The number one complication of childbirth is perinatal mood or anxiety disorders (PMAD), like postpartum depression and anxiety. One in five mothers and one in ten fathers will be affected. These can occur at anytime during pregnancy, in the first year postpartum or after weaning from breastfeeding. PMADs are more than “just” depression; included are anxiety, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder and psychosis.
Each person’s experience will vary, but some symptoms of PMADs include (but are not limited to): feeling guilty/worthless/inadequate, crying, sleeping too much/too little, panic attacks, racing thoughts and changes in appetite. An excellent book to read for more information is Beyond the Blues by Dr. Shoshana S. Bennett and Dr. Pec Indman.
I am one of the one in five mothers who suffered from a PMAD. I had postpartum depression following the birth of my daughter, Natalie, and postpartum anxiety after the birth of my daughter, Chloe. Both pregnancies were healthy and “uneventful.” Despite this, I was induced very unexpectedly with Natalie. My induction led to a very long and painful labor, followed by a NICU stay for my daughter, as we both had a fever upon her delivery. I was allowed to hold her for a few minutes and I never had the feelings of love and euphoria I had dreamed I would. I was so exhausted, confused and scared about what was going on.
My daughter spent a week in the NICU and thankfully was fine. Seeing her in bassinet wth wires and an IV was difficult; I felt so guilty and felt that I must have done something wrong for her to need remain in the hospital while I was allowed to go home. I also had a great deal of difficulty breastfeeding. I cried frequently in the hospital and continued to do so at home. For about four months, I continued to feel guilty, worthless and lonely.
One day, I realized that I was not myself and needed help. I reached out to a local support group and to my OB office. A support group had recently started and I attended the next meeting. My OB office scheduled me for a visit later that week and supplied me with a list of therapists in my area. Unfortunately the list was outdated, but I was able to find a therapist on my own through my insurance company. With the help of my therapist and support group I eventually began to feel like myself again. I also began taking care of myself.
Eighteen months later I became pregnant with Chloe. Her birth was easy in comparison and she breastfed very well. We decided to hire a postpartum doula to help me when my husband returned to work. We knew I would need extra support at home due to my history of depression and anxiety and because a family member was going through a major health crisis. We are incredibly thankful to our doula for all of her help and support.
I became very anxious after my doula left. I was not sleeping well; Chloe was up multiple times a night to breastfeed and I had a lot of difficulty falling back asleep. I went back to therapy and my support group. With therapy, attending my support group and sleeping more at night, I began to feel much better.
When I was feeling better I began to volunteer for the Postpartum Resource Center of New York and started to compete in pageants to help moms and dads feel like they are not alone by sharing my story. I am currently serving as Mrs. New York USA Ambassador 2020.
If you or someone you know is in need of help in New York State, the Postpartum Resource Center of New York is an amazing resource – they have a directory, information, a state-wide helpline 855-631-0001 and more.
Outside of New York, Postpartum Support International is full of information, a helpline, online and telephone support groups and more.
You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.
About Bridget Croteau
Bridget Croteau lives in Suffolk County, New York with her husband, Beau, their two children, Natalie and Chloe and labradoodle, Jake. She is the author of Me, Again: How Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Transformed My Life. Bridget is also serving as Mrs. New York USA Ambassador 2020 to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and to help moms, dads and families feel less alone.
Mrs. New York USA Ambassador 2020