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Understanding Postpartum: 'I was convinced that I would never live life again'

Not every mother feels joyful after giving birth. Many deal with postpartum depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses after becoming a mom. It's important to know you aren't alone and there is help for mothers experiencing these feelings. Photo courtesy Hannah Schimmer

EUGENE, Ore. - Being a mother is something that many women look forward to for years of their life. But what happens when you aren't that joyful new mom you'd always expected to be?

Hannah Schimmer loves happy moments with her baby boy, Oliver. But it wasn't always this way. After giving birth, something felt horribly off.

"It was almost instantaneous. The world was weird. My visions was altered. I was in a fog,” she said.

Hannah would later learn she was experiencing what doctors call postpartum psychosis after giving birth to a healthy, 7-pound baby.

"Within an hour after I gave birth to him, all of my symptoms of psychosis set in," she said.

Hannah shared her symptoms with her midwife who said it was likely sleep deprivation. Her doctor later gave her anti-depressants, but still no relief.

"After a few months, one night I came home and I had, what I found out now, was my first psychotic episode,” Schimmer described. “My vision and hearing was distorted, the room was spinning, I couldn't hear, and I was hallucinating."

It was the breaking point that finally made her realize, she needed more help.

"Until then, I was kind of ashamed of what I was going through. I was scared, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, all of these feelings as a mother."

"It's just really hard to be with that baby 24/7 and that's okay. Those feelings are okay." said Dr. Brooke Kyle. She's an obstetrician-gynecologist working to remove the shame for moms struggling with postpartum depression.

"You feel this sadness come over you and it's really hard for people to talk about because it's not what society expects you to be," Kyle said.

She said perinatal mood disorders are more common than you may think. One in five new moms will experience symptoms of major depression, anxiety or other forms of emotional distress. It's more devastating than postpartum blues that happen to most all new moms.

"Most all new moms have emotions that are really just on fire! Then sometimes you're crying for no reason and that usually settles around two weeks postpartum. But, when it gets worse or when you are in a dark place, that's when we're more concerned with postpartum depression."

As a new mom, it's important to accept whatever experience you're having and know it's treatable. Medication, counseling and other support services can help.

"It's OK to have those feelings. It's OK not to like your baby at all times, because it's really hard!" said Kyle.

She said it important to understand when you need help.

"Ask the right questions: when you're able to sleep, can you sleep? When you're able to eat, can you eat? Tell me exactly what you ate in the last 24 hours. Do you feel like you're in a dark place? Are you just tired, or are you stressed?

Asking yourself or your loved ones these questions can help identify a bigger problem. But the most important part for new moms is being honest and admitting when they're not feeling okay.

"You don't go into having a baby thinking any of this is going to happen. So when it does, you're taken off guard and you feel like an insufficient mother," said Schimmer.

She's now more than a year postpartum and says she wishes she spoke up sooner about what she was experiencing because it's time with Oliver she can't get back.

"I wish I could have watched someone or talked to someone who was on the other side to tell me there's a way out, you're going to get there, you're going to be happy again. You will have quality of life,” Schimmer said, “because I didn't believe that. For so long, I was convinced that I would never live life again. I am shocked that I am where I am today. But that's what everyone that's suffering needs to know, they'll get there too. With the right help, you've got to get help, you can't suffer alone."

Visit the WellMama website with screening tools and free support:

http://www.wellmamaoregon.com/

Or visit Hannah’s blog about her road to healing and recovery:

http://www.mamabearathome.com/podcast-1/2016/8/18/003-postnatal-psychosis-with-hannah-schimmer

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