“Don’t worry, lots of women go on to have more children after a postpartum depression and anxiety diagnosis, just give it time.”
I sat there in my doctor’s office stunned and offended. How dare she even suggest I’d go on to have more children while I was in the midst of what felt like hell on earth.
I was six weeks postpartum after my second baby and had just been diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD, PPA). I was having debilitating, paralyzing panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, and genuinely began to believe my husband and our two daughters would be better off without me. It was a really scary time for all of us and you can learn more about that part of our journey here.
Thankfully through intensive counseling, medication and an incredible support system, I recovered and we’ve gone on to thrive.
We’ve also gone on to have another baby. Our third daughter (yes, my husband is forever surrounded by women!) was born in October of 2021. She is the sweetest, happiest baby and the perfect addition to complete our family. Like any life-altering transition the last seven months have had their fair share of chaos. However, it has been by far the smoothest transition we’ve had and I credit a lot of that to what we learned c our second postpartum journey.
Here are FIVE ways we set our family up for a smoother transition.
- We did our research. It took me about a year to even consider having another child, but once that desire enters your heart it’s impossible to ignore. It was a decision we did NOT take lightly. I spoke with my OBGYN, my therapist, other women who had gone on to have children after suffering PPD/PPA, and we both scoured the internet for information. Women who have had a perinatal mood disorder like postpartum depression or anxiety are at higher risk of having it again. However, we felt confident going forward with the right support system and medical supervision in place.
- I stayed on my medication. I’ve always had anxiety. However, I was never on medication before my battle with PPD/PPA. My doctor prescribed me a low dose of an anti-depressant and it helped tremendously. It is a medication often prescribed to women who are pregnant or nursing, and both my OBGYN and therapist agreed the benefits of a mentally healthy mom outweighed any of the minimal risks. I noticed a big difference in my anxiety levels during pregnancy and did not suffer as intense of mood swings after delivery. This is a personal decision to be made with your medical provider, but for us, this made sense.
- I started planning for postpartum mental health treatment while I was still pregnant. Knowing I was at a higher risk for experiencing PPD/PPA again, my doctor and I made a proactive treatment plan. We discussed my mental health during each of my regular checkups during pregnancy. We also planned to increase my medication dosage and incorporate progesterone injections in the initial weeks following delivery if needed. I also scheduled a virtual therapy session with the therapist I saw during the height of my PPD/PPA struggle while I was still pregnant. We revisited coping strategies and scheduled two therapy sessions for after delivery so I could be closely monitored. Thankfully, we didn’t need to increase my medication, do progesterone injections, or have therapy beyond those two postpartum sessions, but it gave me incredible peace of mind knowing we had a plan of attack in place before baby was even born.
- I went straight to formula and bottles in the hospital. I know this one may cause some controversy so I want to say from the start: FED IS BEST. DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. I tried to nurse with my first two and let’s just say it did NOT go well. We saw lactation consultants, I took medication to increase my supply, I tried to exclusively pump with two kids two and under at home and when I look back at what I put myself through it’s no wonder my mental health suffered so much. Both my older girls transitioned to formula within the first couple of months. I learned that nursing and pumping were HUGE triggers for me. So, after a lot of thought, I decided to go straight to formula and bottles from the start this last time. It made such a difference. There were no feelings of failure, guilt or shame. In the past, feeding time had been a source of stress, anxiety, pain and dread. This time, she was happy and fed, gaining weight the way she should, and I came to love feeding time because of the deep bond I felt with her. There are times I still feel pangs of sadness that I was never able to nurse my babies. However in the end, this was by far the best decision we could have made and one I believe was instrumental in making for a much healthier transition.
- We front loaded and expanded our support system. We are beyond blessed to be surrounded by an incredible village of family and friends who have supported us through all of our deliveries. They’ve brought meals for weeks, cleaned my house, watched our older children, you name it and they’ve done it. However, when we went from one child to two, I thought I could handle having two kids two and under all day, every day on my own. I quickly learned I could not. This last time around we kept our older two girls in daycare three days a week during my maternity leave. We also brought in a postpartum doula. Marlene came one to two days a week, for four hours at a time, for the first six weeks after delivery. She helped care for the girls so I could rest, helped prep meals, tidied up, whatever we needed she did and it made a HUGE difference knowing I had that pocket of time each week that was my own.
With May being Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month it is my hope that by sharing our story, we can reduce the stigma surrounding maternal
mental health, that we can educate communities, empower families to seek help, and provide hope for those who may be suffering.
For more information visit: postpartum.net
Ms Ocean Booty