When I suffered from postpartum depression, I kept insisting that I wasn't depressed. My vision of a depressed woman consisted of lots of weeping, general moping around, hand-wringing, etc. Not a woman who was overcome by nausea a hundred times worse than any morning sickness and vomiting violently when not on the toilet with diarrhea. I was a gastrointestinal specialist's fantasy. And after I was sent to a G.I. specialist, I went through the ringer: had an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, tests involving dozens of stool samples (so here I felt like total crap and got to mess with it too!), and many, many other pokes and prods. All the while, I couldn't care for my babies, couldn't even function, much less get out of bed to brush my teeth, and was hospitalized twice for several days at a time for dehydration.
Three months after all this G.I. fun, my specialist threw his hands up at me, said there was no intestinal cancer, and that I should go home, get over it, enjoy my babies and have a nice life.
So here's the deal. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- feeling restless and irritable
- feeling sad, hopeless and overwhelmed
- crying a lot
- having no energy or motivation
- eating too little or too much
- sleeping too little or too much
- trouble focusing, remembering or making decision
- feeling worthless or guilty
- withdrawal from family and friends
- loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations or hyperventilation
This is a helpful list for a start, but I don't see "violent vomiting" or "intense nausea" or "fainting" or "endless diarrhea" or "extreme dehydration" anywhere on this list. I'm sure there are plenty of other PPD symptoms that are not included as well. I've heard from new mothers who developed obsessive compulsive disorder during postpartum when they'd never experienced it before in their lives. All this leads to major confusion.....how do you even know if you have PPD? How do doctors know what to look for?? SO MANY WOMEN ARE NOT BEING DIAGNOSED!!!
Bottom line is that caregivers and family members need to be in tune to any and all disconcerting changes in a new mother and to be aware that PPD can manifest itself in myriad ways, from gastrointestinal issues to obsessive compulsive disorder, to intrusive thoughts. The key to PPD prevention and successful treatment is awareness and education. But especially awareness.....please help me spread the word.
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