Until my diagnosis, I had never heard of prenatal depression. Sure, I had the typical pregnancy hormone-induced tears during greeting card commercials and mood swings during my previous pregnancies, but that was pretty much par for the course. Then, I became pregnant with my son and experienced the struggles every woman with prenatal depression just understands, and a few that people who don't have it can't possibly comprehend.
Before I received help for my prenatal depression, things were bad. I didn't know how to cope, and I felt so guilty as a result. Despite being a dumpster fire for the rest of the world, 2016 was a year of tremendous change for my family. My new husband and I were working on blending our families together, and I was learning how to switch gears from being a single mom with two kids, to being a step-mom to two more. We had a ton of fun, too. I trained for and ran my first marathon, my husband and I took an amazing honeymoon in Hawaii, and we took four kids on three awesome family road trips in our new mini-van.
When I got pregnant, we were elated. Everything seemed like it was falling into place. Then, almost suddenly, life wasn't good anymore. I have hyperemesis gravidarum, severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and went from training for a marathon to puking 10 times a day in a little over a month. I started to feel overwhelming sadness, fear, and dread.
Because mental health is not something people talk about in our culture and there's so much stigma about it, I literally suffered in silence. I didn’t know what to do, who to tell, or if there was anything I could do. Then at a prenatal appointment, my OB asked me how I was feeling and I let it all out. I'm so glad I did. We found the right medication for me and now, despite my other complaints of pregnancy, I feel pretty good most days; like the grey cloud over my life and my pregnancy has lifted. So, if you find yourself struggling with the following feelings, know that you're not alone. Seep the help you need and deserve, because no one should be made to suffer in silence.
When You Experience Intense Mood Swings
I had no idea how bad prenatal mood swings could, be until I had prenatal depression. They were 100 times worse than they were during my previous pregnancies, and I constantly blew up at the smallest slight, only to feel guilty that I wasn't a better partner and mom.
When You Feel Sad When You "Know" You Should Be Happy
It got to the point that I wondered if something was wrong with me. Why wasn't I happy? I didn't want people to think I was ungrateful for being able to get pregnant or a bad mom for not loving my pregnancy.
When You Don't Know How To Bring It Up With Your Provider
I had trouble talking about my depression period. I had absolutely no idea how to bring it up with my OB-GYN. I also feared that I would learn that there was nothing anyone could to do help, and I would be forced to live this way for nine months.
I am so glad I told her. I now know what was "wrong with me" and have a plan to stay healthy.
When You're Afraid To Take Medication
Even though I have a great experience taking antidepressants in the past, when I experienced postpartum depression I was terrified that any kind of medication would harm my baby. I was also terrified that they wouldn't work, and I would be left with no options. Depression is such a lying jerk.
When You're Confused About What's Safe
To make matters worse, there are a ton of older studies that show taking antidepressants during pregnancy can be dangerous for your baby. Fortunately, last year the CDC did a comprehensive study and found that many are safe, and in fact might be safer than not treating your depression at all. Unfortunately, if you read the scary stuff first, it's hard to know what to believe.
When You're Googling Your Symptoms
I've got to stop paging Doctor Google. He's rarely right and knows nothing about me or my individual history or unique set of ever-evolving needs. Same goes for crowdsourcing medical advice on Facebook. My health care provider is a way better source of information about how to treat my depression.
Of course, I also learned that prenatal depression is pretty common. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, between 14-23% of people will struggle with depression during pregnancy, and through online support groups, I've realized that I'm not alone.
When You're Constantly Worrying About Your Baby
Every pregnant mom worries about her baby. For me and other moms with prenatal depression, that anxiety becomes so much worse and, at times, overwhelming. Sometimes I worry that my OB's office is going to think I'm stupid or that there's something wrong with me, even though they assure me that it's OK to call them about anything.
When You Always Feel Guilty
Motherhood is guilt. Feeling depressed when you should be happy and not wanting to be pregnant when you planned a pregnancy and when other people you know can't get pregnant is like a guilt trip around the world. Add to that guilt about having to take a medication that you worry might hurt your baby and fear over not being a good mom. So much guilt.
When You Worry About What Other People Think
I am constantly worried about what others think, and sometimes I feel judged. I have heard more than one person say things like, "If you are so sad, why did you get pregnant in the first place?" and, "Don't you love your baby?" and even, "Have you thought about getting an abortion?"
As if I didn't already feel bad enough.
Then there's the well-meaning advice to eat well, exercise, and go for a walk. Some days I can't even get out of my pajamas or eat anything, and puke when I think about exercise. Ugh.
At the same time, I feel passionate about sharing my story and making sure other moms with prenatal depression know you are not alone. #solidarity