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Guide Shouldnt I Be Happy: Emotional Problems of Pregnant and Postpartum Women

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While searching for stories that looked and felt like mine, I soon found out why. That does not appear to be a good qualification for motherhood!

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In Origins, journalist Annie Murphy Paul describes her experience of observing a depressed, pregnant participant in a research study:. I have every reason to feel empathetic, but to my chagrin I find that I feel repelled. Her drawn face is jarring above the lush curve of her belly, and the deadness of her affect seems painfully at odds with the life moving inside her.

For the first time, I begin to understand why the notion of depression during pregnancy arouses such discomfort.

What causes prenatal depression

And, strikingly, one of the factors that led to the medicalization of pregnancy after centuries of cooperative care from midwives and doulas was the eugenics movement. These groups were concerned with creating ideal citizens, in this case through ideal health, which in families was the responsibility of women. Women were warned to exercise caution when selecting mates in order to avoid risks to the future of the human race.

By the s, avoidance of danger and risk had become the dominant narrative of medical care in and after pregnancy. Such overly cautious language has since extended to risks to the fetus, despite the fact that it can be difficult to determine what puts a fetus at risk.


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  • As a result, doctors, family members, and strangers feel free to instruct pregnant folks to abstain from practically everything. To clarify: It is hormones, but fluctuations in hormone levels are known to affect mood by interacting with neurotransmitters. Even the pharmacy tech at Walgreens performed a similar version of denial, inasmuch as she wanted to reassure and guarantee me that pregnancy was going to be great. But this, too, is related to medicalization. For me, that was relatively early. A serious mood disorder, however, can emerge anytime during pregnancy and the first 12 postpartum months.

    It typically does not improve without treatment. Snyder's patients often worry their dark thoughts make them bad mothers, and occasionally fear they've gone mad. Many women don't feel vulnerable to perinatal mood disorders, but the risk factors are near universal. They include financial and marital stress; a major recent life event like job loss; complications in pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding; a family history of mental illness; and inadequate support in caring for a baby.

    Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues

    Yet, many expectant mothers — even those who never develop mental illness — are unprepared for feelings like anxiety, hyper-vigilance and doubt that cloud what others tell them should be the happiest days of their lives. Nor do they hear about intrusive thoughts.

    These involuntary flashes might force a mother to imagine her newborn falling out of a window or never waking up from a nap. In some cases, she might envision harming her baby. I know I didn't want to tell anyone because I was afraid they'd take my babies. Tower, 27, experienced her own desperate moments when Raelynn cried relentlessly, a hallmark of colic. Tower suddenly understood why some parents lose control and shake their children, but that wasn't a welcome insight. Even worse, she previously had a miscarriage and felt guilty that she wasn't enjoying her daughter. Tower, who lives in Louisville, saw friends with "perfect, happy, healthy, sleeping, wonderful, non-colic babies" and never felt more alone.

    This woman's emotional postpartum depression story is actually incredibly common.

    At six months postpartum she started The Kentucky Momma , a blog where she holds little back. She talks about the anxiety she experienced during her pregnancy with Raelynn and her ongoing treatment for postpartum depression. In many ways, Tower feels healed. She's become a devotee of cross-fit exercise classes and taken up craft projects again. But she's recently started trying to have a second child.

    Sometimes the thought of giving Raelynn a sibling leaves her feeling simultaneously happy, sad and anxious. Samantha Angoletta, a senior content manager for the website Scary Mommy , regularly commissions essays with this mix of angst and optimism. Its pieces on the triumphs and challenges of motherhood include several on maternal mood disorders with bravely honest headlines like, " Why didn't anyone tell me about the darkness? Angoletta says celebrity stories help draw attention to postpartum depression, but that the grueling work of battling stigma is done by women who increasingly feel more comfortable sharing not only their feelings or diagnosis, but also how they sought treatment and restored some sense of normalcy to their lives.

    That is what motivated A'Driane Nieves, an African-American writer and artist, to blog about maternal mental illness. When Nieves, 32, first experienced postpartum depression following the birth of her second son, in , she had to convince more than one doctor that her intrusive thoughts, constant crying and severe anxiety were serious and real.


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    • At the time, she was in a "rocky" relationship and attended school full-time. Research has shown that women of color receive different levels of care for postpartum depression compared to white women, and Nieves believes bias might explain why her symptoms were attributed to her circumstances and not her mental health. She remembers unsuccessfully searching online for stories about black women who experienced maternal mental illness.