Postpartum Depression

Post-partum depression is a heavy topic. On a blog meant to uplift and encourage, I don’t want to scare any of you away with a topic that is itself, depressing. But as I get closer to having our baby, it is something that I have been thinking about a lot. I have struggled with it myself in the past, and watched dear friends wrestle with it as well. So my plan, for the month of June, is to use my Monday posts to talk about the things that have been helpful for me in the past. The timing works well, too. As I get ready to have our baby, I will using these weeks to think through my own game-plan for possibly dealing with this again.

Ironically, with this first post, I’m going to say what I would normally say at the end of a discussion like this, but I think it’s important, especially on the internet, to be very clear. I think PPD is serious business. I struggled with it slightly with several of my children, but then with our special-needs baby, suffered more severely. PPD is usually medicated, out of concern for both mom and baby, and I want to start by talking about that a little bit.

I believe that PPD can often be overcome without medication. I think OBs are much too quick to hand out medicine without helping women explore other options. I believe that anti-depressants are addictive (since one of the side-effects of getting off the drugs is depression), and should be handled with much more care than they are today.

However, I also believe that there are cases where drugs are very necessary. When you are in the scary place of thinking about harming yourself or your baby, intervention is needed. Just as God has given us dominion over the earth in areas of farming, He has also given us dominion in areas of science, and we should use the drugs available to us when they are needed.

In my next two posts, I want to talk about strategies for dealing with PPD that don’t involve medication. I want to give women options for dealing with the physical and spiritual effects of the extreme hormonal changes that happen in your body in the weeks and months after having a baby. I do not believe that God has left us without recourse in these areas, and want to share with you the things that have been helpful for me.

I will finish up for today by telling you a little of my journey after H was born, and the decisions we made.

I struggled with PPD for about five months, from H’s 3rd month birthday until she was about 8 months old. It started with things I had dealt with before—feeling overwhelmed, feeling like I couldn’t take care of all these kids, having no idea how to delegate my time productively, not feeling like I could face many more days of this. As the months passed, however, it grew worse. My husband would come home to find me crying in the rocker as I nursed the baby, and telling him that the older children had been watching TV since noon. I couldn’t make normal, everyday things happen. Dinner was a struggle. Nursing the baby was sad. Doctor’s appointments made me feel like I could do nothing right. I struggled with feeling like I was useless, and therefore, had no reason to live. By the time Christmas arrived, I was a basket-case, and I’m sure my husband was close. But God was gracious to me. For two weeks at Christmas, we spent time visiting our old church, and then spent time with my family. During those weeks, I received much counsel, both from our pastor, several godly older women, some dear friends my own age, and lastly, my father, who is a physician. With all this counsel, I felt like I had weapons in my hands that could help me deal with the depression. My husband and I decided that I would not go on medication (which was what we had decided would happen after Christmas if nothing changed for me), and that instead I would concentrate on the advice and spiritual encouragement and prodding I had received. God worked through these means, and by mid-March, I was feeling like a normal person again.

The thought of struggling through that again absolutely terrifies me. Because of that, I want to spend time now thinking about how I will combat this if it comes back. By putting my strategies onto paper for you, I’m mostly preaching to myself—I want to use these tools that I have found to be effective in the past, and pray that God will spare me and my family the trauma of severe depression.

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6 Responses to Postpartum Depression

  1. Sara H. says:

    I just read Nancy Wilson’s essay on PPD in her book “Building Her House: Commonsensical Wisdom for Christian Women” and found it very helpful. Also pregnant, I am facing some of the same questions about whether I will be able to cope with another child, if my emotions will go haywire this time, how long it will last, etc. Nancy Wilson reminds us that if we expect to get PPD, we will get it. If we trust God and focus on Him, He will be our shield and protection even if we do have to battle PPD.

    Thank you for the reminder that God and the Biblical wisdom and counsel He provides through fellow Christians is what gets us through ALL hard times in life. Makes worrying useless!

  2. Evie H. says:

    Wow! I am very excited about your next posts. I struggled with PPD a little after having my little boy. I however just thought it was normal depression because I had no desire to hurt my son. I just was dealing with the outcome of the birth, a c-section. I am constantly looking for ideas though for when I have another baby.

  3. Christine Miller says:

    Everything you do and think or don’t do will affect the amount of good sleep you get. Not getting enough good sleep produces depression of some degree. This is not just true of postpartum but all the time. Your body is just trying to tell you it needs more rest! In my 16 years of having 5 children, I made my life revolve around me and my children getting enough good sleep. This meant keeping nap schedules that curtailed stuff we would have loved to do, saying no to some foods that tasted wonderful but were too stimulating, working hard to get enough water, fresh air and exercise. And it took practicing good mental hygiene in thinking on good things and refusing to dwell on fearful, worrisome thoughts. Of course, we did it very imperfectly, but the goal of good sleep was ever present. Trying to do too much was always my cause of PPD which I experienced mildly with my last two babies.

  4. Pingback: Postpartum Depression, Part 2 | Everything to Someone

  5. Michal says:

    Thanks for tackling this difficult subject, Anna. I thought I had PPD after Zion was born. I’ve since learned it was probably actually post-partum thyroiditis, which can produce many of the same symptoms. But the depression was accompanied by borderline OCD behavior and excessive weight loss.

    Now that I’m expecting again, I’ve been a little fearful that I will run up against those same problems again. The depression was crippling. I was irrational, fearful, even paranoid. Maybe the treatment would be different from a medical standpoint, but I suspect your thoughts will be valuable to me from a spiritual and emotional standpoint.

    I also think you handled the question of medication admirably. We should be reticent to medicate, and tread carefully, but the medication is there for a reason. Anyway, thanks for writing!

    • Anna says:

      Michal, I was so happy to hear about your pregnancy. The thyroiditis is something that I’ve only just begun to think about, having now heard a couple people mention it. Sometime, I’d really like to hear what you’ve learned. I’m normally hypothyroid, so always on medication, and I wonder what happens with that after a baby’s born. I’ve never had my dosages adjusted or anything in the post-partum period. Love to you and your family!

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