Mums Health | My personal experience with perinatal anxiety and depression
Next week is PANDA week, 10th to 16th November, and in support of the week I have decided to share with you all my very own experiencing with antenatal anxiety and postnatal depression.
So let’s take it back to my pregnancy with Max. I can honestly say that my anxiety started the minute I found out I was pregnant. After the initial excitement, I began to worry about the health and wellbeing of my baby. I was so anxious about miscarrying, and I remember every day I would be touching my boobs to make sure they were still tender (that was my main early pregnancy symptom). Anyway, I got through the first trimester and had a blissful few weeks where I thought I was past the worst of the anxiety until I got my first-trimester screen results back. My results indicated that while my risk for trisomy 18 and 21 was low, I had markers that were abnormal called Low PAPP-A.
Now, this was a whole new thing to me, when I was working as a midwife this wasn’t something that was assessed in the first-trimester screen, so I thought I would jump on old mate Google and check out what it was all about. What I found out was that it was associated with placental insufficiency, fetal growth restriction, and stillbirth.
Well, that basically did me for my whole pregnancy. I was convinced that this little babe growing in my tummy was to survive. I was certain I was going to have a stillborn. The thing is, all my midwife and doctor checks were excellent, he was growing well, so very active and there was no indication of anything going wrong. But this is the thing with anxiety, is it’s irrational. It doesn’t sense logic, and you find yourself pouring over these made-up or catastrophised thoughts. It’s horrible.
Anyway, much to my surprise, I gave birth to a perfectly healthy little boy on the 6th April 2015 after a very quick labour were I nearly popped him out on the Tullamarine Freeway in Melbourne (that’s a whole other story!)
Life was pretty sweet for a few weeks after having Max. I actually describe those first two weeks as euphoric. I was on cloud 9 and honestly felt high as a kite. I was so very tired but a concoction of hormones was keeping me going, and I actually remember thinking how easy it all felt.
Then the bubble burst, and it burst HARD. When those hormones that had been keeping me going settled, I crashed so very hard. I remember this one day where my sister came over and I was literally having a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t focus, it felt like I wasn’t attached to my body. I was physically there, but mentally I was somewhere else. Deep in my thoughts. I remember thinking I was going to need to go to a psych unit and be hospitalised to get myself right. That anxious day was the only one I can really remember, but from there came
my depressive symptoms began
The symptoms that stood out most to me were:
Hypersomnia- no matter how much I slept, I couldn’t get enough of it. I was constantly so tired beyond ‘normal’ post-baby tiredness
Insomnia- I would feed Max then sometimes lay awake until his next feed, getting increasingly more anxious and unsettled as I knew the time was coming up.
Reduced hunger- I was never hungry, although when I ate I ate terribly, which didn’t help
Loss of enjoyment in things- I am naturally an extrovert, but the thought of socialising didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to lock myself away from the world
Anger and irritability- I was so angry, resentful and irritable, and Ryan often bore the brunt of this.
Inability to cope with Max crying- I was super sensitive to his cry, and it would cause me to panic.
No motivation to do anything. I would just sit in my PJs all day, waiting for Max’s next nap so I could sleep again.
Pretty shit existence right? Never once did I not love my baby, that was never a worry. But was I excited to do the things motherhood requires, oh hell no. Just existing was exhausting. I get really emotional as I talk about this because it honestly brings up a very sad and traumatic part of my life.
But the good news is I got through it. With the support of my colleagues from the Enhanced MCH service I was working, they referred me to a G.P and a psychologist. I started with a psychologist which was very therapeutic, however, I only felt ‘good’ for the day or two following our consults. After that, the darkness would return.
3 months this went on until finally, Ryan was the one that said something needs to change. Ryan has taken long service leave from work because I was struggling so much. We had no other support in Melbourne so it was up to him. We decided we would fill the script the G.P had given me for antidepressants. This was such a tough choice, but man oh man if I had known what they were going to do to me, I would have taken them straight away! They took 4 weeks to ‘kick in’, but when they did, I was BACK!
I was motivated to potter around the kitchen and house doing things, making meals, food prepping etc. I am innately like to keep busy kind of gal so this was huge from where I had come from. I was enjoying Max’s awake time, and not needing to sleep every chance I got. I was better able to read, understand and support his cues, and the anger subsided. It was the most relief I have ever felt in my life (okay maybe except for the part when you don’t have to be in labour anymore lol).
Anyway, there you have it, my own personal experience of having PND. I hope my story helps other’s gain some clarity on why they may be feeling the way they are, and give them the confidence to seek help.
Thank you so much for joining me in today's episode, guys. I hope that you enjoyed it. If you did, please head on over to your podcasts streaming app, whether that's Apple or Spotify, and leave me a review. I want this podcast to get to as many ears as possible so that other mums, who might be having the same questions as you can, find a little bit of information to help their parenting journey along. And you know what? While you're over there leaving a review, please feel free to subscribe so you don't miss a single one of my episodes and don't forget to hit me up on my socials, Facebook and Instagram @jenbutlerearlyparenting. Can't wait to bring you your next episode. I'll see you back here again then.