Pregnant and Depressed? It’s More Common Than You May Think
Getting a positive pregnancy test is usually cause for celebration. I know many women who struggle with infertility and want nothing more than a positive pregnancy test.
My first pregnancy was extremely challenging, wrought with severe nausea and anxiety that I tried to manage on my own.
My firstborn son was a very fussy baby and had severe, recurrent croup, which made the first two years of his life really hard. Needless to say, my husband and I felt a bit nervous about the idea of getting pregnant again.
We had decided to wait to grow our family until we were settled in Grand Rapids after a cross-country move.
SURPRISE! Pregnant, Again.
And then a few days after moving to Michigan, I discovered I was pregnant; cue the severe nausea. It was much harder the second time around dealing with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea and more), taking care of a busy two year old, and trying to unpack what felt like three trillion moving boxes.
My spirits were plummeting and I cried all the time. Every morning before my husband left to go to his new job, I would sob. I felt so overwhelmed trying to face another day caring for our son when I felt like I could barely take care of myself. My husband was not sure what to do besides call from work to check in and express a lot of compassion.
Do I Have Pregnancy Depression?
At first, we thought maybe I was just hormonal, but after a few weeks of this my husband and I began to wonder if I was depressed… Looking back, the signs seem so obvious, but it’s hard to identify your own depression when you are engulfed in an emotional smog.
I ended up seeing a Pine Rest therapist, twice in one week, to be exact. But the counseling appointments did not seem to be enough: I was spiraling lower and lower.
Did you know depression actually hurts? To experience unrelenting hopelessness feels almost too much to bear. The good news is, there is HOPE.
My therapist showed me a flyer for Pine Rest’s Mother & Baby Program, a short-term, intensive, daily treatment program for women experiencing significant perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD).
(PMAD is a fancy term for depression, anxiety, irritability and mood swings experienced by pregnant women or women up to two years postpartum.)
I learned there are only a few programs like the Mother & Baby Program in the entire country and it is technically called a “partial hospitalization” program. At the time, the idea of attending any form of a hospitalized program completely freaked me out.
I Don’t Need Help! …Do I??
I left her office angry that she thought I needed that program and with a very bruised ego.
I had this idea in my head that I was “too normal” to attend a Pine Rest Program. With a background in human services, I thought of myself as the helper, not the one needing to accept help.
As I drove home from that appointment, I began praying and asking God to please help me. This had been a frequent plea from me at that time. After praying for awhile, I began to realize the help I had been praying for was probably going to come in the form of the Mother & Baby Program. I went home and talked it over with my husband and we decided I would try out the program.
Recovery Is Possible
The Mother & Baby program includes childcare for babies up to one year old, but that meant I had to line up child care for my toddler. My mom rearranged her life in a big way and spent each day taking care of my toddler so I could attend the program for about a week and a half.
I approached Pine Rest on my first day extremely hesitantly. I had this stereotype in my head that each mom there was going to look completely disheveled and basically like a lunatic. Was I ever surprised when I got to the group therapy room!
The moms looked normal. If I saw them at Target, I would never in my life think they needed to be in a Pine Rest Program. I texted my husband right away, “None of them look crazy. I’m so surprised.”
The Mother & Baby Program area is decorated in a warm, inviting manner, outfitted with pretty pastel walls and cozy rocking chairs with comfortable footrests. The staff was so nice, warm and caring.
At first, I felt so ashamed that I needed to be at Pine Rest, like it was something I could have controlled or somehow my fault I was so depressed. It helped a lot when one of the case managers told me, “You are so brave for choosing to be here. You are a great mom for taking this step to take care of yourself.”
I recently got in touch with Kerri Van Weelden, another Pine Rest case manager, and she said this about working in the Mother & Baby Program:
“Working in the Mother & Baby Program is incredibly fulfilling as new moms are very motivated to get better and understand why they don’t feel like themselves…It is an honor to walk along side new moms as they adjust to being a new mom.”
Through the incredible, comprehensive treatment at Pine Rest, I was able to recover much more quickly than if I were in traditional, outpatient therapy. Over 500 women have now gone through the Mother & Baby Program and the average length of stay is only 7 days. Within 5-7 days of being in the program, women show significant improvement with their symptoms.
I learned valuable coping skills in the program that I still use in many situations today, like practicing mindfulness, positive affirmations and self-care. I also learned how important it is to give myself A LOT of grace.
I am incredibly grateful to my husband, family and friends for their support, as well. I have been blessed in many ways and cannot credit my recovery to my own personal grit. I can say, however, that in order to improve my situation it took some humility to accept that I needed help and to receive the help that was offered.
I am sharing my story because I know I’m not the only mom out there dealing with this. I know there are women reading these words who are struggling and not sure where to turn. Maybe you are pregnant with your first child and you are feeling depressed. Perhaps you just had your fourth baby and you are extremely irritable and anxious. Maybe you are frustrated at obsessive, intrusive thoughts you are having or you are feeling completely hopeless…
Please know, sweet mama, you are NOT alone. You are braver and stronger than you think you are. Start today and take one step toward getting help. Baby steps are still steps and each step will lead you toward recovery.
You will never regret making the choice to get the help you need. Over time, you WILL get better. Take a look below at some resources in our community.
You got this, Momma.
We’ve all heard about the “baby blues” and nearly all moms experience this to sum degree. According to Spectrum Health, up to 80% of all new moms experience the baby blues in the first two weeks postpartum. “Most often symptoms include unexpected crying and tearfulness, mild anxiety, restlessness, fatigue and mood changes. These symptoms will usually disappear in less than two weeks,” according to Spectrum Health.
BEYOND THE BABY BLUES
As a first time mom, my baby blues did not clear up after two weeks of bringing my baby home from the hospital. I didn’t know the signs and symptoms to be aware of the first time around.
If you are still experiencing symptoms related to anxiety, mood changes, depressions, etc. beyond the first two weeks with baby, it is likely you are experiencing postpartum depression. As my story illustrates, you can also experience these symptoms within pregnancy.
PAY ATTENTION TO THESE SIGNS & SYMPTOMS:
- Crying often, perhaps for no apparent reason
- Excessively worrying, particularly about your or baby’s health
- Experiencing feelings of anxiousness, panic or feeling out of control
- Unable to sleep or sleeping too much
- Noticeable changes in your appetite
- Struggling to care for or bond with your new baby
- Trouble concentrating
- Fearing you might harm your baby or yourself
- Experiencing troubling, disturbing thoughts and feelings
This is not an exhaustive list of PMAD symptoms. Unfortunately, some women do experience postpartum psychosis, as well. Between 10-20% of new moms experience postpartum depression, but only one in 1,000 women experiences postpartum psychosis (hallucinating, bizarre feelings, extreme behaviors, etc.).
Do not let guilt or shame keep you from getting help. If you broke your hip, you would not feel guilty receiving proper treatment. The same should be true for your mental health.
Click the toggle below for resources to help you within our West Michigan community.
- 24/7 SUPPORT LINE: If you are struggling or have questions, day or night, call 1/844-MOM-HOPE (1/844-666-4673) to talk to a PMAD clinician. They will help you determine what steps you might need to take.
- Mother & Baby Program Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services offers an incredible, short-term, partial hospitalization program for mothers. It was greatly beneficial to me personally and for women suffering from PPD, there is a nursery on-site. For more information, call the Pine Rest Contact Center at 616-455-9200 or 800-678-5500.
- Not all women struggling with mood disorders need intensive treatment. Some women may simply need weekly counseling or to connect to a support group. To schedule an outpatient appointment through Pine Rest, call 866-852-4001. There are other great outpatient therapists in West Michigan, as well. Talk to your primary care provider for referrals.
- Maternal Infant Health Program: They provide free services to pregnant women and families with infants, including home visits before and after baby is born. They also are a resource for coordinating services, including parenting education and counseling. Call 616-632-7058 for more information.
- MomsBloom in Grand Rapids is a wonderful, nonprofit organization that helps families flourish. MomsBloom’s skilled volunteers provide in-home services to families struggling during the postpartum period.
- Some of their in-home services include assistance with newborn care, meal preparation and light household tasks, infant feeding support, parent-infant bonding assistance, sibling care and more. Call them at 616-828-1021 for more information.
BOOKS & ARTICLES
- Spectrum Health’s article, “Caring for the Mother: Physically and Emotionally“
- The Postpartum Husband: Practical solutions for living with PPD, written by Karen Kleinman
- Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression, written by Shoshana Bennett and Pec Indman
- Postpartum Depression for Dummies, written by Shoshana Bennett
- U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services’ article, “Depression During and After Pregnancy“
- The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook: Practical Skills to Help You Overcome Anxiety, Worry, Panic Attacks, Obsessions, and Compulsions, written by Pamela S. Wiegartz