Postpartum Depression

On March 9th of this year, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. I fell in love with her instantly. I know it’s said that it doesn’t always happen that way, but it did for me. And so it came as a surprise when mere days later I was in tears, overly anxious and feeling quite helpless. Shouldn’t I be happy? Exhausted and tired, yes, but shouldn’t I be celebrating life rather than being an emotional wreck? I had just brought new life into this world.

I watched my husband with out daughter and I felt a pang of jealousy. How could he take to parenthood so easily while I seemed to struggle? In my usual way, I put on a brave face and tried to be strong. I couldn’t stop the tears though. Everyone told me it was normal but to keep an eye on it. Give it two weeks. If I was still feeling low after four weeks, I was advised to talk to my doctor.

When the anxiety failed to lift and the tearfulness continued beyond those four weeks, I began to worry. I couldn’t possibly have Postpartum Depression, could I? I harbored no thoughts of harming myself or my baby. I did not feel distant from her. I told myself that my anxiety, sense of helplessness and guilt were merely normal reactions to being a first time parent. It didn’t matter that I was having trouble sleeping and had lost my pregnancy weight in no time flat because I wasn’t eating. Wasn’t my lack of energy and motivation and my irritability a result of lack of sleep and nourishment? I didn’t have time to take care of myself because I was so busy caring for my little girl. I warred with myself, hesitating to call my doctor because I could easily rationalize how I was feeling. Add to that a feeling of shame that I was having such a hard time dealing with being a mother, for feeling so much anxiety and helplessness.

I actually wasn’t going to say anything to my doctor at all but when I went in for my 6 week postpartum appointment, my doctor asked me a simple question about sleep and I burst into tears. Then it all came out.  I told her about everything I’d been feeling, right down to how afraid I was to leave the house.  She prescribed more sleep and told me to make a point of eating. She told me to rest, not to exercise other than walking and advised me not to do any housework but rather hand it over to family. She said no stress (with a move coming at that time, I knew that was impossible). If in a week I wasn’t feeling better to contact her and we would take it from there. She also suggested I talk to a hospital social worker specializing in Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum Depression often goes undiagnosed for several weeks, even months, after the birth of a child. Medical personnel are more aware of the condition these days and so try and identify it early on, sometimes even before a child is born. There is no known cause for Postpartum Depression although there are several risk factors that may lead to it. A history of depression, a traumatic event or excessive stress during or after pregnancy, hormonal changes, and a lack of support are among the risk factors.

Many symptoms of Postpartum Depression are quite normal during the first two to three weeks after the birth of a child and are referred to as the Baby Blues. If symptoms last beyond that, however, there is cause to worry. Postpartum Depression is not uncommon but it does need attention as it can have a lasting impact on the mother, the child and the family unit. It is a very real illness, one worth seeking help for. There are medications as well as counseling services available to women who may need it.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression may include
Lack of interest in your baby
Negative feelings towards your baby
Worrying about hurting your baby
Lack of concern for yourself
Loss of pleasure
Lack of energy and motivation
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Changes in appetite or weight
Sleeping more or less than usual
Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Not all women will experience all of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression. I had mistakenly thought that Postpartum Depression meant wanting to harm oneself or her baby–when in reality, that is often not the case. In fact, women feeling suicidal or wanting to harm their babies more than likely suffer from Postpartum Psychosis and should seek help immediately.

In the end, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression, and it is something my husband and I will have to keep a close eye on in coming weeks and months. At this time, I am not on medication and seem to be managing okay. My husband and I are doing what we can to try to combat it.  I am getting better at asking for help when I need it, something that doesn’t come easy for me. I am lucky in that my case of Postpartum Depression seems to be mild. And I hope it stays that way. If it gets worse, however, I know that I will need to seek further help. Ultimately, it is nothing to be ashamed of as it affects many women. And it is treatable. In retrospect, I am glad I broke down in front of my doctor rather than keeping it all bottled up inside. I wasn’t so quick to accept the diagnosis, but now that I have, I am able to move forward.  I am working through it and most of the time recognize that I am not such a bad mother after all.

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Amber Teething Necklaces

At risk of sounding like a hippie, I am totally in love with my Son’s amber teething necklace!

If you havent heard of them, Amber teething necklaces are made for wearing (not chewing) when a baby is teething. The warmth from the skin releases the active ingredient in the Amber, called succinic acid. Recent research suggests that this can improve immunity, help reduce drooling and soothe red cheeks. Amber’s anti-inflammatory properties are said to help relieve teething pain and calm a baby without the use of drugs

I had friends who have used these teething necklaces on their babies since they were really young, and i was always a little bit sceptical.  I thought they looked really cute on baby girls, but i was not about to whack a necklace on my cloth wearing, co-sleeping, attachment parented baby boy, for fear of really becoming a hippie.

And then we had – what is now referred to in our house as – the week of horror.  We had just successfully completed baby boot camp and got our little man out of our bed and into his cot, where he was sleeping through the night, without kicking Mummy in the face. All was going well, i even felt human!! Then the dreaded teeth started. My son woke every 40 minutes, had neurofen, panadol, and a homoeopathic remedy that smelt and tasted like cola and to this day i have no real belief that it works. We paced and we fed and we bathed him in the middle of the night, i sung twinkle twinkle until my voice was hoarse, and two days later we had a front tooth poke through the gum, we held a breath and went to bed that night hoping we would get at least three hours sleep, and we did! He slept through and so did Mummy and Daddy. We thought we had done it, but the following night it happened all over again. So in desperation i bought an amber teething necklace. By the time it arrived we had a second tooth through the gum and we were back to sleeping through, but i put it on anyway and we ghave all happily co-existed ever since.

Until this week. My son’s childcare has developed a no jewelry policy and so i took his little necklace off as i dropped him off, and when Daddy picked him up, he called to say that my son had a teething / dribble rash all down his chin. From four hours with out it!! We have cut three teeth in the teething necklace without so much as a grizzle, no panadol, no demeted midnight singing, or twilight bathing. It really is a little miracle!!

Due to the no jewellery policy and my mature outlook on life, i hide it on him on childcare days, i tuck it right into his singlet, and so far no dribble rashes, and Mummy and Daddy and my gorgeous teething toddler, live happily ever after.

Health Direct Australia

Health Direct Australia

1800 022 222

Health Direct Australia is a free 24 hour service that puts you in contact with a qualified registered nurse to ask medical/health questions.

The 24-hour telephone health advice line is currently available to residents of the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia
*Calls from landlines are free.
*Mobile charges may apply

This service has been invaluable to us over the last year. We have rung them over minor and more serious stuff. We have barely had to wait which is great and we have called at all times of the night and day. The nurses are helpful and kind. They ask a series of questions to try to help establish what is wrong. For me one of the biggest values of this service is being able to talk to a professional without feeling stupid, or spending $80 plus to see a GP and be told “it’s just a cold”, or it’s after hours and there is no GP to humbug but you’re not sure if you should go to the Emergency Department.

My advice; mention EVERYTHING. Even if it seems minor mention it. It will help the nurse give you the right advice. Sometimes something as simple as diarrhea could make the difference between something serious or minor. If the problem makes a sound (for instance coughing) try and get the nurse to her it as well.

If you’re in Australia, I would highly recommend this service especially if it is after hours or you cannot get into your GP. For our over seas readers I would strongly urge asking your child health nurse or local Government Health Department and see if a similar service exists.

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