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Pregnancy and Postpartum Suicide

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Suicide is a leading cause of death among pre- and post-partum mothers.

Evaluating data from the Maternal Behavioral Health Policy Evaluation, it has been shown that rates of suicide have nearly tripled over the last ten years.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum are some of the most difficult experiences - mentally and physically for any woman. No matter how "strong" you might have felt before, you're entering a whole new arena. This is nothing to be ashamed of, it's all HARD. WAY HARD.

What causes Postpartum Mood Disorders?

There are SO many changes that happen in your body during pregnancy. Normal hormone shifts can cause mood changes, including increased depression or anxiety. Our body stretches and moves differently than it ever has before (even after multiple pregnancies!). Our appetite is often changed, and we all know our food affects our mood! Difficult births, preterm birth, extended hospital stays, complications, unplanned C-section, and hundreds of other hard things can cause postpartum mood disorders as well.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to avoid postpartum mood disorders. We can do our best to do everything "perfect" and still feel depressed or anxious. This doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you!! The National Institute for Mental Health has said:

"Postpartum depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of mental and physical factors. Postpartum depression does not occur because of something the mother does or does not do."

I'm worried about experiencing pregnancy related mental health issues... What can I do?

If you are already predisposed towards mental illness (you or in your family), it's a good idea to keep track of your moods. Sometimes you'll have bad days, that's normal! However, if you notice feeling uninterested, sad, irritable, overly fatigued, negative thuoghts, avoidance, and a lack of connection, it's important to reach out immediately to someone who can help. This includes your primary care physician or OBGYN, your spouse, family, and friends. The more people who are aware of your situation, the more help you can get. It's up to you to disclose your true feelings and be honest and vulnerable with the people who care about you the most.

If you have never experienced mental illness and are still concerned, be sure to bring it up with your OBGYN at your next visit (or sooner if you need!). Speak up about your concerns. Remember: no one knows what you need better than you, and they will never know if you don't talk about it.

Your doctor might offer suggestions including SSRI medication (antidepressants), therapy, counseling, or monitoring of symptoms. Be open and honest about which options you feel most comfortable with!

I'm experiencing Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, or OCD... What can I do?

First things first... I'm so glad you've made it this far! You are doing so much better than you think you are. I know the words of a stranger are hardly helpful, but you've got to remember how important you are and celebrate all you are doing.

It can be so scary to see postpartum mood disorders in yourself. This might include intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or others, depressive episodes, frequent crying, checking, obsessing, and more. You might be used to putting on a happy face mask and acting like everything is okay - hoping it will just go away on its own. You might feel ashamed or afraid to show "weakness" (It's NOT weakness, by the way!), or afraid to ruin an idea of a perfect life that you had in your mind.

Don't think about what should be happening. Focus on what is happening.

You need help.

No matter how hard that sentence is for you to read, it's still true. You would go to the ER if you broke your arm, right? Your brain is experiencing its own "injury" in a sense, and we need to get used to the fact that our brains need "doctors" sometimes too!

So... what are your options?

  1. Call 911 if you are seriously considering harming yourself. Please, please, please, choose to stay.

  2. Call 988. This is a 24 hour suicide hotline that can immediately connect you with someone who can help you.

  3. Speak to your spouse or partner. This is sometimes the hardest, but most important conversation. You can start like this: "Hey, I'd like to talk. You might have noticed, but I'm having a hard time. I need help."

  4. Call your doctor. Health professionals can prescribe medication and help connect you with the right care.

  5. Find a friend. Speak to a close friend, connect with someone on social media, join a (positive) postpartum group, or read stories of other moms and how they cope with mood disorders

  6. Find a coach or therapist. It has been shown that a combination of therapy and/or antidepressant medication can have the biggest effect on mental health struggles. As I have worked with many clients over the years, I have seen the positive effect that working with a professional can have.

Feel free to schedule a free consultation with me, here. I would be thrilled to be a part of your journey to finding a new balance with your postpartum life. As a mom of three, I can personally attest to the difficulty of postpartum mood disorders. I wouldn't be here right now if not for reaching out to a suicide hotline myself - the hardest phone call I've ever made.

I know you can do it. Feel free to reach out - Talk to you soon


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