I am pleased to feature this guest post about postpartum depression and anxiety written by author Bridget Croteau. When I was a first-time mom, I experienced the baby blues for several weeks. I was weepy, detached, and forlorn. I found myself overwhelmed by even simple tasks, often neglected to eat, and worried about everything. Eventually, I started to come out of the darkness, find myself again, and enjoy motherhood. Bridget is committed to shedding light on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety, and supporting and encouraging parents who are experiencing such disorders. –Jennie
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Postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) are the most common complication of childbearing. PMADs affect 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers! I personally went through a PMAD twice following the births of both my girls. It was an incredibly difficult and lonely time, but I got through it with help, and so will you!
I’m going to share some tips I learned through education and my personal experience on how to get through a PMAD. Everyone has a different situation and journey, so what worked for me, may not work for you – and that’s okay! I also want to stress that getting through this took time.
Join a Support Group
Both times I had a PMAD, I attended a support group. I absolutely loved my support group – for me, it was a huge part of my recovery. I felt like I wasn’t alone and the women who attended with me understood how I felt. The connection to other moms who “get it” was such a gift. The support group was a place I felt safe to share how I was feeling without fearing the judgment of others. This group also had a “family night” as part of their program where attendees could bring family and friends. Everyone heard from a mom and one of her family members about their experience with a PMAD and could see that they got through it. This night was one of the first times I felt I would absolutely get through this one day.
I attended therapy during both my experiences with PMAD. Talking to someone who wasn’t judging me and where I could talk and work through my feelings was greatly helpful. My pregnancy with my first daughter was healthy and uneventful until we were unexpectedly induced. The labor that followed was long, exhausting, painful and scary at times. My daughter was sent to the NICU for a week and we had a lot of trouble breastfeeding. I felt so much guilt and felt like I was a failure as a mom, wife, and person. In therapy, I learned ways to manage my anxiety, how to “forgive” myself after feeling such immense guilt about the birth of my first daughter and so much more.
Take Care of You
One of the big messages our support group stressed to us was to take care of ourselves. We were given the example of putting an oxygen mask on yourself before helping others on a plane. It is so important that we take care of yourself! This can look different for everyone. For me, I began dance lessons and I also exercise 5-6 times a week. After years of throwing myself into my career and then motherhood, I didn’t have any hobbies or activities I did regularly that I enjoyed. I now make the time to care for myself. It leaves me feeling replenished and happier as a person.
Get a Physical
It is important to care for yourself physically as well as emotionally. If you are feeling like you aren’t yourself, I recommend visiting your primary care doctor as well. There could be something “off” that they can help with. I had a physical and found my B12 levels fell into a “low-normal” range that had higher incidents of depressive symptoms. I began taking B12 supplements and a few weeks later, I started to feel more like myself.
Hire a Postpartum Doula
My mother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer while I was pregnant with my second daughter. We knew she would be in treatments and taking care of herself. We hired a postpartum doula to help me. She came to our home three times a week for a few hours to help with breastfeeding, cleaning, and watching the girls so I could nap or run an errand alone. She was absolutely amazing.
If Something Isn’t Working For You, Change It
My first daughter was not great at breastfeeding. We had to supplement with formula, and I pumped as well. This was incredibly time consuming and stressful for me. I eventually weaned the breastfeeding and pumping because it was not working for us, specifically me. After we were finished with breastfeeding and pumping, I felt like a weight was lifted off of me.
With my second daughter, we sleep trained her when she was between seven and eight months old. She was not a great sleeper; she woke a couple of times a night to breastfeed. The lack of sleep and exhaustion played a very big role in the anxiety I felt. I was able to sleep more and feel more like myself once we sleep trained her (which she did so great with). When rested, I was much more able to deal with my anxiety in a better way.
I didn’t personally use medication, but I know many people who did and say it was wonderful and helped them so much with their PMAD. Talk to your doctor and therapist about medication if you think this will help you. There are many options!
You are not alone or to blame, and you will be well with help.
Resources for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
If you or someone you know are in need of help, here are some resources to reach out to:
- Postpartum Support International
- Postpartum Progress Blog and particularly this article about the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Postpartum Resource Center of New York
- One of my favorite resources is the “New Mom Mental Health Checklist” from Postpartum Progress. This is a “checklist” where you can “check” what you are feeling and show to your doctor or health provider. Sometimes finding the words to describe how you feel, is hard. This helps!
Bridget Croteau is the author of Me Again: How Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Transformed My Life. Bridget resides in New York with her husband, Beau, and her two children, Natalie and Chloe and labradoodle, Jake. She is an author and teacher. She currently holds the title, Mrs. Suffolk County America and will be competing for the title of Mrs. New York America in March. She has been volunteering with the Postpartum Resource Center of New York since 2015 and was awarded Volunteer of the Year in 2018. She is passionate about sharing her experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety to help moms, dads and families in New York and beyond feel like they are not alone and to offer the hope and comfort that they will get better with help.