Surviving Postpartum Depression First Hand

by Shellie Spradlin

Why are people afraid to admit they have Postpartum Depression (PPD)? Why has the general public made something that happens to most women so shameful? Because all women suffer differently, it is not fair to generically label them. Some suffer severe PPD, while others suffer from the "baby blues" which is not considered PPD at all but a temporary depressed state nonetheless.

One of the mistakes that health care providers make during prenatal and postnatal visits is that the issue isn't really brought up. It might be if you're lucky at your postnatal exam. Wouldn't it better if the expectant mother and husband/partner were educated on what might happen and what to expect? Actions like this might have prevented such tragedies as the mother of 5 in Texas.

A mother in Texas, diagnosed with severe Postpartum Psychosis, killed her 5 children. Does this add to the fear of admission? Now, because of her severe actions, will we be in trouble if we admit to being depressed after the birth of our children? Will we be automatically judged as dangerous? The father of those 5 children had no idea what was going on; he only knew that she had been depressed. With better education about postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, there's a chance he would have known that her depression signaled a larger problem and the disaster could have been diverted.

There are many men and women who do not even know the symptoms, risk factors, tips for keeping depression under control or non-existent. We have three stories besides my own below for you to read and experience.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression include:

  1. Uncontrollable crying and persistent sadness
  2. Anxiety, panic attacks
  3. Inability to sleep, despite fatigue and exhaustion
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Restlessness
  6. Irritability, moodiness
  7. Feelings of guilt- feeling that you’re a bad mother
  8. Lack of interest in your child
  9. Difficulty in concentrating
  10. Loss of interest in thing that were pleasurable
  11. Excessive anxiety over child's health

Some women have a higher chance of suffering from postpartum depression. This does not mean that if a woman suffers from any of the risk factors that she will have PPD. Many women experience some of them and never get depressed, while one or two can cause depression in other woman. If you have any of the risk factors listed. We urge you to take preventive steps before your baby is born to find support through a group, family or friends.

Here are the risk factors:

  • A family history of depression
  • Anxiety or depression during pregnancy
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Marital problems (divorce/separation)
  • History of severe pms
  • Early childhood trauma/or abuse
  • Life changes such as job loss or a big move
  • No support from spouse/partner, parents/in-laws or friends

My Postpartum Depression

I was one of the women who had heard of this, but never really paid attention. You know the drill, -- Oh that won't happen to me." Well, after the birth of my third child, I started showing symptoms of PPD. Of course I had no clue that I was experiencing symptoms of PPD. I thought that it was all due to the death of my father only 2 weeks before finding out I was pregnant. I had gone through depression my whole pregnancy, and the stress was unimaginable.

I was overjoyed by her birth, but also terrified that something would happen to her. I constantly feared that she would stop breathing and I wouldn't know it. I never slept, I was either up with her or watching her breathe. When I did manage to fall asleep from sheer exhaustion I would awaken in an instant panic attack just knowing that she was dead. That would lead to more loss of sleep because what if the next time I fell asleep she stopped breathing or got choked. When I would fall asleep from exhaustion again, the cycle would start all over. If I heard of a baby dying it would kick my panic into overdrive and I would become even more "protective."

Driving a car was another huge ordeal. I just knew that everyone was out to hit me, but only when I had the baby with me. I would be a mess by the time I got back home. It is amazing how now I can look back and see the obvious signs that I struggled through. I didn't see it then, it didn't really dawn on me completely until Lyndsey was almost a year old.

In June 2001 I visited my OB and told him how my life had become. I was a constant prisoner to depression and anxiety, with no hope for release with out help. I was put on Celexa to ease the symptoms that I was having and I made a complete turnaround. My life is finally mine again. I can enjoy everyday, whether it is good or bad.

I was ashamed by what I was feeling. So many women are made to feel shame for being anxious or depressed after the birth of their baby. Everyone who hasn't experienced this type of depression does not understand why, with a beautiful baby you could ever be unhappy. I hope that by putting this article together it will bring some understanding to the condition, and help everyone to understand that it is real situation that affects real women. We aren't just statistics, I am real with real feelings and so is every other woman who experiences PPD.

Shellie Spradlin is a long time Pregnancy.org contributor and beloved member. As mom to three beautiful girls, two boys and a 1995 angel baby, Shellie has experienced both the pains and discomforts of pregnancy along with the excitement and joys! Shellie resides with her family in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky.

Copyright © Shellie Spradlin. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org LLC.