Many birthing classes, doctors, midwives, and doulas operate primarily prenatally. If postpartum is mentioned, it’s typically in conjuction with breastfeeding, lochia (post-birth bleeding), or how quickly you can resume sexual activities. Most good birthing classes at least mention postpartum depression, but they often lump it in with “baby blues” and just tell you to call your doctor if you’re still sad after two weeks.
I’m here to say: that’s not enough. There’s been a lot of buzz in recent months because the new standard of care is to screen every expecting mother for prenatal and postpartum depression. This is not a ploy to sell more drugs! This is about a serious condition that can leave even the strongest women without the will to survive it without help.
The key to what will make prenatal and early postpartum screening work is to build a support network. Maybe that includes the psychiatrist that helps you find the right medication at the right doses, the therapist that helps you identify and move past triggers, a support group of other moms who’ve gone through it, or a combination thereof.
As a doula, my eyes are opened wide, hoping that in our relatively short time together I’ll be able to spot symptoms and help before anyone has to suffer in silence. I know that it’s not always easy to see. In the picture below, would you guess that I’m suffering?
Postpartumprogress.org is a huge resource for me, both as a mother that has postpartum mood disorders and as a birth worker trying to help with early identification. I strongly recommend getting familiar with that site.
Prenatal education is huge. Did you know that between 14-20% of women suffer from a postpartum mood disorder? While depression is the one we commonly hear about, postpartum anxiety and OCD also occur. Postpartum psychosis is another condition that can occur, although thankfully with this condition it appears less frequently, after approximately 0.1% of births.
Symptoms can include anything from apathetic dullness to intrusive thoughts to an all encompassing rage. For a full, easy to understand list, check out http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english.
Please, speak up at your postpartum visits. Even if you just feel off, tell someone. You deserve more than what postpartum mood disorders would let you believe. You deserve to be whole and healthy. You matter.
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