Talking to My Doctor*
* for some women, this may be a Midwife or Nurse Practitioner
I was nervous going to see my family doctor. I’d heard stories from other women in situations like mine where their doctors had said things like, “I told you it wasn’t going to be easy” or “what were you expecting?” I hoped my doctor would be more understanding, and she was.
After listening to my story and reviewing my score on the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale, my doctor told me she thought I did have postpartum depression. She also thought I had some signs of anxiety. We talked about the many challenges and changes that make depression and anxiety more likely during this time than at other times in a woman’s life. She told me that all kinds of women across the world can get depressed and anxious during pregnancy or after childbirth. She explained that there were many reasons that the chances are higher for some women.
“I was obsessed with knowing what caused my postpartum depression because I thought it was something I was doing wrong—my character—my personality, etc.”
P.H., West Vancouver
- 1 in 5 women (20%) are depressed during pregnancy or within the first year after the birth of a baby.
- Depression after the birth of a baby is most common.
- 1 in 2 women (50%) who are depressed during their pregnancy, also get depressed after the birth of their baby.
If I really am depressed, why do I feel so anxious?
I kept checking on my baby every 5 minutes. I worried about every little thing. Each day would involve new thoughts and most of them were scary. There was no rhyme or reason behind them. They just happened. I was afraid to talk to anyone about it because I thought they would think I was crazy and not fit to be a mother. I worried it might mean my baby would be taken away from me. This was almost worse than being depressed.
“The better I looked on the outside, the worse I felt on the inside. No one had a clue how I was feeling.”
R.R., Powell River
When I told my doctor, she explained it is common for new mothers to feel anxious. However, when the anxiety begins to get in the way of being able to enjoy a new baby or carry out everyday activities, it’s more than usual worries of being a new mom. She said the anxiety that goes along with depression during pregnancy, or after the birth of a baby, is what makes it feel different than a depression experienced at other times in a woman’s life.
She explained that a woman can have different kinds of anxiety without being depressed. But she warned that if a woman doesn’t get help for her anxiety, it frequently leads to depression because the anxiety makes her situation seem more overwhelming.
My mother told me I would snap out of it. Is this true?
My doctor told me that depression during pregnancy or in the postpartum period can affect any woman. There are many myths about it, like you can just “snap out” of it. This is not true. This is a serious illness which needs to be treated. Untreated, it can affect every aspect of your life and ruin relationships. It is important that women get help for the sake of themselves, their baby, and their loved ones.
“Anxiety is like a knot in your stomach that doesn’t let anything in. You’ve got your middle all tied up—the place where you felt so much—with the paralyzing anxiety. No wonder it was hard to eat, to feel love, to comprehend anything anyone said or anything I read. And imagine sleeping when the breath would not go down any further than my upper chest. I was a nervous wreck.”
I learned depression is treatable. It does not matter if a woman becomes depressed during pregnancy or in the postpartum period. There are many treatments and services available. There are also things I can do to help myself.
After I got home from the doctor’s office, I called the Pacific Post Partum telephone support line and told the counsellor about my doctor’s visit. She was very encouraging, telling me this was an important step in my journey to getting better.
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