After I found out I was expecting my third child, it wasn’t long before I started to experience difficult first trimester symptoms. I dealt with fatigue and nausea daily, throwing up frequently and having trouble sleeping at night. I felt awful and spent as much time as possible in bed while trying to keep up with caring for my two older daughters. I struggled to stay positive, felt irritated constantly, and was generally overwhelmed with my life as a mom, but I assumed my change in mood could've been easily blamed on a difficult early pregnancy. It wasn’t until my second trimester, however, when the worst of my physical symptoms dissipated, that I realized something else might be going on. I still felt down and I was beginning to wonder if I was actually suffering from prenatal depression.
Postpartum depression is a widely talked about complication of giving birth. It's believed that an extreme drop in estrogen and progesterone, along with exhaustion from interrupted sleep, is to blame for depression experienced by a mom during her baby’s first year of life, according to the Mayo Clinic. But the risk for prenatal depression isn’t really well known among expecting moms. During pregnancy, hormone chances can interact with chemicals in the brain and this physical change, combined with negative life circumstances and the overwhelming emotions that come with adding a baby to your family, can work together cause mood changes in an expecting mom.
When I brought up my concerns to my OB-GYN, I was nervous. Would she judge me for being struggling with negativity during what was supposed to be such an exciting time of my life? Would I seem ungrateful, like I was taking advantage of a healthy pregnancy and my ability to conceive without complications? Would she think I was over exaggerating?
After weeks of feeling disillusioned with motherhood and anxious about my future, I was finally enjoying my days at home with my girls again. I was able to look ahead to the future without feeling fear or dread. In fact, I was looking forward to what was ahead for our family.
My doctor was gracious, which was a relief, but she was also concerned. She asked me to take a Beck Depression Inventory, which is a self-report that measures the characteristic attitudes and symptoms of depression, according to the American Psychological Association, and determined that my depression was severe enough to consider medication. I was so hesitant that I only filled my prescription once but didn’t take a pill for a few more weeks until I saw my doctor again. At the follow-up appointment, she assured me a second time that I didn’t need to worry about the side effects the medication could have on my baby. With that peace of mind, I started taking the medication.
At first, I didn’t feel great even with the medicine. I was anxious and restless and my mouth was dry all the time. Once the side effects normalized and I started seeing a therapist, I started to feel like myself again. After weeks of feeling disillusioned with motherhood and anxious about my future, I was finally enjoying my days at home with my girls again. I was able to look ahead to the future without feeling fear or dread. In fact, I was looking forward to what was ahead for our family.
Without medication and therapy, I would've never been able to be the mom and partner my family needs. Just as importantly, I couldn’t have cared for myself or remembered just how much I love being a mom without it.
At times I feel embarrassed or uncomfortable sharing that I rely on a daily medication. Even though I know it shouldn’t reflect poorly on me as a person, I worry what others will think knowing I've struggled so much with depression. But then I look at the life I lead and the children I love and I remember the fog I lived under, and I take a deep breath.
I would've never expected to be grateful for a prenatal depression diagnosis, but I am. Being formally diagnosed with something helped me realize that I wasn’t an ungrateful person or a bad mom, I was simply struggling and in need of a little extra help. Without that diagnosis, I would've continued to fight a negative outlook on life unsupported and alone. Instead, I've been able to transition into my life as a mother of three with the tools, medical support, medication, and encouragement I need. At times I feel embarrassed or uncomfortable sharing that I rely on a daily medication. Even though I know it shouldn’t reflect poorly on me as a person, I worry what others will think knowing I've struggled so much with depression. But then I look at the life I lead and the children I love and I remember the fog I lived under, and I take a deep breath. I know I'd never want another woman to avoid getting the help she needs to remember that motherhood not only manageable, it is enjoyable.