The Importance of Screening and Support : Jenna’s Story, Part 1

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pregnancy depressionI’m welcoming a fellow Warrior Mom friend of mine today to share her story with the Postpartum Progress community.  Jenna and I met online through #ppdchat, and we became fast friends.  Since I only experienced postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety with the birth of my youngest, I really wanted the perspective of a mama who had suffered multiple episodes of postpartum depression.  I wanted to showcase the idea that all women should be screened for perinatal mood disorders throughout their pregnancy and all through the first year postpartum.  Thank you so much Jenna for sharing your story.  It is a pleasure to welcome my dear friend.

My longest lasting episode of depression began during my pregnancy with my second oldest child. It was marked by anxiety and irritation, and a loose cannon rage that would come out of nowhere over both big and little things. I was ashamed of my lack of ability to control my anger, and that I’d become a parent who yelled often. I attributed it to being pregnant and hormonal and having a high need 2 year old, but I didn’t connect it with depression at all. I didn’t make that connection because I wasn’t sad, tearful, lethargic, or unmotivated. How could it be depression if there were no tears?

After my baby was born, things only got worse. She had colic for 3 months, screaming from 11 pm to 2 am most nights, while I walked a groove into the living room floor. Once the colic abated, she was a terrible sleeper. She woke as many as half a dozen times a night for the first two years of her life, and I was the primary caregiver. Due to the chronic sleep deprivation, I was detached, full of rage, and anxious.  I also began having intrusive thoughts and paranoia, most often involving fear of home invasion or replaying the worst parenting moments of my day. Some were worse and more vivid than that.

I mentioned my anger and detachment to my ex (who I was still married to at the time) when she was about 10 months old, and he told me, “If you had a closer relationship with God, you would not be in despair.”  Medication and therapy would be a waste of money, he said, because the problem was in my head and was rooted in sin.  I was devastated and felt even more shame as I internalized this possibility.

When you’re already feeling worthless and ashamed, it’s easy to believe unkind words about why you feel the way you do. Because of his reaction and invalidation, I never told anyone about how I was feeling. I didn’t have the courage to admit to the intrusive thoughts and paranoia once he told me that I was the problem. But I knew my feelings were real, and I knew they weren’t normal.  I didn’t know I could look for support or help because I didn’t really know what to call my emotional state other than angry, detached, and overwhelmed. It didn’t seem like any depression I had ever heard of.

… tune in tomorrow for part 2 of Jenna’s story …

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Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders News & Research Roundup

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postpartum depression newsThere are so many great posts and news stories about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders out there that it’s high time I did a news roundup.

Warrior Mom Stories

Prenatal Depression Nearly Drove Amanda Lee To Suicide — The Star   A great post on depression during pregnancy, also called antenatal depression or prenatal depression.

Mother’s Little Helper — What the Flicka Betsy Shaw writes about how she has fought against taking medication and tried to handle her depression on her own.

It’s Time to Speak Up: Postpartum Depression In African American Women — Black And Married With Kids Briana Myricks writes about the fact that women in the African American culture are resistant to speak up about PPD.

The $11 A Month That Changed My Life — Eat Pray Read Love Kelli writes about the fear of getting treated for PPD because of her Christian faith.

Not Always A Walk in the Park — Mikal & Josh This mom talks about the trauma of having a baby in the NICU and how it led to postpartum PTSD and anxiety.

Postpartum Depression — The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking Kelly writes about not recognizing she had PPD.

Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder Research

The Best Behavioral Therapy for OCD – NIMH  New research finds a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy to be very effective for OCD.

Pregnancy Loss Increases the Risk of Postpartum Psychiatric Illness – MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health  Another study confirming the fact that women who experience miscarriage or stillbirth are more likely to have postpartum psychiatric illness after subsequent pregnancies.

Depressed Moms, Depressed Offspring – Los Angeles Times A British study finds that children who are born to moms with depression during pregnancy (antenatal depression) are more likely to experience depression in adolescence. “The findings, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, underscore the importance of treating depression in pregnant women, the authors wrote.”

Postpartum Diagnostic Switches Likely In Depressed Women – MedWire Research indicates that women with a history of major depression who show signs of hypomania after childbirth may actually have switched from depression to bipolar II in the postpartum period.


Why Maternal Mental Health Should Be A Priority — PLOS I found myself cheering as I read this piece. I’ve always found it shocking how little maternal mental health has been included, if at all, in conversations about global health and maternal health.

Is It The Baby Blues or Something More? — Psych Central 

Should Severe Premenstrual Symptoms be a Psychiatric Disorder? — NPR This story from NPR (you can scroll past the audio player to read the text version) takes a look at premenstrual dysphoric disorder and women who are affected by it.


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No Link Between Antidepressants During Pregnancy & Stillbirth

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The New York Times reports on a large study finding no link between stillbirth and the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. According to the Times, the Danish study of 1.6 million births, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that, “The neonatal death rate (before one month of life) in babies of the 29,228 mothers who had used S.S.R.I.’s did not differ from that of the population at large.”

For a review of this study about taking medication during pregnancy by the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health, click here.


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Majority of Moms With Depression In Pregnancy End Up With PPD

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A poll conducted by the Royal College of Midwives in the United Kingdom finds that moms with depression in pregnancy, or antenatal depression, have very little information about the illness and are unlikely to seek help.

According to the BBC, the poll of 260 mothers found:

  • Only 22% of the moms with depression in pregnancy sought help from their doctor.
  • More than a third of them had suicidal thoughts.
  • 80% of them went on to have postpartum depression, or postnatal depression as it’s called in the UK.
  • Only 27% were asked about their emotions during pregnancy.
  • Only about a third were ever told that depression in pregnancy exists and what signs to be aware of.
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