The Benefits of Postpartum Depression

Yes, you read that title right.

I have long been an advocate for postpartum depression awareness, understanding, and education. I’ve helped hundreds of mothers and families heal through warmline support, support groups, education, and therapy. I’ve written articles about postpartum depression treatment, about the spectrum of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, about postpartum OCD, the stigma of postpartum psychosis, and produced an internationally-sold DVD, Postpartum Couples (now free online, click here). I’ve even shared my own experiences with postpartum depression and anxiety, including my biggest struggles and what I believe others most need to know.

But today, I want to take a different approach to this topic that’s so near and dear to my heart. Today, I wish to focus on the benefits of PPD.

 

After baby #3, happy in the hospital. PPD & anxiety set in just days later.

 

PPD is HARD.

If you’re in the thick of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, or psychosis, you’re probably thinking I’ve lost my mind. How could there be benefits to this thing that intrudes into your life in the very moment you most want to be at your best, that attacks your identity, sense of self-worth, and the ability to connect and bond with your baby, partner, and family?

If you’re mid-way through the healing process, you might feel some of these benefits, or you might not—yet.

If you’ve made it safely to the other side of PPD, you’ve hopefully experienced some of these benefits and understand first hand what I’m talking about, but again, maybe not. Each of us is different, and our experiences are unique.

Wherever you are in your PPD experience, one thing is abundantly clear: just because I’m writing about the benefits of postpartum depression in no way takes away from the pain, suffering, and heartache of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. It in no way takes away from how hard it is to finally find a way to overcome these disorders, to find the right treatment, and to do the work required to heal. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are absolutely among the most difficult of life’s challenges.

Loving my baby girl, but exhausted. This is reality.

 

The PPD Paradox

The paradox is that while postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and psychosis are gut-wrenching experiences for the whole family, they are also some of the most fertile soil for personal growth—if we “plant ourselves and grow.” (As I write in This is How We Grow.)

Yes, PPD is hard. AND, it also yields fruit, gifts for our growth and development. As a psychologist working with postpartum women and a 4-time PPD survivor, I’ve seen it over and again. Just like the “gifts” of grief and loss and heartache and other life challenges, of which I have also personally experienced many, if we look for and see them, the benefits of postpartum depression are plentiful.

 

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids, I posed us for a Christmas card pic. Can you see the fear in my eyes as I pulled myself together to be the mom everyone needed me to be?

Top 10 Benefits of Postpartum Depression

So, what are they–these gifts? The following is my top 10 list of benefits of postpartum depression. You might have some of your own to add to my list. I hope you do. If nothing else, I hope this gets your mind focused on the belief that perhaps I’m right. Just maybe, postpartum depression can end up bringing benefits that somehow make it all worthwhile.

1) Understanding. Not only do we understand postpartum depression, or anxiety, or whatever it is we’ve gone through after childbirth; we understand similar experiences better, too. Experiences like death and loss and heartache and illness and pain and general life distress become more real and relatable after going through PPD.

2) Compassion and Empathy. This understanding brings greater compassion and empathy, which I’ve long believed to be one of the greatest benefits of going through PPD or any major life challenge. We simply “get it,” because we’ve been through it. That makes us more likely to know how to be there for others, as well, in ways we otherwise couldn’t have done.

3) Humility. When you’ve hit your lowest point, there’s no other way but humility. Humility in admitting something’s wrong. Humility in seeking help. Humility in letting help in. Humility is, ironically, one of the most powerful traits we can develop. It means we are teachable. It means we’re willing to see what needs to change and change it. It means we’re letting go of the ego and achieving personal growth.

4) Character. We’ve all heard how life challenges build character; sometimes we might roll our eyes hearing this, especially while in the midst of those life challenges. But it’s true. We develop newfound strength, fortitude, skills, and abilities through overcoming PPD. This has the potential to make us into someone even greater than before.

5) Self-confidence. Watching ourselves overcome PPD shows us we can do it, and if we can do this, we can do anything. We have the ability to do hard things. PPD can show us just what we’re made of, which in turn can lead us to overcome other life challenges, too. As we strengthen our self-confidence, we’re more likely to speak up when we need something, to ask for help before we get to a breaking point, and to talk to others about PMADs so we can help them do the same. (Watch “How to Speak Up, Ask For, & Receive What You Need,” or listen on Motherhood Radio/TV.)

 

6) Self-worth. Self-confidence is just one aspect of self worth, which is often crushed by perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Feeling embarrassed, guilty, self-hateful and worthless are part of these heart-wrenching disorders. I’ve found I almost always need to work on rebuilding self-worth my postpartum clients. However, doing the work of postpartum healing can lead to a deeper sense of self-worth, which can fuel your confidence, belief in, and even love for yourself moving forward. Such an important gift!

7) Charity. When we understand something like postpartum depression and have that newfound compassion, and empathy for others, along with a stronger self-confidence, character and self-worth, we often desire to give back. So many of the best PPD support persons, organizations, treatment providers, and advocates are PPD survivors. We’ve been there. We get it. We want to help others. This help is invaluable, showing others they’re truly not alone and modeling for others that healing is not only possible but we can flourish after PPD, too. (Watch “When the Bough Breaks: The Reality of PPD,” or listen on Motherhood Radio, here.)

 

8) Appreciation and gratitude. Those who have suffered greatly often find a new appreciation, awareness, and gratitude for life. We recognize the good and work to never take for granted when things go well. We feel grateful for ours and our family’s health and wellness, because we know how easily it can be taken away. We express that gratitude more, knowing how important gratitude is to our own, and others,’ healing and happiness. Yes, appreciation and gratitude are keys to flourishing.

8) Joy, hope, and love. Starting off with so many challenges may seem antithetical to hope, joy, and love, but in truth, it is an opportunity for greater abundance of these things. Being without hope or unable to feel joy or love shows us just how valuable these gifts are and just how badly we desire them. Working on feeling these things again can lead us to never take them for granted once they are replenished, and can lead to a greater ability to share these powerful experiences with our family, friends, and others, creating a cycle of joy, hope and love that repeats.

10) Deeper sense of who you truly are. All of these things help us see and feel and experience our true potential. We’ve overcome PPD. We’ve become more of who we’re meant to be, and now, we can use these experiences to flourish! Postpartum depression just might be the thing that leads us to become our best self; it certainly has been for me. PPD has fueled my work and compassion and service and love–for my family and for all others. As we receive all these gifts, these benefits of PPD, we just might find that without PPD we wouldn’t be who, and where, we are today. I know I certainly wouldn’t be.

This is us, Christmas Day, 2016. Hard to believe how far we’ve come–and how far I’ve come, because of the gifts of PPD.

 

What benefits of PPD have you discovered? Do you agree that PPD, as with all other major life experiences, offers gifts? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings, so leave a comment, below!

 

 

 

 

 

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Who Am I – in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood? Identity, Full Circle (#PSIBlog Hop 2016)

"Who Am I" in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood?- Identity, Full Circle. www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PSIBlog Hop 2016 #ppd #pregnancy #postpartum #motherhood #identity

“Who am I, now that you are here?” It’s the title of a song I wrote about my experience with postpartum depression, after my first son was born. For me, PPD was about so much more than feeling sad or anxious or depressed. It was about who I thought I’d been, who I was now, and who I would become.

Identity is at the core of becoming a mother. It’s an essential part of this experience, from pre-conception until the end, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that our identity—as individuals, women, and mothers—will ever evolve through our mothering journey.

 

 

Pre-Motherhood Identity
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. I envisioned my little "Who Am I?" Identity in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood #PSIBlog Hop 2016; www.DrchristinaHibbert.comfamily (“definitely not six kids,” I’d told my mom. Having been the oldest of 6 , I would never be up for that kind of responsibility. Never say never.). I believed I knew myself well, and I could see the kind of mother I would be. I would play with my children, making memories with smiles, showing them the world, staying home full-time and loving it. They would be my life, I would be theirs, and life would be good. How little I understood of what lay ahead–of how this vision would be tested, of how I would be tested, pushed, pulled and often shoved–pruned, uprooted, and planted again, and again.

 

Before that tiny being is laid in our arms, do we have any idea of what will be?

Loving my baby, but exhausted. This is reality.

Loving my baby, but exhausted. This is reality.

Can we comprehend how much love will flood our heart? Do we sense the tiniest hint of the pain and struggle we will endure—physically, yes, but emotionally, even more so? Are we in any way prepared for the journey for which we are unknowingly enlisting–a journey of self-doubt, self-discovery, and self-transformation like no other?

 

 

Pregnancy Identity

The joy and misery of pregnancy hint at what’s coming, but we don’t realize it, do we? All I knew was my body was changing, my sense of attractiveness lost; I had to pee far too often and slept propped on 5 strategically-placed pillows to avoid acid reflux.

With my first and second pregnancies, I had pains no doctor could explain.

When my first was born, I think I was in shock. You can see a glimpse of it by my mouth as I listen to him cry.

When my first was born, I think I was in shock. You can see a glimpse of it by my mouth as I listen to him cry.

They’d wipe me out for days. Two years later, they could finally tell me what it was–gallstones–and I finally found relief through surgery.

Near the end of my first pregnancy, I couldn’t wait for the baby to finally be out! All we can think of is how uncomfortable, exhausted, and “done” we are. Little do we know what’s just around the bend. A breach delivery should have tipped me off. He came out bottom first, and as I say, “He’s been giving me trouble ever since”—haha! But the trouble was just beginning. And so was the growth.

A growing body and soon-to-be growing family hopefully grow our mind and spirit, too. Pregnancy is the true beginning, the reality, the point of no return when we start to question who we once were, who we are becoming, and who we will be. As our baby grows inside, we hopefully grow internally, too, allowing questions as they naturally arise: “What will this baby be like?” “What will our family be like?” “What will I be like as a mother?” We hope for the best and expect it–at least, the first time. Perhaps in later pregnancies, we still hope for the best, yet we know all too well the challenges we may face once our little one is finally here.

 

 

Postpartum Identity

Identity in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood: Full Circle #PSIBlog Hop 2016 www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

With baby #2, I thought I was better, and I was. But I still ended up with postpartum depression. (My 2 year old is being a dinosaur here.)

I had four very different childbirth experiences; you’d think they’d yield four very different postpartum experiences. No such luck: postpartum depression every time.

Identity in Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PSIBlog Hop 2016

Beautiful baby girl was so loved! I only wish the depression and anxiety could have stayed away.

The first time, I penned the words, “Who am I now that you are here?” and put them to music. I’d purposefully dream of my beautiful boy at night, like I used to when I was dating my husband. But I no longer felt like a “me;” instead, I was a perpetual “we.” He was colicky, and I was not sleeping. We moved in with my parents and lived for 3 months on their living room floor because I had no clue what else to do. The first time I left to the store for a pacifier, alone, I felt like I’d broken out of jail.

With my second beautiful boy, I convinced myself I was better. I knew what postpartum depression was. I had my plan and support team. I was ready. My journals betray me, however, with the words “I want to run away. Not forever. Just for a while, so I can feel like me again.”

With the third–a beautiful baby girl–postpartum anxiety was thrown in the mix, just for kicks. And the fourth? That’s a long story. I wrote an entire book about it, but the Cliff Notes version is that after inheriting our two nephews

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids, I posed us for a Christmas card pic. Can you see the fear in my eyes as I pulled myself together to be the mom everyone needed me to be?

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids, I posed us for a Christmas card pic. Can you see the fear in my eyes as I pulled myself together to be the mom everyone needed me to be?

when my sister and brother-in law died, giving birth three weeks later, and going from three to six kids, needless to say, this postpartum experience was so much more than depression or anxiety. It was grief and trauma and desperation to help my family heal–to be strong enough to bear it all and to do it well. This postpartum experience was giving it all I had so I could be there for my children ages 11, 10, 8, 6, 4, and 0, even though my world and identity had been ripped to shreds. I was re-building my family, but really, I was re-building myself. “I’ll never fulfill my dream of being an author or speaker. How could I? I have six children! I am not made to handle this like other mothers are.” The things I told myself! Talk about self-doubt; at times, it was more like self-loathing—a sure sign of depression, once more.

Our postpartum experiences are so varied between us, and they also vary within

On vacation, in the midst of PPD, after baby #3. I do love this pic, because I felt happy for a little while.

On vacation, in the midst of PPD, after baby #3. I do love this pic, because I felt happy for a little while.

us. Though the common denominator–a periantal mood or anxiety disorder–is there, the manifestation of that denominator is never exactly the same. As we struggle and overcome and heal and move forward, we change. We grow. We become. And we find it’s the challenges we’ve faced—like PPD—that have made us who we are becoming.

 

 

Mom of Young Children, Teens, Young Adults Identity

Currently, I’m in the midst of all three of these mothering phases. With two in

After visiting my sisters' & other family members' gravesites, at the funeral of OJ's grandfather, we tried to stay enthusiastic about life even in the midst of so much death.

After visiting my sisters’ & other family members’ gravesites, at the funeral of OJ’s grandfather, we tried to stay enthusiastic about life even in the midst of so much death.

college, two in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary, I feel like I’m just trying to keep up most of the time. The busyness, the activities, the emotional needs, the school projects! So much to do, so little time, and still, so many opportunities for personal growth.

I have faced non-postpartum depression and anxiety. I have overcome new traumas, losses, and grief. I have experienced so many trials and lows, and yet I have experienced so many joys, and so much love. It’s ironic, isn’t it? The very things that break us down ends up being the stimulus for unfathomable new growth.

As our little ones become not-so-little anymore, our identity changes again, especially as they begin to form their own identities as teenagers and young adults. It’s a new version of postpartum–watching them individuate and leave the nest, and it can pull at our heartstrings, especially when we see them flail or fail. It’s a time of wondering, “Who am I as a mother now—especially if they don’t seem to need me like they once did?”

Questioning brings answers, however, and if we are brave enough to face those answers, we will find our role as a mother isn’t so much fading as shifting once again. The opportunity for a new identity–one of the supporter, advisor, and simply lover of our children presents itself, and we begin to see ourselves evolve as our children do the same. In doing so, we just might find a new sense of freedom we haven’t had since our journey began—knowing our children are their own beings, and we are merely here to support and love them.

 

 

Mothering Identity is Ever-evolving

As mothers, our identity is ever-changing and, if we are willing to continually

Later years are an opportunity to develop new parts of our identity--especially our marriage and relationships.

Later years are an opportunity to develop new parts of our identity–especially our marriage and relationships.

examine ourselves, will be every evolving in positive, joyful ways. Our postpartum journey continues as we become grandmothers, as we nurture our own daughters and sons through their pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting journeys, as we share the wisdom we wish we’d known, and provide the support we wish we’d had. The gift of these new postpartum experiences is that we get to watch our grandchildren grow without the responsibility of being the parent, without the self-doubt that too often accompanies our own parenting journeys. We get to re-experience life through young, fresh eyes, and hopefully, find the joy we might have missed the first time around simply because we were too busy trying to figure it all out to stop and notice.

 

 

Full circle Back to “Me.”

And so we’ve come full circle. As we grow through motherhood, purposefully

Biking along the beach in Belize, with OJ. Gorgeous!

Biking along the beach in Belize, with OJ. Gorgeous!

seeking our truest self, pushing, learning, and taking our lessons in stride, we find we come back to the beginning, at the end. That’s what full circle means to me—coming back around to myself, and feeling more “me” than I ever have before.

 

 

What have your mothering identity changes been like? What’s been challenging for you? What lessons have you learned? How have you seen your experiences come “full circle?” Please leave a comment, below, and join the conversation!

 

 

  • If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
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2016 PSI Blog Hop: Invitation: "Full Circle" www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

Join the 4th annual Postpartum Support International Blog Hop! Read the guidelines here, write your “full circle” story, and then link up, below or here. Help raise awareness, support and hope, in honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month!

 

 

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 “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise“ is here!

“…Enlightening and empowering…” ~Publisher’s Weekly

Order online at Norton.com, AmazonBarnes & Noble, Target.com, or Walmart.com, or visit your local bookseller today!

 

 

 

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
“Choose to grow” with my bestselling, award-winning memoir, This is How We Grow!
Available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

 

 

 

 

"Who Am I Without You?" 52 Ways to Rebuild Self-Esteem After a Breakup; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #book #selfesteem #breakup #divorce

Build true self-worth, confidence, and love with “Who Am I Without You.”
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Motherhood 101: 12 Realities & 12 Lessons from a Seasoned Psychologist & Mom of 6 (PSI Blog Hop 2015)

Motherhood 101: 12 Realities & 12 Lessons from a Seasoned Psychologist & Mom of 6 (#PSIBlog Hop 2015)  www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #motherhood #mothersday #moms #ppd #postpartum #pregnancy #children #familyIt’s that time of year again–May, or as my friends and I call it, “May-hem!” The end of the school year, commitments galore, graduations, the summer-shift approaching, and all month long, what do we celebrate? Motherhood. How fitting! Between mother’s day, Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month (May) & day (May 7th), I’m in the mood to speak a little truth about good old motherhood!

 

I’ve been at it for over 18 years, and with six kids, now ages 7, 11, 14, 16, 18, and 18 1/2, well let’s just say, I know the reality and I’ve learned a few lessons. As a psychologist, I’ve learned some important lessons, too–the first being that we need to talk about the realities of motherhood, and that we need to open ourselves up to the lessons motherhood has to offer.

 

So, hold on tight and grab a notebook! It’s time for “Motherhood 101.”

 

(And be sure to join me for my new radio show, “Motherhood!” Starting May 18th on WebTalkRadio.net! And don’t miss my exclusive offer–FREE Postpartum Couples DVD!

 

 

MOTHERHOOD 101

Reality #1: It’s hard!

No matter what “season of motherhood” you’re in, it’s the hardest work in the world. It’s a 24/7, 365-day job, and a highly demanding one at that. Up early, no sleep, go-go-go all day long, keep going all night too, worrying yourself awake in the

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids! Talk about motherhood being hard! Some days, I didn't think I could do it. (Read about it in "This is How We Grow.")

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids! Talk about motherhood being hard! Some days, I didn’t think I could do it. (Read about it in “This is How We Grow.”)

early hours, exhausting yourself, giving your all. But we do it because we love our children, right? As I wrote in a song about motherhood a few years ago, “It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, but somehow, it’s the easiest to do.”

When I ran a postpartum support group a few years ago, the moms struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety would desperately ask, “It gets easier, doesn’t it?” To which, I’d reply, “Yes… And then, it doesn’t. And then, it does…” We are happy to leave behind the sleepless nights of having an infant only to find our house is destroyed by an energetic toddler. We finally leave behind “the terrible twos” only to find the “threes” might be even more terrible as they develop greater independence. Not to mention the teen years! (I have 4 teenaged sons right now! Aye-yi-yi!). But, it’s all worth it. They grow, and hopefully, so do we.

 

Lesson #1: Recognize that it’s hard.

Even if it looks easy on TV or on a friend’s Facebook page, trust me, it’s not. You’re not alone in this crazy thing called motherhood–it’s hard for all of us, and some times are harder than others. Discover which phases and seasons of mothering are easiest and most rewarding for you and which are not, and then, give yourself a break in the harder times and recognize your strengths and put them to good use in the easier times. Oh, and hang in there! It does get easier. And then it doesn’t…

 

 

 

Reality #2: Hormones, brain chemistry, and life experiences can make it even harder.

Women’s mental health is made up of a unique blend of our hormones, brain chemistry, and life experiences. Monthly hormonal shifts, pregnancy,

Me, during my most recent hormonal quarantine, watching Project Runway and eating chocolate with the door bolted shut! Thank you, hormones!

Me, during my most recent hormonal quarantine, watching Project Runway and eating chocolate with the door bolted shut! Thank you, hormones!

postpartum, and perimenoupause can all significantly affect our coping abilities. Hormones also directly impact the neurotransmitters that make our brain feel well, and life experiences do the same. Trauma and loss change our brain chemistry and, over time, can leave us feeling depressed, anxious, or worse.

 

Lesson #2: Understand all you can about your emotional health and take care of yourself.

Learn about Women’s Emotional Health and what it means for you. Then, take care of your body and brain through good nutrition, sleep, exercise, regular health exams, emotional processing and support, and spiritual self-care.

 

 

 

Reality #3: You won’t love every moment, and you won’t feel happy all the time.

As I wrote in This is How We Grow, “I love every moment of being a mother. I even love the moments I don’t love.” Yes, if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that we won’t love every moment. But, joy in motherhood is found in the small moments, and joyful moments are everywhere in motherhood, if you’ll open your heart and seek them out.

 

Lesson #3: Look for joy in the moments.

Happiness in motherhood is found in the small moments—in the laugh, the love, the play, the hug. As we seek out these moments we see them more clearly, we’re more present, and we soak them up. As we connect these moments we find that motherhood really is joy-filled, or it can be if we look for the joy in the moments.

 

 

 

Reality #4: During some seasons of motherhood, it may a struggle to feel happy at all.

Pregnancy or postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychosis together affect one in five moms and can make it rough to feel happiness or joy; it can also crush your sense of self-worth. Maternal depression is also common and can last for years if untreated.

 

Lesson #4: It’s not “normal” or “okay” to live with depression, anxiety, or even with no self-worth, and it’s definitely not good for our families either, so SEEK HELP.

With help, you can and will be well, which is not only good for you; it’s good for your children, spouse/partner, and family, too. And if you keep working, you can be even “better than better!” Acknowledge your needs and seek help. Then, let that help in. There are fabulous support groups, counselors, doctors, and resources for pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. Postpartum Support International is a wonderful resource, with support coordinators in every state and around the world. Your church or faith community, friends, and family are another good place to start for help, support, and referrals.

 

 

 

Reality #5: We can’t do motherhood alone.

We need each other in motherhood more than perhaps any other time. Support is crucial in motherhood—support for us, support for our children, support for our husbands/partners—we cannot survive without it. We may feel like we don’t know where to turn, or like

My family with my friend's family, sending balloons to her in heaven to remember her one year death anniversary. We need each other.

My family with my friend’s family, sending balloons to her in heaven to remember her one year death anniversary. We need each other.

we don’t have anyone to rely upon, but we must prioritize building our support system.

 

Lesson #5: Build your support system.

Make a list of everyone who supports you and what they can do. Include your family, including family, friends, faith/community members/resources, support groups, online support, professional support like counselors, doctors, etc. One person might be great at helping with childcare, while another is the one you can talk to when times are tough. If you feel your support system is lacking, then start building a better one. It takes time, but support is out there if you’re patient and willing to work.

 

 

 

Reality #6: Loss is a big part of motherhood.

Whether struggles with postpartum depression or anxiety, relationship changes and challenges, wayward children, death, job/career loss, or sending them off to preschool, kindergarten, college, or beyond, motherhood carries with it a lot of loss. These losses, if not dealt with, can build up and create more trouble for our emotional and physical health over time.

 

Lesson #6: Recognize your losses, then grieve them.

Here’s how.

 

 

 

Reality #7: Motherhood is not just a “job”; it’s a calling.

I’ve long reminded myself that though I don’t really love the “job” of mothering—the late nights, early mornings,

Motherhood isn't just a "job;" it's a calling. My forever family, April 2015.

Motherhood isn’t just a “job;” it’s a calling. My forever family, April 2015.

cooking, cleaning, diaper-changing, problem-solving constant-ness of it all—I do love being a mother. Motherhood is a high and holy calling: I believe that, 100%, though it doesn’t always feel that way. It’s a forever kind of deal, so it’s important to work it out, to believe in that calling, to find our gratitude for our role as a mother.

 

Lesson #7: Motherhood really isn’t about the “job” at all; it’s about love.

The house, dinner, bathtime—that can all come or go. What matters is how we love.  What matters is how we value our role as a mother. Do we recognize the gift it truly is? Do we remind ourselves in the hardest times how grateful we really are to be called, “Mom?”

 

 

 

Reality #8: Motherhood isn’t about how our kids turn out.

So many moms I know focus on the choices their kids make as a measure of how well they’re doing as moms. I’ve been there before, too, and trust me, it’s not pleasant! The truth is, we have no real control over our children’s lives when they get to a certain point. That’s not the way it works, and really it’s what we’re striving for as we parent them over the year—independence and self-reliance.

 

Lesson #8: The “fruit” of motherhood is how we turn out. It’s about how motherhood changes us. It’s about how motherhood transforms us.

 

 

 

Reality #9: It really does fly by.

As I was dropping my oldest son off at college last fall, I hugged him, got in the car and forced myself to drive away, watching him excitedly return to his dorm in my review mirror. All I could think was, “They were right. It really does fly by. We have them for such a short time and then, they’re gone.” I bawled the entire four hour drive home! When I called my husband, he thought I was crazy, and to be truthful, so did I. But it really hit me—it goes so, so fast.

 

Lesson #9: Pay attention and be grateful now.

Years ago, when I’d have those stressed-out, frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted mothering days (and there have been plenty!), my older friends who were missing their little ones would say, “Enjoy it while you can; it goes so fast.” I knew they were right, but I couldn’t feel it in those moments when I just wanted to get through the day and crash to sleep. Then one day, I really did get it. I decided I didn’t want to miss those precious years when they were young because I was stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, or tired. And so, I made a goal to stop and stand still in the chaos. I’d briefly close my eyes and imagine my kids grown and gone and my house quiet and still. Though a luxury in the busy mothering days, I’d let myself feel how a quiet house may feel lonely when it’s permanent. I’d say a little prayer, ask for help to be grateful for this very moment, and take a snapshot of it. Then, I’d breathe deeply, smile or sometimes even chuckle to myself and just say it like it is, “Motherhood is a crazy ride!” And back to business. Truthfully, years later, the chaotic moments are some of the most memorable.

 

 

 

Reality #10: We mothers need to be a little (or a lot) kinder, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more loving toward ourselves.

We’re harder on ourselves than any other group on the planet! It’s such a shame, because I’m convinced no one works or loves harder than mothers.

 

Lesson #10: Practice self-love.

Self-love involves: 1) Self-care—take care of your physical, emotional, mental/intellectual, social and spiritual needs. It’s not selfish Motherhood 101-12 Realities & 12 Lessons from a Seasons Psychologist & Mom of 6 www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #motherhood #ppd #postpartum #ThisIsHowWeGrow #books to practice self-care. In fact, it’s the only real way to be healthy and strong as a mom, and it teaches your kids to do the same. 2) Self-compassion—forgive yourself, accept your weaknesses, be gentle when you make a mistake. 3) Self-kindness—do nice things for yourself. Time alone or with friends, a bath, a nap, a walk, a “girls’ night”—whatever feeds your soul, do that. 4) Let others love you. Let your children’s love in. Let your husband’s/partner’s love in. Let your support system’s love in. Let God’s love in. Open your heart and let it receive love. Then, give and open again and again and again. (more on Self-Love here or in my new book, Who Am I Without You?)

 

 

 

Reality #11: At its core, motherhood is really about love.

That’s what it’s really all about–growing in love. Receiving love. Giving great love. Motherhood is truly all about a beautiful cycle of giving and receiving love.

 

Lesson #11: Love greatly.

When hard times hit, love. When great times are rolling, love. When you’re fearful, worried, overwhelmed, at your limit, love greatly. It is love that overcomes the pain and stress of motherhood. It’s really all about love. Again, love greatly.

 

 

 

Reality #12: Motherhood is a crazy ride.

Trust me, I know! In fact, if you google, “My Kids are Driving Me Crazy,” my blog posts come up on page 1, so it’s really no secret. But oh how exhilarating! It’s the up, and down, and spinning around, upside-down ride of your life! And it doesn’t end there. Motherhood is forever. So, learn your lessons, buckle up, and hold tight!

 

Lesson #12: Enjoy it while it’s here.

Don’t take motherhood for granted. Don’t wish away your moments or your days. Identify your challenges. Seek help. Let help in. Choose to grow through motherhood. Then, sit back, buckle up, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride. It’s the greatest ride of your life!

 

 

What are some of your motherhood “realities” and “lessons?”

Leave a comment, below, and join the conversation!

 

 

 

 

An Invitation to YOU!

Join us for

Postpartum Support International’s 2015

Third Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

Blog Hop!

2015 PSI Blog Hop: You are not alone! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

2015 Theme:
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Read this post for rules, and then link up there or below!
And be sure to check out the other incredible posts linked up, below!

 

 

 

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Related Posts/Articles:

16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later (PSI Blog Hop 2013)

Motherhood Mental Health: Self-Care & Letting Help In–the 2 Most Important Things (PSI Blog Hop 2014)

Moving Beyond Shame: The Ultimate Power of Support & Time (PSI Blog Hop) 

Beyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy/Postpartum OCD (Part 1)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Couples

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Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

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How to Cope with and Treat Perinatal Loss & Grief (Part 2)

Link Up! PSI 2014 Blog Hop–Perinatal Mood Disorders: Maternal Mental Health Recovery & Coping

PSI 2014 Blog Hop: Maternal Mental Health Recovery and Coping; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD #postpartum #pregnancyI have been a member of/volunteer with Postpartum Support International (PSI) since 1999. Over the years, I’ve served as a warmline volunteer, an AZ state support coordinator, and even as the PR Chair on the PSI Board of Directors. I can definitely vouch for the incredible work this fine organization does: from their toll-free, bilingual support line, to their many resources for pregnant/postpartum moms, dads, and families, to their fabulous annual conferences which educate mental and medical health providers.

Last year, I was privileged to participate in the 1st PSI Blog Hop, and this year, I am thrilled to be part of it again. The Blog Hop will run throughout he entire month of May–Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month–and you can link up below. It’s a great way to share pregnancy/postpartum emotional health stories and resources, provide support and encouragement, and raise awareness of Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders. I hope you’ll consider joining us! (See the invitation below for details and rules.)

 

An Invitation to YOU!

Join us for

Postpartum Support International’s 2014

Second Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop!

2014 Theme:

Perinatal Mood Disorders: What Helped Me Recover: Self, Family & Community Resources

 

PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop


 

In May 2011 Postpartum Support International (PSI), declared May as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. An increasing number of states and counties have designated May as a time to bring awareness to maternal mental health. This year, we are launching our second maternal mental health awareness month blog hop.

Our PSI blog hop is inclusive but also respectful of emotional safety and comfort and hope for all contributors and readers. To that end, we welcome your participation but also please keep in mind some editorial guidelines meant to promote comfort and safety ~~~

Editorial Guidelines:

  • Name: Include your real name, we don’t promote people with online disguises. Anonymity can be arranged.
  • Length: 500 – 1000 words
  • Keep in this year’s theme: Perinatal Mood Disorders: What Helped Me Recover: Self, Family & Community Resources
  • Much appreciated are personal stories about the resources you used to support you in your recovery: your inner strength and resiliency efforts,  family & friends who helped, and community resources you found along your healing path.

Potentially Triggering:

For the purpose of this blog hop and its focus on messages of recovery and hope, we want you to do your best to avoid common triggers in your posts. If you have any questions or concerns about that, please contact us at psioffice@postpartum.net and we can talk about your concerns.

Please do not write about detailed suicidal or homicidal thoughts and feelings.

Inclusive:

Editors will not tolerate any negativity directed towards individuals or groups

Commercial Interests:

Please refrain from self-promotion of your website or sale items

 Please post these notices:

  • If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  •  If you are looking for local pregnancy or postpartum support and resources in your area, please call or email us:

Postpartum Support International Warmline (English & Spanish)

1-800-944-4PPD (4773)

support@postpartum.net

How to participate:

1. Beginning May 1, 2014 running the whole month of May!

2. Write your blog post and send a link or attachment to psioffice@postpartum.net so we can read it and list it on our site. This will help us keep track of all of the posts, and contact you if we have questions or suggestions.

3. Go to one of the following Blog Hop Blog Hosts:

Birthtouch.com  Link Up Page Here

Dr. Christina Hibbert   http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/ (see Linky, below)

4. Look for their post called:  Link Up: PSI 2014 Blog Hop – Perinatal Mood Disorders: Maternal Mental Health Recovery & Coping

5. Link up your post to that blog post in the Linky provided at the bottom of the post

6. Grab the badge! Please copy the PSI Blog Hop Badge either from the side bar or from this post!

7. Feel free to promote your blog and the blog hop on social media!

Social Media Links:

Link up Here

 

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow
available now on Amazon.com!

PSI 2014 Blog Hop: Maternal Mental Health Recovery and Coping; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD #postpartum #pregnancy

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Related Articles/Posts:

16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later (PSI Blog Hop)

Moving Beyond Shame: The Ultimate Power of Support & Time (PSI Blog Hop) 

Beyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy/Postpartum OCD (Part 1)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Couples

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

Mom Mental Health (& Happiness): The Importance of Alone Time

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5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth

Womens’ Emotions & Hormones– Series

Achieving Balance–Why You’ve Got it Wrong, & How to Get it Right

Pregnancy & Postpartum Loss, Grief, & Family Healing (Part 1)

How to Cope with and Treat Perinatal Loss & Grief (Part 2)

Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD–Part 2 (& video)

 

Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD (Part 2); www.DrChristinaHibbert.com  #PPD #Postpartum #Pregnancy #OCDIn Part 1, we explained the symptoms of Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (PPOCD) and what makes this disorder the most misunderstood of all the Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders. (If you have not yet read Part 1, I suggest doing so before moving on.)

 

In Part 2 we discuss the diagnosis of PPOCD, what makes it so tricky, and tips for families and providers to help mothers get the best possible diagnosis and care.

 

Postpartum OCD: The Most Misdiagnosed Disorder

Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is not only considered the most misunderstood disorder; it’s also considered the most misdiagnosed. Many people—even well-established medical and mental health professionals—confuse Postpartum OCD with Postpartum Depression (PPD), thinking these mothers are “just depressed,” and failing to recognize the extreme anxiety and duress these mothers and families are experiencing. Though treatment for PPD might help with the depressive symptoms, the misdiagnosed PPOCD mother often fails to get the treatment she needs to address the intrusive thoughts and reduce her anxiety.

Even more harmful, PPOCD is too often misdiagnosed as the more rare and potentially life-threatening Postpartum Psychosis (which affects 1 in 1000 mothers). In my 13 years as a psychologist and expert on pregnancy/postpartum mental health, I have witnessed the unfortunate hospitalization of several mothers experiencing postpartum OCD. Misdiagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis, these mothers were seen as a threat to their infants and subsequently hospitalized in behavioral health units, placed on antipsychotic medication, and separated from their infants—many for up to a month or more. Most were also told they must stop breastfeeding, and some were reported to Child Protective Services.

The damage done to these mothers–and their husbands, infants, and families–is, understandably, heartbreaking. Only once they were released and began to research their symptoms did they learn about Postpartum OCD. They were eventually able to find me, or another expert on Perinatal Mental Health, and receive the proper diagnosis and treatment, including a referral for the right kind of medication, and psychotherapy.

This is why I am writing this article—because medical and mental health providers, and families, need education on perinatal mental health if we are to prevent the unnecessary suffering of so many mothers, babies, and families.

 

Why is PPOCD so often Misdiagnosed?

Having trained hundreds of providers over the past nine years as Founder of the Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition, I’ve learned a few things about why PPOCD is so misdiagnosed:

1)   These are usually well-meaning providers who are trying to do the right thing. They simply lack important information, education, and/or clinical experience to make the right diagnosis. Unfortunately, some have never even heard of Postpartum OCD.

2)   Providers want to protect the baby, and rightly so. Keeping babies safe is obviously a top priority, as it should be. Unfortunately, providers hear “thoughts/images about harm coming to the baby,” and they panic. They immediately fear the mother may be a threat to her child, so they act in order to protect the baby without taking the time to research, assess thoroughly, and consult.

3) However, protecting the mother is part of protecting the baby (I think most providers would agree). Babies need healthy, strong mothers who are receiving the best treatment to help them get well soon. With proper training, education, and diagnosis, we can protect both babies and their mothers. We can heal families and not cause more harm.

 

Diagnosis: Postpartum OCD vs. Psychosis

 Watch this 3-Minute Therapy video, “Beyond PPD: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD,” on my YouTube Channel, and watch Part 1 video, “Beyond PPD: Understanding Postpartum OCD” here. Then, please continue reading, below.

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3Dve9MghsJLNc img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/ve9MghsJLNc/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false responsive=16:9 /]

 

Following is a list of the distinct differences between Postpartum OCD and Psychosis. Understanding these differences can help families and providers distinguish PPOCD from Postpartum Psychosis to help make the correct diagnosis. Please note: This is article is merely for educational purposes, however, and should never replace true medical/mental health assessment and care.

Postpartum OCD:

  • Thoughts are in the mind–they are non-psychotic, intrusive thoughts. This means the woman is still “in reality,” and the thoughts come from her mind and not her outside environment. She does not want the thoughts to come. They intrude upon her.
  • Women recognize thoughts/images are unhealthy. They are highly aware these thoughts are not “okay,” and they may work very hard to try and stop the thoughts from coming (hence the compulsive behaviors).
  • Extreme anxiety related to thoughts/images. These mothers are worried, stressed, and fearful of the thoughts. They experience great distress because of them.
  • More gradual onset and brief duration. Sometimes OCD starts in pregnancy, then continues and perhaps intensifies postpartum. Other times it starts days, weeks, or even months after the baby is born. Episodes tend to last for seconds or minutes, though the aftereffects (like anxiety) can last much longer.
  • Overly concerned about “becoming crazy.” They will research and ask loved ones/providers, over and over, “Are you sure I’m not going crazy?” This only proves they are well-aware of what they are experiencing, and not at all out of touch with reality.

 

Postpartum Psychosis:

  • Thoughts are psychotic in nature—including delusions (false beliefs) and/or hallucinations (hearing/seeing things). This means the mother is experiencing a break with reality.
  • Women do not recognize actions/thoughts are unhealthy. Psychotic people do not know that what they are saying/doing are wrong, scary, or in anyway abnormal.
  • May seem to have less anxiety when indulging in thoughts/behavior. Psychotic people typically seem to feel less anxious the more they indulge in their psychotic thoughts/behaviors. Their affect is usually very flat, with a detached, spaced out sense about them.
  • Acute onset—a sudden noticeable change from normal functioning. Postpartum Psychosis usually occurs quickly, often in the first seven days postpartum. Symptoms come suddenly, and family members often describe a sudden, distinct difference in behavior and personality.
  • Thoughts are longer in duration and more all-encompassing. Psychotic episodes may last for hours or days, and it’s as if they take over the person, as if she is not herself.
  • Thoughts come from the environment. She may have thoughts in response to people/situations around her, wheras PPOCD mothers’ thoughts intrude into their minds and are not a result of their outside world.

 

Final Important Things To Know about Diagnosing Postpartum OCD

My intention with this article is to open the door to greater awareness and education about PPOCD, so we can help mothers, babies, fathers, and families get the diagnosis and care they need and deserve. Again, this article is in no way intended to replace medical/mental health care, though I hope it might enhance it.

For Mothers & Families:

  • Postpartum OCD is highly treatable, and there are some excellent providers out there who can help you with what Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD (Part 2) (& video); www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD #postpartum #pregnancy #OCDyou need.
  • Postpartum Support International (PSI) is the best resource to help you find the proper provider for you. They also provide phone support and advocacy, so please contact them for help. I have been a member, volunteer, state coordinator, and board member with PSI over the past 15 years, and I can attest that they are the best postpartum resource around.
  • Remember to keep trying until you find the provider that is right for you. It’s not only okay to seek a second (or even third) opinion, it is recommended if you feel you’re not receiving the proper care.
  • Involve your partner/husband/mother/family in your care, too. This will help you feel like you have a team supporting you and will help you keep at it until you get the right care. (More on treatment of OCD to come in Part 3, so Subscribe, below, or check back soon. Also, check out my Postpartum Depression Treatment series for more on overall treatment options.) 

 

For Medical/Mental Health Provders:

  • Connect with others in this field, and consider joining PSI. Attend their annual conference and others like it, for more in-depth education on perinatal mental health. I’ve been attending for 14 years, and they are incredibly informative every time.
  • Most importantly: If you feel uncomfortable diagnosing PPOCD on your own, seek consultation or supervision. If you can find a perinatal mental health expert in your area, consult with them, or refer your client to them, if that feels like the best option. Call and explain your concerns, discussing them together. This is the best way to ensure you are keeping both baby and mom—and the whole family—safe and well.
  • Another important factor in making the right diagnosis is involving the mother’s husband/partner and family in the assessment. Ask them how she has been and how they feel about her. Involve them in helping you monitor her symptoms and getting her to other providers for treatment, as needed.

 

This is such an important topic, and one I fear gets far too little attention. So, join me–let’s start this discussion, and keep it going. Let’s get talking, so our mothers, fathers, families, and healthcare providers will understand Postpartum OCD. Let’s get educating so our postpartum families will no longer have to suffer in silence–so they will receive the concern, help, and care they so rightly deserve.

 

Read Part 3 of this “Beyond Depression” series, on Postpartum OCD & Treatment.

Read Part 1:  “Beyond Depression, Part 1: Understanding Pregnancy/Postpartum OCD

 

I’ve received more feedback, messages, emails, and discussion on this topic than any other, ever, on my site. If you have something to say about this, I would like to hear it. Please leave a comment, below, with your thoughts/questions/concerns. Let’s get and keep this important dialogue going.

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow
available now on Amazon.com!

 

Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD (Part 2); www.DrChristinaHibbert.com  #PPD #Postpartum #Pregnancy #OCD

Join my  This is How We Grow Personal Growth Group!

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Related Articles/Posts:

Beyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy/Postpartum OCD (Part 1) (& video)

Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment (part 3) (& video)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Couples

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Complementary Alternative Modalities

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Psychotherapy

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

The Baby Blues & You

Postpartum Survival Mode

16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later (PSI Blog Hop)

Moving Beyond Shame: The Ultimate Power of Support & Time (PSI Blog Hop) 

Pregnancy & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Are Women of Advanced Maternal Age at Higher Risk?

In Praise of Fathers: 10 Research-Based Ways Dads Impact Kids for the Better

5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth

How to Feel Self-Worth: “The Pyramid of Self-Worth”

Thought Management, Part 1: The Relationship between Thoughts, Feelings, the Body, & Behavior

Womens’ Emotions & Hormones– Series

Achieving Balance–Why You’ve Got it Wrong, & How to Get it Right

Pregnancy & Postpartum Loss, Grief, & Family Healing (Part 1)

How to Cope with and Treat Perinatal Loss & Grief (Part 2)

 

 

Pregnancy/Postpartum Resources & Help:

Postpartum Support International Website (Worldwide help and support for new mothers and families, including a bilingual hotline and state/country coordinators to help you find the right treatment provider or support in your area.)

Postpartum Progress Blog (Excellent source of education and support for mothers and families)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources

Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition (AZ Support Groups, Events, Education)

Postpartum Stress Center (Education for Providers and Families)

Postpartum Couples Website

 

References:

Facts for this article were taken from The Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition‘s 2-Day, research-based course, Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders: Assessment & Treatment, and my 1-Day, research based course, Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders: Advanced Clinical Skills. For more on these programs, please visit www.postpartumcouples.com or www.azpostpartum.org, or email me. For more on PPOCD and links to research, please visit www.postpartum.net.

 

**This article is not intended to replace proper medical/mental health care. If you think you may be suffering from Postpartum OCD, please contact your medical or mental health provider, or PSI, for referrals/help/support.**

Beyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy & Postpartum OCD–Part 1

Beyond Depression: Understanding #Pregnancy & #Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPDBeyond Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is the most commonly talked about and treated form of Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). It affects as many as one in five new mothers (up to 20%), and can have a significant impact on the father, the infant, and the entire family.

Yet there is much to learn about Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders beyond PPD. In fact, there’s a spectrum of disorders— ranging from the mild to the severe and including depression, various anxiety disorders, and yes, even psychosis.

The most misunderstood of these disorders is Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

 

What is Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

According to research, OCD affects 3-5% of all new mothers, and some studies estimate those rates might be even higher. [1] Symptoms may start in pregnancy and continue through postpartum, or they may begin after the baby is born—sometimes several months later.

 

Symptoms of Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder include:

  • Obsessions:
    • Recurrent, persistent thoughts, impulses or images that are intrusive and inappropriate.
    • These are typically related to the baby, and cause mothers intense anxiety or distress.
    • These thoughts/images are not simply excessive worry about real problems.
    • The mother attempts to ignore or suppress the thoughts/ images.
    • The mother recognizes these thoughts/images are a product of her own mind
  • Compulsions:
    • Repetitive behaviors or mental acts she feels driven to perform in response to the obsessive thoughts/images
    • These behaviors/mental acts are aimed at reducing/preventing some dreaded event or situation, but they are not connected in a realistic way or are clearly excessive.
  • A sense of horror about the obsessive thoughts/images.

 

Watch this video from my YouTube channel–> Beyond PPD: Understanding Postpartum OCD–3-Minute Therapy w/ Dr. Christina Hibbert. Then, continue reading, below.

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Other important facts about PPOCD symptoms:

  • The “obsessive” thoughts most pregnant/postpartum women experience are usually vivid images or thoughts in their head. These images are often like a movie playing in the mind and are typically centered around the baby. These women actually see terrible things happening to their body (in pregnancy) or the baby (postpartum), and it causes them deep distress.
  • The “compulsive,” ritualistic behaviors often include: checking the baby, avoiding situations that cause distress (like cooking, sleeping with the baby, or taking the baby up the stairs), and/or searching for information about her symptoms on the internet or in books, etc.
  • Unlike general OCD, in Pregnancy/Postpartum, the symptoms of OCD are directly related to baby.
  • There are often co-occurring symptoms of Depression related to the OCD thoughts/images.
  • Mothers feel intense anxiety/worry about the thoughts/images.
  • The mother recognizes the obsessions/compulsions are excessive.
  • They cause her severe distress or significantly interfere with normal life.

 

Understanding Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

I’ve been working with pregnant and postpartum women for fifteen years, and I have helped many mothers deal with OCDBeyond Depression: Understanding Pregnancy & Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD in pregnancy and postpartum. In fact, a significant portion of my clients have presented with PPOCD. Here are a few things I have learned as I have treated PPOCD; I hope they will help you better understand PPOCD, too.

1)   Mothers experiencing symptoms of Pregnancy or Postpartum OCD present with extreme anxiety, or even fear, about their symptoms. They are often afraid they are “going crazy” or that they are going to become psychotic. I’ve even had a mother show up at my office with her bag packed—certain I would commit her to “the mental hospital” because of her symptoms, and ready to go if I did. (I didn’t.)

2)   These mothers are highly concerned about the welfare of their babies and go to extreme lengths to take care of and protect their children and families. They are devoted, wonderful mothers, but they will say things like, “What kind of mother would think such things about her baby?” They tend to take a severe hit to their sense of self-worth because of their symptoms, and that’s one reason therapy is so helpful, especially Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy–because it works to identify and correct these distorted thoughts and self-beliefs.

3)   These mothers are afraid of telling anyone about their OCD thoughts/images, because they fear others will take their baby away or say they are unfit as mothers (which, unfortunately, happens sometimes—see below).

4)   The fact that these mothers are so genuinely worried, nervous, and concerned about the thoughts/images they’re having is proof they are not psychotic. Psychotic people don’t understand what is real and what is not, and they do not experience anxiety about their disturbing thoughts. In fact, they find them ego-syntonic. (We’ll discuss this more in Part 2.)

5)   Unlike psychosis, which can be life-threatenting, PPOCD women are much more likely to harm themselves before ever letting anything happen to their babies. In fact, there are no incidents on record of a PPOCD mom ever harming her child.

6)   Part of my job as a psychologist specializing in Perinatal Mental Health is to help PPOCD moms understand the thoughts are not their fault. They’re a misfiring of the brain, and they mean nothing about the kind of mother a PPOCD mom really is. I help them get the right doctor who will understand their symptoms and work with them to find the right medication. I also work to help them understand their symptoms, overcome them, and feel like the wonderful mothers they are. (Read 3 Things Every Mom Needs to Hear, and How to Feel Self-Worth.)

7)   Unfortunately, many mental health and healthcare professionals do not understand Pregnancy/Postpartum OCD, and so many women have been unnecessarily diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis and hospitalized. (Part 2 of this article discusses diagnosis in greater detail, and Part 3 discusses Treatment.)

8)   This is why greater education on Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders is needed—for all medical and mental health providers—and why mothers and families need education, too, so they can find the treatment and providers who will understand and help them with their concerns.

9)   The good news is this: Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is treatable–the gold standard of treatment being a combination of medication (to correct the brain chemistry and help the thoughts stop) and psychotherapy (preferably with someone who specializes in Perinatal Mental Health). Postpartum Support International (PSI) is an excellent resource to help you find a provider that is right for you.

 

To all mothers and families experiencing Postpartum or Pregnancy OCD…

Please remember this: “You are not alone. You are not to blame. With time, you will be well.” (PSI’s universal motto)

 

Join me in Part 2: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD (& video), as we discuss diagnosis, including taking a look at PPOCD vs. Psychosis. And in Part 3, we discuss PPOCD & Treatment.

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 Beyond Depression: Understanding #Pregnancy & #Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPDJoin my  This is How We Grow Personal Growth Group!

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Related Articles/Posts:

Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD–Part 2 (& video)

Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment–part 3 (& video)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Emotional Health

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Postpartum Depression Treatment: For Dads & Partners

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Complementary Alternative Modalities

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Psychotherapy

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help

Postpartum Depression Treatment: Sleep

Postpartum Depression & Men: The Facts on Paternal Postnatal Depression

The Baby Blues & You

Postpartum Survival Mode

16 Things I’d Like My Postpartum Self to Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later (PSI Blog Hop)

Moving Beyond Shame: The Ultimate Power of Support & Time (PSI Blog Hop) 

Pregnancy & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Are Women of Advanced Maternal Age at Higher Risk?

5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth

How to Feel Self-Worth: “The Pyramid of Self-Worth”

Thought Management, Part 1: The Relationship between Thoughts, Feelings, the Body, & Behavior

Womens’ Emotions & Hormones– Series

Achieving Balance–Why You’ve Got it Wrong, & How to Get it Right

Pregnancy & Postpartum Loss, Grief, & Family Healing (Part 1)

 

 

Pregnancy/Postpartum Resources & Help:

Postpartum Support International Website (Worldwide help and support for new mothers and families, including state and country coordinators to help you find the right treatment provider or support in your area!)

Postpartum Progress Blog (Excellent source of education and support for mothers and families)

Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources

Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition (AZ Support Groups, Events, Education)

Postpartum Stress Center (Education for Providers and Families)

Postpartum Couples Website

 

References:

[1] Brandes et al. (2004) Postpartum Onset Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Diagnosis & Management. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, vol. 7; is. 2: 99-102.
Ghadiali, N.  (2007).  Comorbidities in Perinatal Mental Health.  PSI 21st Annual Conference, presentation, June 22.  Kansas City, MO.
Labad, et. al. (2005). Female Reproductive Cycle & Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 66(4):428-35.
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