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Postpartum depression is part of mental health awareness

Jenny Decker RN's picture

Postpartum depression is a common disorder that occurs after giving birth. As mental health awareness week starts today, do not forget that postpartum depression is a part of mental health awareness. There are many facets of mental health. Mental illness is often misunderstood. As mental health awareness week progresses, it is important to become informed of the many disorders and the complexities of dealing with each one.

On medication for postpartum depression, feeling better, but wanting to help others with depression, I attended a speech by a fellow colleague to a small group of women. I felt pride in my heart that I was getting the word out, helping others.

My colleague went on introducing the topic, when one of the ladies raised her hand to make a comment. She stated that she made sure she would not get depressed because whenever she felt sad, she thought happy thoughts and the sad feeling went away. At the time, I was distraught. It made me angry, but then I remembered that I was there to support the cause.

I raised my hand, in turn and explained that I was normally a very happy person. I had goals I was working on and looked to the future with bright feelings. I had never been prone to depression in the past. However, after the birth of my third baby, things were much different. My plans had not changed, but something was very different and very upsetting.

I remember as I was being prepped for the cesarean section, I was terrified. Being a nurse, I immediately thought of all the things that could go wrong with the surgery. I began to feel the depression set in. It was very weird to me and I tried to shake the feeling. Later, after the baby was born, I could still feel it. It did not go away.

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After I returned to my regular day to day activities, the depression got worse. I began crying over silly little things. Once I started to cry, I cried half the day. For some reason, I was unable to stop crying. The worst was my thoughts. I wondered why in the world people enjoyed being alive. I wondered why I wanted to be a mom. I even wondered why I wanted to live! At this point, I was very scared.

One of my friends sat me down and talked to me one day. I vividly remember how she told me her story of postpartum depression, how she nearly lost her life because of it. She urged me to get help before I got to the same point. I did get help. I was put on medication, but it took a while before the medication began to kick in. Once it started to work it was well worth it. I was finally feeling like myself again.

I dealt with postpartum depression for several years. With my experience of postpartum depression, I wanted to help others get through it, too, to know they are not alone. With the small speech to others and helping this woman understand that depression is not just avoided by “being happy and thinking happy thoughts” I felt a power within myself to be able to come up out of the lowest areas I was once in. Helping others was healing to me.

Though many moms experience baby blues after giving birth, about 10% of new moms will experience a more severe form of baby blues, called postpartum depression. Sometimes this progresses to postpartum psychosis in rare cases. Postpartum depression signs and symptoms include loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, loss of interest in sex, lack of joy in life, feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy, severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawal from family and friends, and thoughts of harming yourself or the baby.

Mental illness is rarely understood until one goes through it themselves. With Mental Health Awareness week, learn about the different disorders and become involved in helping your community to be aware of those who suffer from mental illness. If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from postpartum depression, it is important to get help. Call your obstetrician to begin bonding with your baby.

This page is updated on April 18, 2013.