1. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) are more common than you think!
It is estimated that one in five women (and one in ten men) will suffer from a PMAD, like postpartum depression anxiety. After the births of both my girls, I had postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I felt very alone until I found my support group filled with women who understood how I was feeling.
After recovering, I began to volunteer with the Postpartum Resource Center of New York and competing in pageants to raise awareness. I have met and been contacted by many women who have told me they went through this too. PMADs are not talked about enough! But please know, you are NOT alone.
2. PMADs are more than just depression.
Postpartum depression is probably the most "known" perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, but there are many others. PMADs also include: anxiety, PTSD, OCD, bipolar mood disorders and psychosis. PMADs can occur at any time during pregnancy or in the first year postpartum and symptoms can vary from person to person. After having my first daughter, I had postpartum depression that started shortly after giving birth. She had to stay in the NICU for a week and we struggled greatly with breastfeeding. I cried often, felt like a failure and had feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
I suffered from postpartum anxiety with my second daughter. Unlike my first experience, my PPA didn’t start until she was three or four months old. I began feeling anxious, had panic attacks, felt very angry and began to scream and throw things, which was uncharacteristic for me. I was sleep deprived and stressed from having an infant, two-year old and family member with a serious health issue.
3. It's okay to ask for help.
It is okay to not do everything on your own. Accept help when offered to you or reach out and ask your partner, family, friends, or babysitter to watch the baby while you shower/nap/run errands alone or whatever it is you need. I struggled with accepting and asking for help with my first daughter. With time and practice it became a little easier each time. You cannot pour from an empty cup!
It is also okay to admit you are struggling/think you have a PMAD. It is very common and isn’t your fault. There is professional help and social support available to help you get well.
4. Postpartum doulas are amazing.
I had never heard of a postpartum doula until I was pregnant with my second daughter. A friend mentioned them to me and I was immediately sold on the idea! My husband and I researched local doulas and found an amazing woman - she was a lactation consultant, educated in PMADs and had such a calming and beautiful personality.
She visited my home a few hours a day a few times a week until my baby was about three months old. She would watch my kids while I napped or went to an appointment, helped me with breastfeeding/pumping, did light cleaning and was also there for emotional support.
5. Get a physical!
After having a baby get a physical exam by your primary care doctor. There are other conditions, such as issues with the thyroid that can act like postpartum depression. About a year after having my first daughter, I went for a physical with my doctor and we found that my B12 was in a range associated with depressive symptoms. I began taking supplements and started to feel better.
6. Make a Game Plan!
Create a plan for postpartum with your partner/spouse including a list of local support groups, therapists and which doctor you will call if necessary. Decide which family/friends you trust and can call to talk to, ask to help you at home or to bring you a meal.
If you or someone you know is in need of help in New York, the Postpartum Resource Center of New York is an amazing resource - they have a directory, information, a state-wide helpline (855-631-0001) and more. Outside of New York, Postpartum Support International is full of information, a helpline, online and telephone support groups and more.
You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.