Every now and then I get an email from a mom that reinforces why we need so much more awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, even among physicians. I’ve reprinted the email here, with permission:
I reached out and reached out again and again, but was told that I do not have depression. Because I took care of my household (a little too much, by the way … I cleaned and cleaned) and because I felt close to my daughter, my family physician said I didn’t have postpartum depression and that I should not worry about my visions and thoughts.
I thought I was going crazy. Maybe it was just in my head. It felt to me almost like I needed to know my own diagnosis to find the right doctor. I eventually talked to my OB/GYN — by that time my little girl was more than two years old — and he misinterpreted what I was telling him. I told him without sugar coating it what I visually saw (intrusive thoughts). I told him the truth because I was so desperate for help and thought I had nothing to lose, and the truth landed me in a closed psychiatric unit.
There, everyone treated me like a 2-year-old. It was tough to be heard there because they were like, “Oh, yes, we understand,” all the while acting like I was crazy and as if they had heard that story before. But I felt sane and really violated. Finally, thanks to my cell phone and my husband, I left the locked unit not long after I was admitted. I was finally able to see someone who listened and thought I had postpartum PTSD.
Now I have found someone who thinks I had or have postpartum OCD. Here’s the back story: At 24 weeks, I fell down some steps. I went to the hospital and later found out I’d suffered placental abruption. From that time on I didn’t know whether my baby would be okay. My husband was in Iraq and I couldn’t call him. I am an immigrant and didn’t have any friends or family where I lived, because we had just moved to Indianapolis from overseas.
At 29 weeks I was placed on total bed rest due to preterm contractions and thankfully, my husband was able to come home to take care of me. I made it to week 36 and my little girl was born at 36 weeks and 3 days. The birth was not ideal — there were five failed vacuum assisted attempts, an emergency c-section, and my daughter had to be revived because she had no signs of life. She and I recovered physically really quickly, but my therapist said that my non-stop valid worries about her life and safety (during pregnancy and birth and afterward) developed into OCD. It makes sense to me. Now I just have to deal with it. It feels good to know the cause (the source of my postpartum OCD) besides knowing what I had (my horrible visions). Now, I am approaching the next step and I do feel that I can do this – it is just not easy, but you know that.
My daughter is 29 months old now and I was just diagnosed a few months ago! I so wish the OB/GYN’s would hand out information prior to birth to soon-to-be moms and dads with descriptions of the various postpartum illnesses, so that women and men wouldn’t have to walk in the dark searching for answers and help.