There are a number of things that we go though when we are pregnant in order to ensure that everything is going smoothly. I had twins and therefore I got a lot of extra poking and prodding. Monthly ultrasounds, both internal and external (love me a good old internal ultrasound!). Blood tests. Urine tests…
Between all of the visits to the doctor, the blood lab and ultrasound tech (I’m talking 20 visits minimum) no one ever, even once, talked to me about mental health. Not one professional gave me a heads up that I may face some challenges mentally and emotionally or gave me options for coping.
IN FACT! I missed my 6 week check-up and no one ever called me. Yikes.
I’m thankful to have access to all of the above and for the privilege of having a wonderful healthcare system, but there are holes and the complete lack of awareness and planning for perinatal mood disorders is a big one.
Why? Because women are losing their lives to PPD.
The topic of postnatal depression is becoming more mainstream these days, which is amazing. Celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow and Hayden Panettiere have spoken out about their struggles, while Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experience and recently produced a documentary called When The Bough Breaks to raise awareness about postnatal depression and psychosis.
Awareness, however, is simply not enough.
There is a lot of information out there and much of it is based on another person’s experience or opinion. And while there is nothing wrong with other people’s opinions, it can get overwhelming. Throughout my research, I have found one thing to be consistent in the information it offers:
The Postpartum Depression Scale.
I have come across checklists, questionnaires and scales from various organizations and healthcare facilities (The Edinburgh Scale being the most popular) but the signs and symptoms don’t tend to vary, which makes it an excellent and reliable resource.
The key with the PPD Scale is making it a regular part of your postpartum recovery plan. I suggest printing one out, learning the signs and symptoms BEFORE baby comes, having a conversation with your partner, family and healthcare provider to discuss the possible risk factors for experiencing a perinatal mood disorder.
Some risk factors may include:
- depression or anxiety during a current pregnancy
- family history of mental illness including depression or bipolar disorder
- history of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- poor support from partner, family and friends
How and why you should take the test on a regular basis for up to a full year postpartum:
As we progress through the first year post-childbirth, our body continues to change and adapt to it’s new role. Hormones are a bit out of whack, we are depleted of essential vitamins and minerals and sleep is compromised. It’s also important to consider the growth stages of baby. As much as I hated (despised) unsolicited advice from other moms, I have to pass this one tidbit along: Don’t get used to anything (for example, baby finally sleeping through the night) because it will change. And it does. Constantly.
Which is why taking the PPD Scale on a regular basis is so important. Each day, week and month with a new baby may present a confusing mix of joy and challenge. You may have a few weeks of feeling great and under control, but then all of a sudden baby goes through a growth spurt, their schedule or routine changes and control is out the window.
Challenges are a natural part of parenthood (and life!) so I’m not suggesting that just because you are struggling with something it automatically makes you depressed. But I am
suggesting insisting that you and those closest to you stay aware of the signs and symptoms to make sure that you are mentally safe.
ACTION PLAN: Print out several PPD Scales and complete it every other week of your first year postpartum (you can print one here: PPD-checklist). Put the reminder in your phone, have your partner put it in their phone. It may seem like every other week is a lot, but look at it this way: If you fill it out when you are feeling well it gives you a great guideline to follow. As you continue to fill it out on a regular basis you’ll come to know the signs and symptoms that you shouldn’t be feeling and you’ll know that something is off right away.
It’s hard for an expectant mom to think that they may struggle and I certainly don’t mean to be a downer! But each time I hear a story of a new mom being overwhelmed, isolated and not understood, so much so that they think their only way out is to not be here anymore, my heart shatters. Knowledge is power, but it’s even more powerful when it’s applied knowledge. When you are able recognize and acknowledge that something is wrong, you can take action in finding a solution that is right for you.
Learn more about perinatal mood disorders as well as a pre-screening guideline for perinatal mood disorders HERE. I would love to know what you think about doing a PPD Scale every other week during your postnatal year!
You’re Not Alone! Please don’t suffer in silence, connect with me or with one of the resources below:
If you feel like harming yourself or your baby seek help immediately – Call 911 or go to your local hospital emergency department.
If you are experiencing a lot of stress or other mental health concerns, contact: