During my pregnancy one of the most common sights I saw at every one of my obgyn visits, (which seem like 100’s, right?) were signs informing me about postpartum depression. On posters, flyers, even videos in the waiting room, “Are you sad all the time, cry constantly, feel unable to care for your child, feeling disconnected? You may be suffering from postpartum depression.” Followed by what I would learn to be a big, fat, load of stinking lies, “if you suffer from these feelings there is help available.”
In order to really help women in this situation two things need to happen here. First, more information needs to be given to women that is specific to them and their risks for postpartum. Some women are more likely than others to develop postpartum depression. Increased risk factors include:
1. a previous history of depression or anxiety
2. a history of severe PMS or premenstrual dysphoric disorder
3. medical complications for you or your baby
4. relationship difficulties
5. lack of support from family or friends
The first three of these fit my situation to a tee. Not ONE person discussed my increased risk with me before I left the hospital after delivery. And they had plenty of time-I was in there for five days.
Second, REAL, not imaginary, unreachable help, needs to be available to women, 24 hours a day. This might sound idealistic, but it’s not. It’s absolutely necessary.
For me, postpartum came on a few weeks after I came home from the hospital. My symptoms were pretty text book: Worrying about hurting your baby,Lack of concern for yourself,Loss of pleasure,Lack of energy and motivation,Feelings of worthlessness and guilt,Changes in appetite or weight,Thoughts of suicide- but I still tried to fight the fact that it was happening- it felt like failure.
Then the day came when I knew I needed help. I was in ikea picking up some bedding ( my husband was watching our son at home) and I bought a small red dog for my son- super cute, pull the tail and it plays music. I walked out to my car, got in the drivers seat and while looking at the dog I started thinking about christmas and birthdays and presents for my son and then- I started balling my eyes out. What the hell. At the time I had no idea why I was crying. Looking back I know why: In my head I honestly believed that I wasn’t going to be around for those moments. I didn’t think I would make it out of the tunnel of postpartum.
I called my husband and somehow I drove home. We decided together that I should call the much advertised ‘Postpartum help hotline.’ Get ready for the EPIC FAIL coming up. After sitting with the phone in my hand for 20 minutes I got the guts to call. I was kindly rewarded for my efforts with this: a fumbling male voice with no understanding of what postpartum depression or anxiety even was-literally. I had to, in my state, tell him what post pardum was, twice, before I was placed on hold for about five solid minutes (See how well this is going?) He eventually came back to the phone and told me I should probably drive myself to the crisis center that is connected to the hospital, he gave me the address, And I was off.
During my drive I imagined that I was going to a crisis center for women who were in a similar situation to my own. When I got to the door I said to myself, “oh, this crisis center.” Unfortunately, the hotline had sent me to the hospital’s regular mental health crisis center. All I have to say is that for the first time I was thankful that I had, in my youth, experienced times where I had been here before. Lets just say I’m not a stranger to the struggle of having a mental health disorder- but this was different. Now I had a tiny human depending on me. Inside they took my phone, my purse, and my ID. I can’t Imagine the fear of a woman in the grips of postpartum depression who had never seen a crisis center being thrown into this situation.
I sat there for a few minutes staring at a form then promptly retrieved my things from Mr. Intimidating at the desk and got the hell out of there right quick. Something just didn’t feel right- it wasn’t the kind of help I needed. I went home, slept, and called my obgyn in the morning. I reluctantly agreed to start a low dose anti-depressant but I knew what I really wanted was therapy to work through it. And now for the the final snafu: I called all four of the treatment facilities (all of these place were listed on those post-pardum info advertisements as well) to make an appointment with a therapist. They asked me when I wanted to come in. I said as soon as possible, obviously. “our earliest opening is in two months.” How’s that now? Come again? That’s right folks, TWO MONTHS. I called more therapists, getting similar wait times, along with a bunch more therapists who were not in my insurance network. DONE.
My recovery took about 6 months. A combination of medication and self-help methods, along with an incredibly supportive husband got me back on my feet and loving life again. But what about other women who experience this and aren’t so lucky? I think of them often and know there has to be a better way to provide postpartum assistance to women.
I’m currently researching viable ways to create volunteer-based postpartum hotlines and crisis care in ALL hospitals that provide maternity services. This is possible- it is also necessary. With the increasing pressures on new mothers to be some ridiculous version of a super mom, the rates of postpartum depression and anxiety are likely to increase. Currently, the CDC reports that 1 in 8 women will suffer from some form of postpartum depression. What about the women who don’t report?
I think the number is likely closer to 1 in 5. And these women need more than a fumbling, uninformed, phone operator to rely on in their time of need.
Find more info on Postpartum depression, as well as help and tools for mom HERE.