I am absolutely 100% at fault for doing this.
I call my perinatal depression, ‘postpartum’ or ‘postpartum depression’ all the time. I mean, look at the title of my blog. It’s Postpartum World. That was intentional – as it’s describing my journey in the postpartum period of motherhood and I wanted to write about all things motherhood since my motherhood felt so singular and isolated. However, I’m starting to catch myself more and use terms like perinatal mood disorder, perinatal depression, prenatal depression and so forth.
I can’t stress how important words are. I know we live in a time where people frequently yell about how we’re so ‘politically correct’ and how you can’t ‘say anything’ anymore and how we’re ‘word policing’.
That’s a topic for another day. But here, in this world, in the murky maternal mental health world…words are important.
Who hasn’t heard of postpartum depression?
Who has heard of prenatal depression? Who has heard of perinatal mood disorder? Who has heard of postpartum anxiety? Who has heard of postpartum psychosis?
Did you know it is believed that Andrea Yates did not suffer from postpartum depression, but rather postpartum psychosis, which is something entirely different?
Did you know that they believe that postpartum anxiety occurs at a much higher rate among new mothers, than postpartum depression? Studies suggest it’s THREE times more common? That’s a whole heck of a lot of moms.
I didn’t know any of that. Not until I went through what I did.
While I found my postpartum period to be isolating due to my postpartum depression, the isolation paled in comparison to my pregnancy. During pregnancy, I was miserable. I hated being pregnant, I had no energy. I gained 70 pounds. I felt nothing for my unborn child. I took no joy in the traditional hurdles of a first child pregnancy.
I was reminded of all of these feelings today when I read this article about prenatal depression. A reproductive psychiatrist states:
Outside the medical concerns, I stress to women that pregnancy is such a unique time that if you are suffering from depression, you really risk losing that bonding experience with the unborn baby.
I almost feel like laughing out loud. Actually, I did when I read it. She talks about losing the bond with the unborn baby…I never experienced a bond with my unborn baby. I couldn’t relate to that at all. I remember when I was pregnant, I would periodically go to Baby Center and check out what some of the moms-to-be were writing in the Birth Clubs. I remember that one person posted a question, asking what it felt like to feel the baby kick for the first time. One woman responded that it felt like the world stopped and the only thing that was there was you and your tiny unborn angel.
My friends and I all had a good chuckle about that comment. I’m not trying to minimize her experience, but it reinforced that I just couldn’t relate to what a lot of moms were saying about the prenatal bond.
Prenatal depression is hard. Everyone tells you to enjoy the pregnancy, they expect that you’ll gush about your little guy or girl, they wait anxiously for gender reveal parties (or make lots of snarky comments if you’re waiting to be surprised like we were…), they touch your belly, they ask you about your nursery, your names, they revel in our amazing ability to create more life.
Pregnancy is truly an amazing thing. But it can also be traumatic, hard and subsequently isolating when you don’t have that fairy tale experience. Not enjoying your pregnancy doesn’t mean you won’t love your baby. But it could mean that you might need some help.
If you’re pregnant and experiencing any of the symptoms that I outlined above or just don’t feel right, it’s OK. Definitely have a chat with your doc about prenatal depression and/or anxiety. Your experience could be different – your connection could just be contingent on actually meeting the little baby. Or it could be indicative of a perinatal mood disorder. Staying on top of that is just a good idea in general.
Here are some quick reads on the variety of perinatal mental health issues.
- Prenatal Depression
- Perinatal Mood Disorder
- Perinatal Anxiety (includes both prental and postpartum)
- Postpartum Psychosis
My last thoughts for this piece are this:
If you are on the fence about getting treatment (if needed) during pregnancy – the perinatal anxiety quick read includes a study that suggests that when depressed or anxious pregnant women get treatment, it reduces the occurrence of acid reflux in their child. Though that is a relatively minor health complaint, as I’ve written about before – it is NOT a foregone conclusion that no medication is necessarily the healthier choice for the unborn or newborn baby.