help for postpartum depressionAnother in our open letter series to doctors.  This OB told our letter writer that her postpartum depression symptoms were just part of being a new mom. 

I received a call two weeks postpartum from the lactation consultant within my OB practice. I immediately broke down on the phone and told her I was not doing well. She dismissed it as “baby blues” and said, “It’s hormones and it will get better.”

At my 6-week postpartum checkup, I was worse. I complained of severe fatigue yet difficulty sleeping and excessive worrying about the baby. My obstetrician’s response? “That’s part of being a new mom.”

Things continued to get still worse for me. My severe fatigue continued, as well as poor sleep which eventually led to feelings of severe anxiety even though there was nothing to be anxious about. I started losing weight, and at about seven months postpartum I was down to 105 pounds. My resting heart rate was 97 beats per minute. Someone suggested an EEG. I completed that and it showed normal heart rhythms but an unusually high heart rate. I went back to my OB and told him about all my persisting symptoms. He then gave me a choice: to go to a sleep clinic for a sleep study or make a referral to cardiology. I chose cardiology.

My appointment with cardiology led to an echocardiogram. This then led to a trans-esophogeal echocardiogram because they suspected a possible hole in my heart. They had to put me under for this. My heart was perfectly fine. I received a clean bill of health but unfortunately felt no better.

By this point I began to understand how some people commit suicide. I couldn’t imagine going through the rest of my life feeling this way. With this thought, I gave in and felt my last resort was to reach out on my own to have my mental health assessed.

Thankfully I followed my instinct. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was all somehow connected to pregnancy and having a baby since I never had any of these issues prior to having my daughter. I was fortunate enough to find a nurse practitioner at another OB clinic in my town that specialized in women’s mental health. I made an appointment.

By this time, my daughter’s first birthday was just a month away. I had been suffering for months and months. I met with the nurse practitioner and within two visits she diagnosed me with postpartum depression and started me on medication paired with counseling. She warned me that I had gone so long being sick that it was going to take longer for my brain to rehabilitate and heal. After two months on medication and therapy I started to feel like myself again and I eventually got my life back. That nurse practitioner saved my life.

My daughter will be three years old in four months, and I’m ten weeks away from my due date with our second daughter. I have been off my meds the entire pregnancy and feeling great. I have since changed OBs to the same clinic where my nurse practitioner works. They have been wonderful and have addressed mood and proactive treatment with an antidepressant as soon as I deliver.

Postpartum depression is a serious illness, not something to be dismissed. I hope continued research and education leads to holistic care for all women postpartum.
~ Brooke M.
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