that began at the ER back in Brooklyn had completely coated me. I relate it to being stuck in a capsule of dissociation, desperation, depression, defeat, unreality, and a brain that is racing and racing with thoughts. I brain that is short-circuiting. A brain that is malfunctioning.

My son’s meningitis diagnosis ended up being a false positive. A week at Schneider’s revealed that my son actually had an E Coli infection in his blood. He was to start on doses of antibiotics for two weeks.

I don’t remember the hospital stay that much. Like I said, it was a state of consciousness and unconsciousness. What I do remember is that I didn’t want to eat a morsel of food. Actually, I looked at everyone and thought, “Why are they eating?”, “Why is everyone here?”, “I really don’t get what’s going on here?”, “Did I die in child-birth?” “Yes, that’s it! I died in childbirth. I’m a ghost now.” I lost 40 pounds those two weeks at Schneider’s and only remember that I wasn’t quite sure where I was.

I do remember muscling up everything in me to get help. I knew that I wasn’t just anxious and I knew this wasn’t standard. This was borderline psychosis. I knew I needed to get help immediately as it might be too late if I didn’t. I checked myself into the emergency room at Schneider’s. Diagnosis: Postpartum Psychosis.

Seraquel was prescribed. That ounce of me that was still functioning immediately decided to go for a second opinion. So I had a two hour consultation with a sister clinic of Schneider’s. After collaboration with four other doctors, the psychologist decided to start me on Zoloft and not an antipsychotic. He added that he believed that the psychosis was temporary and was due to an acute stress reaction from everything that had transpired within the last few weeks. Diagnosis: Postpartum depression and temporary psychosis due to an acute stress reaction.

We were heading home! Jack was discharged and that part of me that was conscious knew this was a good thing. The next few weeks proved more and more that my situation was critical and required around the clock care. So my husband and I moved in with my mom. My mother took care of my son for many weeks, months actually, when he was a newborn. I couldn’t function. I could only sleep. Sleep. But not really. My mind was racing way too much to sleep.

Two to three months passed before I was completely better. Like it never happened. I was weaker though. My memory was weaker, my processing and execution was weaker. I was broken on some levels. My body, mind, and spirit had somehow gotten through something many other new mothers would die from. I knew this. I also knew this was probably an issue that wasn’t just going to go away.

I have two children now. Jack and Scarlett. During my second pregnancy, I went through a very similar situation with my daughter. This time it was during the antepartum period. I had to quit a job I had just started as a speech therapist because I wasn’t functional. I couldn’t brush my teeth, bathe, or eat.

It took a few months to get out of the second episode. My husband and I decided that we can’t have anymore children. I’m still taking medication and everyday has its battles. I hope to one day have a correct diagnosis for what I now have. My daughter is three now and my son six. However, I still have moments, once every 6six months, where I feel like an episode is going to start. Until then, I’m still here.

~Nathalie Eisenberg

My Experience with Postpartum Psychosis, Hospitalization, and Recovery

[Editor’s Note: Today we present a really important guest post from Kristina Dulaney. It’s important not just because it talks about postpartum psychosis, one of the postpartum mood and anxiety disorders with the most stigma, but because she shares what she remembers of her stay on the psychiatric unit. Kristina’s story may feel triggering for some, so please read from a safe place. -Jenna]

My Experience with Postpartum Psychosis, Hospitalization, and Recovery

My Experience with Postpartum Psychosis

It was Friday of Memorial Day weekend and I was to spend the weekend with my two children, parents, and sister at the beach without my husband because he had to work. Divinely, I was glued to my chair on the front porch of our town home. Oddly, I had all sorts of thoughts racing through my head that kept me from getting behind the wheel and driving myself and my kids to the beach. My husband didn’t understand, and I don’t think I quite did either.

While sitting on the porch, I made a phone call to my best friend. I recall that I made sense when I spoke with her, but since my thoughts and ideas were grandiose in nature, it concerned her. Then I called my boss and apparently quit my job; I do not have much recollection of that conversation. My husband told me later that I sat down and quoted scripture that he didn’t think I had ever memorized.

He stepped outside for a moment. In that moment, I thought Jesus was returning. I grabbed our kids and begged, “Please save us, our family, and our friends!” I kept repeating those words over and over. Suddenly my husband came back inside and found me looking pale and weak, holding our children. I passed out.

He appropriately called 911. Medical personnel responded quickly. As I became conscious, my nursing knowledge jumped in, I promptly and inappropriately told them to pump on my chest and intubate me. I thought I was on the verge of death. Here I was mentally sick. My husband was very frightened and didn’t know what was wrong with me.

They took me to the ER where I stayed for two nights. Then I was transferred to the psychiatric unit. How does a 30 year old mom of two with no previous history of mental illness get admitted to the psych ward? This is where my memory fails me, but the diagnosis: Postpartum Psychosis.

My Psychiatric Unit Stay

On the psychiatric unit, I had a sitter with me 24/7 to be sure I didn’t harm myself or anyone else. I stayed on the unit for nearly two weeks—two weeks without my babies, two weeks I did not get exercise or go outside. I ate in my room with the sitter not far from me as well as took a shower with the sitter right outside my door.

There are some things I remember but other memories my family told me. My sister informed me at one moment I thought I was Tina Turner, and at another time I thought I was pregnant with Baby Jesus. I do recall thinking I was on the set of Grey’s Anatomy with Bradley Cooper and Mandisa.

It shouldn’t have been a bad place then, right? Oh so wrong; it was a very, very scary place! My anxiety and paranoia were both at an all-time high during my hospitalization. I blamed my husband and family for things that were definitely not true. Believe me, when I am well—and my brain isn’t playing tricks on me—I trust my husband 100% without a doubt or question.

I remember drawing family trees over and over. I thought the hospital was hell and my ultimate goal was to get out of there.

My memory began to return within the last couple of days while in the psychiatric unit. Many people ask me if a switch just turned on one day. The answer is NO; my memory just got better every day. Especially when I was at home, I think it was my safe place and I had a sense of normalcy, or a new normal. I really just think my brain didn’t want to remember the awful thoughts I had while I was in the hospital.

While in the hospital, I was treated with antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and an occasional injection when my mood and paranoia levels began to increase. I do recall trying to escape and being held down by the staff and probably given an injection to calm me down. Again, I just wanted out of there, it was hell on Earth to me.

To this day, I can hardly wrap my brain around how my mind played such dirty tricks on me. But, postpartum psychosis is no joke.

After spending nearly two weeks in the hospital, I was discharged home. For two whole weeks I didn’t see my babies (5½ month old and 2½ year old). I was so excited to get home and see them! But, my journey with postpartum psychosis was far from over, folks.

Returning Home

When I returned home, things weren’t back to “normal.” I couldn’t be with my children alone. I couldn’t be by myself. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t return to work. Talk about restrictions! I couldn’t be with my own children by myself? No. Doctor’s orders!

I really didn’t fully understand the reasoning behind all of the restrictions. I didn’t even realize I had just been in the hospital for two weeks; I literally didn’t remember. So much of my brain just wasn’t working right and my thought processes were misconstrued. And, from not being able to go outside during my hospitalization and exercise, I was very weak.

I knew I had to trust my family and friends, but there was so much I just didn’t understand. I really didn’t understand what was happening and why. I felt like I was being tortured in every possible way and ultimately being kept from my children and away from society. I was still paranoid and felt like people were following me and my family. There was even a day I thought I couldn’t take it anymore and even tried to jump out of my husband’s truck. But, the good news is I got through that day and I’m here to FINISH this story!

Continued Treatment

As part of my rehabilitation, I attended an intensive outpatient program for a couple weeks, which involved three hours of group therapy daily. Want to know what that was like? Since I was still out of touch with reality, it was like being in group therapy with my entire family! Each person in the room reminded me of someone, either a friend or family member, and that is who I thought it was. I did not like it.

After graduating from the intensive outpatient program, I was then referred to a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I continue to see both doctors to this day. Regular appointments with my psychiatrist assisted to keep my medications managed. At one point my husband thought I was back tracking and it was suggested that he literally hand my medications to me and watch me swallow them. Here I am, a nurse, fully capable of managing medications but my husband stood over me twice a day making sure I swallow my medications! I felt like a child. But eventually, I was able to take my medications without my husband standing over me.

Gradually, restrictions were lifted. First, I was able to drive but not with the kids in the car. That felt so good just to be able to get out by myself without a babysitter! I probably just went to Target and got a Chai tea Latte at Starbucks. Talk about freedom!

Eventually I was able to take care of my two children as well as drive with them in the car. My psychiatrist was impressed with how quickly I recovered and took back my mothering responsibilities. But at the same time, I was pretty anxious and scared.

Since my psychosis episode, my anxieties had increased and having both girls by myself; it was quite a job for one person! I applaud stay at home moms; it’s a full time job in itself! My children went to daycare three days a week and stayed with me two days a week once all restrictions were lifted, which was gradual. I continued (and still do) have anxieties when I keep both of my children by myself. There was even a weekend I had to call on my parents when my husband had to work because I just couldn’t do it by myself—and that’s okay to do. Moms, it’s okay to ask for help because we can’t do it all by ourselves, we can only do so much!

How I Got Through

Many of you are probably wondering how I got through such an experience. My faith is very important to me as well as my family, and I had a lot of people praying for all of us. I’m so thankful for each and every prayer as it was definitely heard. God’s grace covered my family and has and continues to carry me through this journey. The support of my family and friends truly helped me through each and everyday, especially my husband, and especially those days that I felt like I couldn’t make it through.

My physicians, medication,s and psychotherapy continue to aid in my recovery. My recovery is still going very well and I’m doing as well as to be expected. One day my psychiatrist told me it was like I was a soldier who had just returned home from battle, so yes I consider myself a fighter and a warrior over postpartum psychosis. I am a survivor.

You Are Not Alone

I consider myself extremely blessed as I never had ill thoughts towards my children during this whole episode. I have a new found God-given passion to tell my story with other women in hopes to shed light on Perinatal Mood Disorders such as Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum OCD, and Postpartum Psychosis. My mission is to let women everywhere know that they are not alone.

For too long I went around thinking others would think I would be a less together mom if I was on meds, but that’s not true. My husband and I on numerous occasions discussed that I may need to talk about getting on an antidepressant with my physician, but I failed to do so. I’m not exactly sure why, but I just felt like I could fight through it myself. Looking back, if it would have prevented my psychotic episode, I definitely would have asked! Now I’m on meds, and I’ll tell the whole world! It’s for my mental health and well-being!

Postpartum Depression is diagnosed in 1 in 7 women. Postpartum Psychosis is seen in 1 in 1000, so it is more rare than PPD. In fact, my doctor said he hadn’t seen it in over six years! I am now a Warrior Mom Ambassador with Postpartum Progress. Please also visit my Facebook page called Into the light: Thriving after Postpartum Psychosis, PPD/PPA. I also am willing to share my story in person to appropriate group settings if contacted.

~Kristina Dulaney

If you suspect that you or someone you love has postpartum psychosis, you/she should be accompanied at all times until a professional diagnosis is received and you/she are under the 24/7 care of a healthcare provider.

Warrior Mom Book Club: A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness, Part 2

We’re excited to continue our discussion on A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness by Jennifer Moyer. You can read Part 1 here, and feel free to join our Warrior Mom Book Club!

Warrior Mom Book Club: A Mother's Climb Out of Darkness

A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness Discussion, Part 2

Question 1
In Chapter 9, and throughout the entire book, Jennifer discusses risk factors for maternal mental illness and recurrences of mental illness symptoms. Were you aware the risk factors prior to your experience? After you learned about the risk factors were you better able to see how certain things affected your mental health?

CB: I was aware of them because I was already working with pregnant and new moms; but I was in denial for the longest time. It was almost as if I had to ‘check every box’ before I sought help for it.

SK: I had no idea. I did not see any of the warning signs or risk factors until I was well into recovery. Once I saw a list, in my head, I kinda went check, check, check. It’s amazing how a little list of information can mean so much to people, and clarify so much.

LB: I was not aware of my risk factors before my experience. Afterward, I could see it clear as day.

LL: I was aware of my risk factors but still thought it would never happen to me. I think no one ever wants to think it could happen when anticipating what is supposed to be one of the happiest events of life.

ST: I was aware of only one, my prior Depression history. I was just amazed at how soon it hit.

SC: I was aware of my risk factors but I had successfully dealt with anxiety and some depression before so I figured I would be able to handle it if it happened. Like ST said, it hit so soon and I had never experienced such paralyzingly anxiety before.

Question 2
In Chapter 10 Jennifer talks about finding PSI and in Chapter 15 she goes into how helping others has helped her heal. Do you think that advocating for others has helped your recovery? What did you think about Jennifer’s speaking out about her illness and the reactions that other people had to her speaking out?

SK: This was interesting for me because I feel my advocacy has played a large role in my recovery. My family has been very supportive so I haven’t had the fear that some people have of sharing their stories. When I do encounter a bad reaction I try to use it as a teaching moment, and understand that people just need to be more educated and they don’t understand mental health issues.

CB: I definitely found a passion for maternal mental health after my experience. Not only do I lead a support group, but I participate in many other support groups. I really liked hearing her story because as much as she went through, and as many hospitalizations she went through, it shows that you can make it. The face that she had CPS involved, which is most mom’s fears, can show strength in the story too!

SK: CB I couldn’t believe that CPS got involved. Jennifer Moyer, it seems like you were totally blindsided by them calling CPS. Did you end up changing pediatricians after that? I was just shocked by that whole incident.

Jennifer Moyer: No I didn’t change pediatricians but I did ultimately change churches. The ignorance there is what caused the chain of events.

CB: I took it as another example of the ignorance surrounding maternal mental health….I would hope that we, as advocates, are able to dispel the myths by speaking out.

Jennifer Moyer: In fact, my son still has the same doctor, who sees patients as long as they are in school (college included) 🙂

CB: I’m sure it was a learning experience for the doctor; How about the church official?

Jennifer Moyer: I think it was but he ultimately moved to a different church. I made my peace with him after the event.

CB: That’s good to hear

Jennifer Moyer: Anger and bitterness never helps anyone so I had to let go and make peace with the past.

SR: For me, leading a climb was the most cathartic event in my healing.

SK: SR, yes it gave me back some of my confidence and helped me feel like myself again.

CB: Ditto!

LL: I heard of PSI shortly before reading this book and really want to get involved too! Once I had recovered from the acute worst of my ppd I also really wanted to support and love others dealing with it and let them know they are not alone. Her example is awesome!

LB: Advocating has been very cathartic for me. For the most part, I’ve been really amazed at how supportive others have been. My first step was sharing on Facebook about my diagnosis and, later, medication. Many people wrote to give me support, and several moms shared that they had suffered from PPD but never told anyone. I was floored – so sad that they had suffered that way but also very happy that they shared with me and were feeling better. I also wrote several yelp reviews for various doctors, therapist, and psychiatrists who helped (or in some cases) didn’t help me. The first feedback I got was some very mean emails from a mom at my son’s daycare, who called me a psycho and told me that I needed to get over myself. It really hurt, and it took me some time to get over. I still felt that it was well worth it, especially when a husband contacted me about finding some more help for his wife. Being able to reach out to and help them meant so much to me.

LB: Also I think forgiveness is so important, even though it can be very difficult. Jennifer Moyer, I’m also inspired by how you moved past the actions of the pediatrician and the pastor!!!

ST: I definitely think it’s helpful to myself and others. The reactions….For me 95% of reactions I’ve gotten have been very positive. The others are just ignorant and refuse to believe it is real. In the beginning it was hurtful, now I blow them off.

SC: I supposed someone could just recover and close the door on PPD without looking back, but Jennifer Moyer turned so much awful stuff into learning experiences and advocacy for herself and others. I definitely feel compelled to do this. I just wish I had more time to devote to this cause.

Jennifer Moyer: SC, I learned to focus on family first as advocacy will always be there. Taking that time helped me be a better advocate now. I still believe advocating as a wife and mother comes first. 🙂

Question 3
In Chapter 11 Jennifer discusses her advocacy and her efforts for changing policy. I found this to be interesting and made me think more about how to get involved and let the government know that there needs to be change. How did Jennifer’s discussion of governmental policy affect you? Do you have any experience with this or were you inspired by her work?

SK: I really want to try to get more involved in my local and state government. Not sure how to go about that, but I know that if the opportunity arises I will jump at it. For now I am becoming more involved with a local perinatal mental health coalition to help raise awareness and increase resources locally.

CB: I admired her work. I definitely think tha tmore has to be done on the government side; but my social anxiety gets in the way of me taking an active effort in it.

Jennifer Moyer: Meeting with your local representatives is a starting point. They want and need to hear about the issues that matter.

SK: CB, I think if we all do as much as we are comfortable with then things will begin to change little by little. There are a few moms in our community that help with events but don’t want to be out in public talking about it, and I totally respect and understand their decision.

SK: Jennifer Moyer, do we just email or call them to try to meet with them? What information do they want to hear?

Jennifer Moyer: You can email and/or call requesting an appointment to talk about maternal mental health. They schedule appointments while in their district offices so calling to find out their availability is always good. You can take fact sheets, share your story, etc.

CB: Hey one on one doesn’t sound as scary then!

Jennifer Moyer: No, remember they want to get re-elected so they are usually pretty nice LOL

SK: Jennifer Moyer, we would probably have to have some practical examples of what changes could be made or what we would like to see. Is there any current legislation that we could encourage?

Jennifer Moyer: There are some recent developments even at federal level but each state is different so you would need to research on how the state handles mental health such as what state department oversees mental health. Mental health issues can be handled by different committees in each state. I have a friend in TN that couldn’t even find on the state website what department handled mental health so you may have to make do a little research.

SK: Jennifer Moyer, thanks, that gives everyone a good starting point. 🙂

LB: I honestly had only thought of reaching out to other moms through Facebook and Postpartum Progress, but this is another really important thing I can do to help. I’ll definitely do some research into the California laws.

Question 4
Chapter 12 held a few important topics for me. Jennifer spoke about how traumatic a perinatal mental health issue can be to not only other mother, but also the family. Also how the media’s portrayal of PMADs can make this trauma worse by making a mother scared to seek help. What topic affected you the most in this chapter? Did the stigma surrounding mental health issues hinder you from seeking help or receiving the help you deserved?

CB: I totally agree about trauma to the family; but media portrayal spoke most to me. I struggle because my mom loves entertainment stories and she still brings up cases like Andrea Yates to me — it’s hard to get through. I did an article for our local climb and the headline they wrote was postpartum blues: they didn’t hear anything I said.

SK: The media can be so difficult to deal with because they can portray women with maternal mental health issues in such a bad light. I hope that the more information that is made available and the more advocates get out there, the more people understand that we do not want to have these issues. We cannot control these issues without proper treatment and care. the sad part is most people cannot afford the proper care or are too scared to seek it out.

CB: I know when I hear stories — I’m able to sympathize with the mother and a lot of people I know have trouble with that.

SK: Yes! Getting people to not equate PPD to Baby Blues is a huge struggle! I had one of my co-workers tells me that his wife had the baby blues (his son was 8 months old) and that he was not happy with her reactions around the other children. eventually he asked me for more info and I believe she got help, but it is so hard when people don’t understand.

Jennifer Moyer: So many moms are afraid of losing their child(ren) that they don’t reach out. Sadly, this is still happening way too often and the ignorance out there can cause the families to make it worse.

CB: My close friend was hospitalized and unmedicated for a week–at the end they told her she was fine and Italian that liked to talk a lot–she left there unmedicated — she’s still struggling two years postpartum and she’s just now doing better.

SK: Also, like Jennifer Moyer, it caused some major difficulties in my relationship. We had to rebuild after I sought treatment and learn how to communicate better.

Jennifer Moyer; I cannot say enough about the benefits of the right professional therapy. It helped save my family.

SK: Mine too, I cannot imagine where my relationship would be without it.

CB: Yes SK — I was there too and divorce was brought up — I am happy we were able to make it through and learn to communicate on a new level.

Jennifer Moyer: CB I hope your friend is getting peer support as well as professional support. There is still so much stigma and ignorance out there.

CB: Yes, Jennifer Moyer — she runs the peer support group with me 🙂

SK: Also Jennifer Moyer, I like how you discussed your son going to therapy. One thing I have gained from all this, is the knowledge that if my son needs help with any mental health issues, I will hopefully be able to better spot them and help him get treatment.

LB: Stigma definitely prevented me from getting help at first – not because I was afraid of what would happen to me or my child, but because of my family’s initial reaction. They didn’t understand and kept telling me to get ahold of myself, and that I could handle this. They talked about all the amazing things I had done in my life, and tried to reassure me. They told me to stop crying and worrying. they said having a baby is just hard. So I thought all moms went through what I experienced. I was too embarrassed to seek help for a long time. I remember the Andrea Yates case but had never heard of postpartum depression (yes, I Know, I’m one of those weird people who doesn’t match much tv or care about celebrities and didn’t know about Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise ducking it out 🙂 ) so I guess I was inversely affected by media coverage. It never was on my radar at all.

ST: the stigma prevented me from disclosing my illness to friends. I worried they would shun me. Silly now, all of them were very receptive. the “what next” paragraph on page 172 hit me hard. learning how to live with my new body and mind was scary after PPD. It’s scary now with this most recent bout of depression.

Question 5
Chapter 13 discusses Jennifer’s research into alternate forms of healing and not understanding that PMADs can develop into lifetime mental health issues. Did you attempt to use any homeopathic or alternative forms of treatment? Did your health providers ever inform you that you may need to consider that your PMAD could lead to needing lifetime treatment?

SK: I did not understand that this could turn into a lifetime of mental health issues, but now I do and am at peace with that. I will handle things as they come and if that means I stay on medication then that’s okay. I didn’t try any homeopathic forms of treatment, however, I do try to stay aware of my body and keep better control of my anxiety through mindfulness and CBT.

CB: I’m with SK! Though, I did have a doctor tell me about my issues and PMDD is my diagnosis–so I’m mindful of how I’m feeling. I would like to try oils one day; but for now I medicate and use exercise; and I’m okay with that.

LB: During the thick of my battle with PPD/PPA, my acupuncturist treated me a couple of times. It was helpful and she was very supportive. She suggested weekly visits but shortly after that, after that, I became so overwhelmed that I only left the house to go to work (so I could pretend I was fine) and take walks because I was so restless. It was too intimidating to go anywhere else for quite a while. Later she suggested an excellent naturopath, who is monitoring my hormones, adrenal gland and thyroid functions. She is also helping me wean off of antidepressants and sleeping pills by replacing them with supplements and helping me make some great lifestyle changes It’s been amazing, I’m not sure whether this is in the right category as an answer to this question, but I also did a lot of therapy on letting go of my past. I was sexually and mentally abused as a child and during PPD I somehow felt like the roles were reversed and my baby was abusing me. I don’t know whether this crosses the line into psychosis. But in any case, one of the therapists and I used a technique called EMDR to go back into my memories and let the trauma out. It made a huge difference. I’m so grateful for the help I was able to receive! Oh, and yes, my caregivers did let me know that this could be a long term issue.

ST: I didn’t look into any homeopathic remedies, except St. John’s Wort, and I nixed it. AS for the lifetime of mental illness, I was already a three time sufferer of depression prior to PPD. It was kinda a given.


Join our Warrior Mom Book Club to read and discuss books about maternal mental health with other Warrior Moms. See you next time!

The Truth About Postpartum Psychosis

emergency-stop-buttonThese are the kind of posts we don’t like to write. But they are also the posts we must write because these situations carry the most potential for stigma and misunderstanding as they relate to the Perinatal Mood & Anxiety realm.

A recent situation in Cincinnati is the reason for this post. I won’t link for safety reasons, and if you are fragile, I would recommend you NOT Google for the story. (If, however, you do, and you need someone to talk to about it during the day, find me on Twitter here: @unxpctdblessing. I will be happy to chat with you.)

Media sensationalism along with misunderstanding by society at large can turn a singular incident into a large scale stigma fest. THIS is why we write posts like this. To educate and prevent misunderstandings in the future. It is a delicate balance to write these posts without triggering our audience, hence the emergency stop picture. While I have tried to keep this post as non-triggering as possible, again, if you are fragile, you may want to skip this post.

When a mother with Postpartum Psychosis follows through with behavior which is limited to a very small percentage of mothers who do experience psychosis, it is splashed across the front pages and often combined with the term “postpartum depression” or “baby blues,” leading readers to believe a depressed mother is capable of this act.

Let’s get a few things straight here.

Postpartum Psychosis only occurs in 1-2 of every 1000 births, or .1% of births.

Of those .1%, only 4% may commit infanticide, and 5% may commit suicide.

Postpartum Psychosis is NOT Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum Psychosis is defined by hallucinations, delusions, rapid mood swings, decreased sleep, and increased paranoia.

Postpartum Depression is defined by increased sadness, irritability, increased sleep, feelings of guilt, and loss of interest in usual things. It also carries the risk of thoughts of harming your child or yourself, but mothers with Postpartum Depression are highly unlikely to follow through.

Baby Blues is experienced by up to 80% of all new mothers and is NOT a disorder found on the Perinatal Mood & Anxiety spectrum.

It’s important to note here that I know more than a few mothers who have successfully fought back against psychosis and won. They (and their children) are still with us. Psychosis also does not always equal the death of a mother or a child. It is, however, the one disorder on the spectrum which carries the highest risk for loss of life.

I want to add that Postpartum OCD is the other disorder on the spectrum closest to the signs and symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis. How do you tell the two apart? OCD moms are typically disgusted by the thoughts which flit through their heads while moms with Psychosis believe the thoughts they are experiencing, no matter how delusional, are real and rational. They are driven to follow through with them, while moms with OCD fight against them and do everything to make them go away. Am I saying moms with Psychosis WANT to follow through with their delusions? No. I’m saying that because of the nature of the disorder, they are unable to fight back without help.

From the Postpartum Support International Website:

It is also important to know that many survivors of postpartum psychosis never had delusions containing violent commands. Delusions take many forms, and not all of them are destructive. Most women who experience postpartum psychosis do not harm themselves or anyone else. However, there is always the risk of danger because psychosis includes delusional thinking and irrational judgment, and this is why women with this illness must be treated and carefully monitored by a trained healthcare professional.

So what should you do if you or a mother you know and love shows signs and symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis?

She should immediately be seen by a physician. She should not be left by herself, or alone with her infant at any time. It is possible she may need to be hospitalized for a short (or longer) time until she begins to respond to any prescription medications to balance her psychosis. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and mothers often fall through the cracks. Compliance with medications outside of the hospital setting (which is the alleged case in Cincinnati), is something no one can monitor. What we can do, however, is continue to educate the population at large about the signs and symptoms, encourage them to not leave the mother alone, and encourage compliance with any treatments set forth by a medical professional.

Healing from a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder is not a solo journey, nor is it an easy journey. We need a village to wrap their arms around us as we learn how to walk again. Be a part of that village. Please.

Here are some resources to get you started:

Signs & Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis

Suicide Hotlines

Know that above all, you are not alone and you will get through this.