PPD and Me

I’ve been hesitant to address this issue, because it’s such a sensitive one. But I have felt, for a while, like I’ve wanted to air my laundry/share my experience and views on it. My views on my particular experience. I’m not trying to discount anyone elses experience or feelings about it, I just want to get it out there.

Last fall, my dad was really sick. I blogged about it here when he was first in the hospital but basically, it was really hard on me and my brand new family. A month of the constant hospital visits, worrying about my mom and dealing with the reality of the situation really started to strain on me, and I found myself feeling a little more anxious than usual, and admittedly not sleeping as well. After a particular night of not sleeping, finding myself sobbing on the bathroom floor and a conversation with Jon about it, I decided to see my doctor. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but thought a valium prescription might be in order.

After a ten minute visit, and explaining my situation to him, he diagnosed me with “slight” post partum depression, gave me a prescription for anti-depressants to take for the next 6 months, and told me if I “felt it was necessary” I could find a social worker through my insurance to talk to. I filled the prescription and went home, feeling somewhat content.

Then I looked at the pill bottle. There was the label clear as day “Do not take if you are pregnant or breast feeding”. I called my doctor and told him I was breast feeding (I had forgotten to mention the fact that I was pumping still at our appointment because hello ten minutes is not enough time). He told me that it was not a problem. Then I googled the medication and found that it was passed through breast milk but in studies did not show significant symptoms in the infants. This made me uneasy. I didn’t feel like I had serious PPD and felt like the fact that my baby would be receiving medication through breast milk way outweighed my anxiety and inability to sleep. I just couldn’t bring myself to start the commitment to 6 months of antidepressants which would be passed on to my baby through her food. Plus I wasn’t totally convinced that after 10 minutes my doctor was making a spot on diagnosis. I definitely know that there are serious cases out there where the benefits of the meds outweigh the risks of it being passed on the infant, but I knew mine wasn’t one of those cases.

So I never started the meds. I just couldn’t. I never went to see the therapist either. I was lucky because my dad’s health started to improve and my situation got better. And you know what the fucked up part is? My doctor never even followed up with me. I had an appointment a few months later because of an illness and he didn’t even ask how I was doing. I mean, isn’t that shit on my chart at least?!?! The most ‘follow up’ I got was a letter from my health insurance saying that they noticed I only filled one month of the anti-depressants and that to be effective I should be on at least 6 months of the meds. Yes, America this is what’s wrong with your fucking health care system.

Now, I know that PPD is a serious condition that affects a lot of women (most women?). I also know that ‘back in the day’ it was probably not taken very seriously which has probably lead to the pill happy attitude of my doctor. But the way my Dr. was so quick to diagnose it and medicate me makes me feel like it’s not taken very seriously these days either. I think our culture in general is way too quick to go for a pharmaceutical answer to your problems instead of recommending treatment (i.e therapy) that will take time to work. And I know that in many serious cases of PPD, medication (with therapy) is absolutely the way to go, but I just don’t think that everyone who suffers from it is suffering to the extent that they need the meds. And you can feel free to throw things at me and tell me I have no clue what the fuck I’m talking about and how dare I make these sweeping generalizations about something so serious. I think that our healthcare system is generally too quick to medicate when they should be taken more time to make a careful diagnoses, not just write another script for Ritalin for a 7 year old because his mom saw a commercial for ADHD on television. Oh, and by the way I am totally finding a new doctor.

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3 Responses to PPD and Me

  1. TMae says:

    Here’s what I think – “we” spend 10 months getting pregnant women ready to birth babies. They’re told what to eat, what to smell, how to sleep. They’re seen by some healthcare provider about 11 times, prior to delivery. A LOT of energy is directed at this pregnant person. And then the baby comes. AND IT ALL GOES AWAY.

    Women are sent home from the hospital to whatever awaits them. Very rarely does a health care provider check-in with them in a few days; to see how mom’s doing. We take our new babies to the pediatrician (or similar provider) where we blearily explain that we’re not sleeping, and we’re exhausted, and we have no idea how many diapers the baby is going through in a day, because we’re too tired to pay much attention. Or we hand over very lovely diaries, complete with every bowel movement and feeding each and every day, convinced that if we look in control, we’ll be allowed to keep our children, and no one will question whether or not we can handle it.

    Blah, blah, blah, so what? So, the United States does a piss poor job of giving a crap about mothers. About new parents in general. Prescriptions are really wonderful things, but a little actual help would be great too. Subsidized day care, legitimate maternity leave, access to post-partum doulas…anything is better than what we have now.

    You mention that you didn’t take the prescription, or seek therapy – what did you do to address your PPD? (I realize that question sounds snarky, and I really don’t mean for it to. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to word it, that’s what I came up with…)

  2. Suzanne says:

    Tmae – I think what Holly is saying is she didn’t HAVE PPD, because once her dad was doing better and she got a few night’s sleep and just TOLD someone she was struggling she felt 10000x better. And that’s not a brain chemical issue that needs medication, that’s just being a stressed out new mom.

    Holly – I’ve been hoping you were going to write this. I think it’s an important story to share, since just about every new mom I know went through that moment where they thought “is this going to get better or do I need help?” And sometimes the answer really is “it will get better”. Not that that discounts ANYONE ELSE’S real illness. And if that doctor was really concerned you had PPD then shame on him for not following up. Someone who was really suffering might just as easily have stopped treatment with serious consequences. Jerk face.

    • TMae says:

      So, clearly I need Suzanne to help me with my reading comprehension when I’m reading blogs and super tired. :-)

      I was just reading that “they” are starting to encourage pediatricians to screen moms for PPD, exactly because of the situation you mentioned. Pediatricians have more opportunity to follow-up with a family, and so are more likely to be more successful at screening for it, and following up about it.

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