I asked the following question at the Postpartum Progress Facebook Fan Page last week:
How many of you, looking back, feel like you suffered longer from postpartum depression than necessary because you were afraid to take medication for your illness?
I asked because we all know there is enormous stigma around taking psychiatric medication. There are so many questions: Do we need medication? Why should we need it? Shouldn’t we be able to be happy or content all on our own? Does it really work? Why don’t we understand how it works? What about the side effects? What about the people who say it doesn’t work at all, except maybe for the placebo effect? What about the people who say it’s just big pharma trying to convince us to take their drugs? What about the docs who overprescribe? What if it doesn’t work for me anyway? Will it harm my baby?
Those are all VERY legitimate questions. Really. So, given how many questions there are, I wondered how many people avoid getting treatment for postpartum depression altogether because of those questions and fears. Here are some of their responses I received on Facebook (you can see them all, and who said them, here):
“I didn’t want to take medication after the birth of my first child, mostly because I didn’t want to have to admit to anyone the thoughts I was having. Well after she was born, I learned more about intrusive thoughts and how common they are, and so the second time around, I didn’t fear talking about it with my doctor and asking for medication. It’s been a lifesaver.”
“Me. 1000%. Because I didn’t take the disease seriously enough.”
“I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety with all 4 of my children. I did not get a diagnosis or treatment until after my 3rd. Looking back, I do not think I recovered at all between my 1st and 2nd and up until I had my 3rd. It is just one blur of never-ending sadness, anxiety and overwhelming fear. As a result of waiting so long to get treatment, it took me a lot longer to find a medication and dosage that worked and I was on it for a lot longer than I would have been if I had gotten treatment sooner. As a professional perinatal social worker, I now tell any woman suffering to seek help immediately. Why punish yourself for a disease you have no control over? You would not expect a diabetic to just “grin and bear it” to keep their blood sugar stable. Why would we expect ourselves to be able to do the same thing with another unseen illness?”
“I waited too long, 13 months! The thought of not breastfeeding and thinking I would just get better on my own plus I thought they would take away my baby stopped me. I’m glad I got the help I needed!”
“I suffered much longer than necessary. I kept telling myself that the postpartum depression/anxiety would just go away … and instead it just kept getting worse. I still mourn the loss of the time I could have been enjoying my babies, and instead, I was a complete mess.”
“Not only did I wait 15 months to seek help, I denied myself relief for another 3 months because I believed in mind over matter, or in this case mind over meds! But within 4 days of taking meds, I felt so MUCH better!”
“I suffered postpartum depression for a year-and-a-half before I asked to be put on meds. There is such a stigma. I felt as though because I made the choice to have kids I should deal with it – even though I was drowning silently…”
“I waited until about 3+ months. Knew there was something wrong, but blamed the anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed on my son’s colic & 1-month-long hospital stay/ICU experience when he was 2 months old. After he came home healthy, the severepanic attacks took over until I was barely functioning. Seven med trials, 2 psychiatrists, an ER visit, a hospital stay, & FINALLY I found someone who knew what PPD was & succesfully treated my full-blown panic disorder & severe depression. Meds are not an easy choice, nor is it any easier when your body violently rejects SSRI’s, but I kept fighting the fight not for myself but for my son. I had long given up on myself during that year. Combo of therapy, [meds], increased support, other women who related, my diet, exercise, supplements, accupuncture, etc. & I can finally say that there is light at the end. My PPD experience & the choices I was forced to make made me realize a raw, inner strength I never knew I possessed.”
“I tried medication about 5 months after having my son and I didn’t like how it made me feel so I didn’t take it and decided I felt better off of meds then on. I never made a follow up appointment with my Dr. like I was supposed to. I kept on going, trying to survive, pretending everything was ok. When my son was just over a year and my postpartum depression had run my life into the ground and ruined my relationship with my husband, I went back in to my Dr. and tried a different medication. It was like magic. I felt a difference almost immediately. I wish I would have gone back sooner and communicated with my Dr.”
These are just a few of the comments. There were moms who were afraid they’d become addicted. Moms who had bad side effects. Moms who had incorrect diagnoses. Moms for whom the first med didn’t work, or the second or the third. (FYI, I’m sure moms could say the same thing about their fear or anxiety around therapy if they’ve never done it before.)
I don’t share this with you to say that medication is your answer. It may or may not be. Maybe therapy is your answer. Maybe a combination of both is your answer. Maybe you have mild postpartum depression and need neither. Maybe you need something else. I share these women’s comments with you so that you’ll know how many others who’ve been in your shoes are/were scared too, but they opened themselves up for treatment anyway and are glad they did.