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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“Mom Mental Health” through Exercise: Pregnancy, Postpartum & Beyond!

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Childbearing Years Mental Health & Exercise

The years of childbearing and parenting young children can be some of the most challenging. For one, the hormonal shifts that accompany pregnancy and childbirth can throw many women into a struggle with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, like postpartum depression, and this can significantly impact her partner/spouse, children, and the entire family. Men also experience shifts in emotional functioning after a baby is born and can develop Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND).

Lack of sleep is another issue that’s common in the childbearing years, with most parents fighting off fatigue and exhaustion on a daily basis. Time is suddenly consumed with caregiving, providing for, and spending time with children and family, in addition to previous work and personal responsibilities. It’s a season of high stress and no sleep that can take its toll on a mother or father’s mental health.

 

Mom Mental Health: The Facts

To better understand the unique mental health needs of the childbearing years, let’s look at the facts:

  • Pregnancy and the first year postpartum are a particularly vulnerable time in a woman’s life. In fact, a woman is thirty times more likely to experience a psychotic episode in the days immediately following childbirth than any other time in her life. This shows just how stressful and challenging the childbearing years can be.
  • Postpartum mental health falls on a spectrum, with disorders ranging from mild to severe. On the mild end, up to 80% of women will experience some change in their emotional healthMother Holding Infant --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbisduring or after childbirth. This is most commonly referred to as “The Baby Blues,” and typically goes away without treatment. In the middle of the spectrum, we see depression and anxiety disorders. Up to 15% of women will have depression in pregnancy, and as many as one in five will experience Postpartum Depression. Approximately 6% of pregnant and 10% of postpartum women suffer from an anxiety disorder, while 3-5% experience pregnancy/postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and 1-6% experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (PSI, 2014). On the severe end of the spectrum, 1 in 1000 women will experience postpartum psychosis, a serious and potentially life-threatening mental illness that requires immediate treatment to protect both the mother and the baby.
  • If untreated, pregnancy/postpartum mental illness can become chronic. Maternal depression affects approximately 10% of mothers, after the postpartum period, each year. Only about half seek and receive treatment, and it is estimated that at least one in ten U.S. children has a depressed mother in any given year (Ertel at al, 2007). Maternal depression is one of the strongest predictors of future behavioral and cognitive problems in the developing child (Canadian Pediatric Society, 2004).
  • It’s estimated as many as 10% of fathers worldwide, and 14% in the U.S., experience Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND) (Paulson, 2010), which can also become chronic if untreated. Some estimate these numbers to be even higher, considering many do not discuss their symptoms nor reach out for help.
  • About half of men who have depressed partners are also depressed. When both parents are depressed, it can have a significant impact on parenting, bonding, and the overall development and wellbeing of the baby and other children.

 

The Benefits & Challenges of Exercise in the Childbearing Years

As you can glean from the facts above, if we want healthy children, we need healthy mothers and fathers. Considering the high risk of mental illness during the childbearing years, it’s crucial for parents to be Mom Mental Health Through Exercise; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #pregnancy #postpartum #ppd #mentalhealthprepared. Receiving education, like the statistics above, is a first step, and understanding the treatment options is a second.

Psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, are considered the go-to treatment for maternal and paternal mental illness. Psychotherapy, it’s now shown, should be considered a first-line treatment for postpartum depression (Stuart et al, 2003), which makes sense, since it can also teach skills and new coping strategies for the stressors of parenthood. Considering the drastic effects of untreated maternal depression on the child, antidepressants are often recommended for moderate to several maternal mental illness. Research has shown that antidepressants and some other psychotropic medications are considered relatively safe for use in pregnancy and while breastfeeding (Chad et al., 2013). Yet, medication use in the childbearing years can be a tough choice for a pregnant/postpartum mother and her partner; they may fear the risk to the infant, and some mothers who do take medications, knowing it’s the right thing, still harbor terrible guilt about it.

 

Exercise as Treatment!

Exercise is a valuable preventative and treatment method for mental health in pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.Mom Mental Health Through Exercise: Pregnancy, Postpartum, & Beyond! www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

  • Research has shown exercise can significantly elevate mood in pregnant and postpartum women and should be considered a first-line treatment option, especially since so many mothers worry about the risks of antidepressants (Daly et al., 2007).
  • It’s not only safe for moms and dads; it’s safe for babies and children, too.
  • Exercise also promotes physical and mental health in pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting, and thus it’s truly a win-win.

 

Barriers to Exercise in Motherhood

Many parents do not exercise, however, and for many reasons. Becoming a parent shifts priorities from self-focus to child-focused. While this is no doubt a good thing, many parents give up their own physical and mental fitness as a result. Some feel, with such a full life, physical activity is no longer as important as it once was.

Of course, lack of sleep can also impact motivation and ability to exercise, as well as the heavy responsibilities new parents face. Finally, having a baby or young children can make it tough for many parents to find the time and space to exercise.

 

Tips for Exercise in the Childbearing Years

It is possible to maintain a regular exercise program with babies and young children at home. With six kids of my own, trust me, I know. And the good news is that developing an exercise program now will not only benefit your physical and mental health; it will benefit your children, as well. Here are a few suggestions for how to make exercise work for you:

  • Involve your child in your exercise program. Put the baby in the sling and do squats or lunges. Place him in the bouncer and do a yoga video, making faces and interacting with him while you do. Use a stroller or sling and go for a walk. Research shows that stroller, or pram, walking is an excellent way to improve mental health with your baby.
  • Exercise during naptime. Babies typically enjoy a ride in their stroller or sling while they sleep, and you can benefit by getting out in the sun and moving your body, too.
  • Create a home exercise “studio.” This can help you cut your exercise time. During naps, head to your exercise area do a home video, lift free weights, or stretch.
  • Join a gym with babysitting included. I taught aerobics for years using the free babysitting, and my kids loved it!
  • Exercise together, as a family. Put the kids in the stroller or sling and go for a family walk at the end of a busy day. Great bonding time, and you’re modeling self-care, too.
  • Trade off. Couples can take turns watching the kids while the other exercises. My husband and I used to do this: he’d watch the kids while I went for a jog or did a Pilates video, and then he’d head to the gym to play basketball, while I stayed with the kids.
  • Involve friends. Meet at the park and take turns watching the kids while the other goes for a jog, or start a babysitting co-op, where each person takes a turn watching all the children, and rotate.
  • Little kids can workout “with” you. When my kids were very young, they used to stretch and do yoga with me, or follow along with my exercise video, or they’d ride their Big Wheel up and down the street, while I ran alongside. It’s a great way to instill in kids a love of exercise, too.

 

~Exclusive, editor-deleted excerpt from my brand new book, “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise” Coming April 2016, and available for pre-order TODAY on Norton.com (COUPON: save 25% plus free shipping with code HIBBERT) on Amazon & Barnes & Noble! Watch for more sneak peak excerpts, coming soon!

 

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“The Many Faces of Depression”: Motherhood, Postpartum, & Spirituality–Jami’s Story

"The Many FACEs of DEPRESSION": Motherhood, Postpartum, & Spirituality--Jami's Story; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

I am pleased to continue my “Many FACEs of DEPRESSION” campaign this month with Jami’s story.

Jami is a counselor,  speaker, and mother of seven! Her story shows how depression can hit not only during hard times, but also how it may come unbidden when we most want to feel happy and well.

Jami shows us, once again, that depression can come to anyone, any time, and that it does not in any way reflect weakness on the part of the sufferer. Jami has worked very hard to overcome her depression. She shares specific strategies that have helped her, including focusing on spirituality, and how depression has impacted her spiritual connection and beliefs. Jami seeks to keep smiling, despite depression; again, as I always say, “You can’t always tell by looking.”

That’s why I’m doing this series, each month for this entire year–to keep this topic open for discussion; to keep reminding us that we’re not alone and that depression does not mean we are weak; to educate and help people understand depression more fully so we can stop the stigma that holds so many captive. I am grateful to Jami for lending her face and voice to help break down the walls, and stigma, of depression!

 

Jami’s Story

“Depression…Maybe it’s that feeling of being a caged tiger that intermittently erupts and threatens to consume you. Maybe it’s the negative, nagging thoughts of running away, disappearing, and hibernating that are nipping at your heels. Maybe it’s the subtle simmering of certain words that would usually never occur, words like death, sleeping pills, and funerals.

 

‘Maybe it’s the shroud of numbness as you sit amongst utter chaos, yet you feel nothing. Maybe it’s the veil of mental fog and utter disconnect from those you see around you but the stark realization that even in a room full of people, you feel no one. Who knows. But somehow, you’re left stumbling in slow motion through the deep dark dismal abyss of depression.

 

Depression can happen any time, to anyone…

‘Here I find myself venturing my way through the murky waters of depression once again. Painfully, depression is no stranger to me. It hit me as I battled my way out of an abusive marriage with a three month old. It choked me as I faced months of handling a screaming colicky baby. It kidnapped me while I attempted to celebrate the surprising birth of our long awaited baby girl. It swarmed me following a life threatening experience of our infant son. And now it nearly consumes me as I send my son off to college and cradle the little bundle in my arms that we hadn’t anticipated.

 

‘It has robbed me of clarity, celebration, and contentment. Some would say I should be tougher mentally or question why I, as a counselor and speaker, can’t help myself. The stark truth…Depression can happen at any time, to anyone. And that includes me.

 

Depression in Marriage, Motherhood, & Postpartum…

‘The first time I experienced depression, people could understand my struggle a bit, After all, I was leaving"The Many Faces of Depression": Motherhood, Postpartum, & Spirituality--Jami's Story www.DrChristinaHibbert.com an abusive marriage with a tiny baby, and the whole situation seemed dark and horrible. Then, about seven years later I was mothering an extremely colicky baby who had horrible reflux issues. After just a few moments in his presence most people could understand why I might be struggling. His constant crying would get anyone down!

 

‘But then two years later, we were overjoyed to be surprised by the addition of a baby girl after having three boys and being told she was expected to be a boy. Despite my pure excitement, I could feel the depression overcoming me. And no one understood! By everyone else’s measure, I should be ecstatic. And as much as I wanted to feel that, I could feel only the dark cloud of depression overtaking me. I remember vividly sitting in my living room, thinking about my funeral, and what it would be like to have others walk into my home once I was gone. I felt convinced my kids would be better off with me dead. (Read more about postpartum depression here.)

 

‘Those were long and scary days. The depression felt as though it lasted forever. Even with counseling and medication, I didn’t feel much relief. Depression hit again six years later, two months after we had our sixth child and he experienced a life-threatening incident. The fear of picking him up and having him feel near death will never leave me. I felt anxious and dreadful. I constantly relived the events and felt certain I should be able to keep anything from harming him. I lost sleep and grew into a depression with anxiety looming. Now, here I sit following the surprise addition of our seventh child (sixth son) who arrived just five short weeks after sending our oldest son off to college. Who knows if the launching of a child or hormones after the addition of another bears greater weight on the depression I feel over whelming me. The fact remains. I am once again where I have desperately tried to never be again.

 

What helps…Self-Care & Spirituality

‘As hard as the struggle is proving to be, I am at least trying to stay afloat and have found some of these things helpful.

Supplements/Essential Oils–I am taking quality supplements that are supporting my overall health and supposed to be a good tool for combatting depression. Even though they are not inexpensive, I find that I feel worse if I miss just one or two doses. I am also using some mood supporting oils. I apply them topically and diffuse them as well. I can really feel a difference and can tell when I am not using them consistently.

Sleep—I make a point to nap a little each afternoon. Sometimes that is my motivation to get through a difficult morning! I also find that it is like building a small energy reserve to finish the day. And at night, I diffuse essential oils that help support better sleep. (Read, “6 Insomnia Causes & Cures” here.)

Diet–I make sure to eat and drink well. I really hate drinking water, but adding lemon oil to my water is another method of gently flushing my system and fighting depression.

Exercise—Okay, maybe I fail here just a little, but with the busy schedule of a family with seven kiddos…I feel like I am constantly running! (Read about Exercise and Mental Health Benefits here.)

Counseling—Obviously, as a counselor I believe in the value of counseling. Even then it can be hard to take that step to trust someone and go. It really is valuable to have a place that you can leave your “junk” and return to life. (Read more about postpartum depression psychotherapy treatment here.)

Grace—More than anything, I am really trying to give myself grace for this race. My house is not as clean as I would choose. The laundry is often overtaking me. I’ve had a kid or two go to school with bedhead, and I have even gone three days with the same hair do…but THAT’S OK!

Spiritual Connection—Depression makes me feel disconnected from everyone, and honestly, that includes God. But during this time, I remind myself of the things I know to be true. He is always there. He’s got His eye on me, and He will never let me go. Thankfully, He’s a big God and He can even handle my anger and extreme emotions. (Read about The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection here.)

 

This has been my journey through depression…

‘Yes, I am a face of depression. It may come as a surprise to many, as I walked out most days feeling as though I had to choose the shallow smile and suffer in silence. How refreshing it would be to remove the stigma and be able to talk about it and get the support we so desperately need!”

~Learn more about Jami on her website, jamikirkbride.com!

 

 

 

Read and share the stories from 

“The Many FACEs of DEPRESSION” series:

Overcoming the Stigma of Depression: “I am the FACE of DEPRESSION (& Anxiety)”–My Story

Men, Illness, & Mental Health–Pernell’s Story

more coming soon!

 

Did Jami’s story touch you in some way? Could you relate, or did you learn something? What would you like Jami to know? Please leave a comment, below, and show Jami your gratitude and support!

 

#1 Amazon Bestseller, This Is How We Grow, by Dr. Christina Hibbert, Available now on Amazon.com! www.ThisIsHowWeGrow.com
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 "The Many FACEs of DEPRESSION": Motherhood, Postpartum, & Spirituality--Jami's Story; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

 

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Related Posts/Articles:

10 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

Living a Life of Purpose & Meaning: The Key to true Happiness

Join my Free, Online “This Is How We Grow” Personal Growth Group!

“This is How We Grow:” Understanding the Seasons of Personal Growth

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

Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment--part 3 (& video); www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD #pregnancy #postpartum #mentalhealthIn this 3-part series we’ve been discussing Pregnancy/Postpartum Obsessive-Complusive Disorder (PPOCD). In part 1 we took a good look at the symptoms of PPOCD and why it is so misunderstood. In part 2 we discussed why PPOCD is so misdiagnosed and how to make a proper diagnosis. In this final part we take a look at treatment for Postpartum OCD. 

 

Postpartum OCD Treatment: Best Options

When it comes to pregnancy and postpartum mood/anxiety disorders, there are a variety of treatment options, including medication, psychotherapy, self-help, and complementary and alternative modalities. It’s also helpful to consider addressing/treating sleep issues, couples’ and relationship issues, and making sure dads and partners get the treatment they need. (Please see my Postpartum Depression Treatment series for more.)

 

(For a quick overview, watch this 3-Minute Therapy YouTube video, Beyond PPD: Postpartum OCD Treatment. Then, read on, below.)

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3D6kReyGHJMVo%26feature%3Dyoutu.be img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/6kReyGHJMVo/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false responsive=16:9 /]

 

However, when looking specifically at Postpartum OCD, the following treatment options are considered the “gold standard of care”:

Psychotropic Medication

Antidepressant/antianxiety medications are highly recommended for PPOCD. These medications heal the misfiring of the brain chemistry that is causing the intrusive images/thoughts. They help reduce symptoms of anxiety, worry, and fear, and can also treat the symptoms of depression that may accompany postpartum OCD. (More on medication: Postpartum Depression Treatment: Medication; Antidepressant? Or not? 12 Facts on Depression & Medication)

 

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy aims to teach new, healthy coping strategies. This can be especially helpful for women struggling with Postpartum OCD. Working with a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist who understands your symptoms and can offer reassurance, encouragement, sound advice, and new ways to deal with the troubling symptoms of PPOCD is a highly effective treatment approach. (More on postpartum psychotherapy, here.)

 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered one of the best treatment methods for PPOCD because of its focus on helping mothers identify and alter unhealthy thoughts and beliefs.

 

Couple’s therapy is also helpful, for it addresses not only the mother’s concerns, but the couple’s relationship. It allows fathers to get involved in treatment and also addresses any issues he may be facing. (More here for Dads/Partners or on  Paternal Postnatal Depression)

 

Social Support

Social support may involve support from your partner, friends, family, and faith community. Reaching out and letting others help and support you through PPOCD is important to your recovery. (More on social support, here.)

 

Support groups specifically for pregnant/postpartum women can also be a great help to PPOCD moms. Many communities around the world now have Postpartum Adjustment support groups, and the camaraderie, support, and encouragement these provide can help women with Postpartum OCD realize they are not alone. Hearing another mother say, “I’ve experienced that, too,” is often the thing you need most. (Find a support group near you here.)

 

Combination Treatment

Of course, research shows the very best treatment for Postpartum OCD, Depression, and most of the perinatal mood/anxiety disorders is a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and social support. Combined, these treatments provide the PPOCD mom with the physical, mental, and emotional support and care she needs.

 

Postpartum OCD Treatment: Things to ConsiderPostpartum Depression & OCD Treatment; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

For moms/dads/families:

1)   It’s important, when possible, to seek treatment from a medical/mental health provider who has been trained in the diagnosis and treatment of perinatal mood/anxiety disorders. Postpartum Support International is a wonderful resource for finding experienced providers in your area.

 

2)   If you can’t find someone who specializes in pregnancy/postpartum mental health, then look for a provider who is at least understanding and willing to learn about PPOCD and consult with others, as needed.

 

3)   It can be very helpful to have your husband/partner/parent/friend go with you to your first treatment session. This can give you support and a second opinion on the treatment. It can also help the provider to obtain information from another person who is close to you, in order to make a more thorough diagnosis and treatment plan.

 

4)   While it’s important to find an educated, understanding provider, it’s just as important to find somebody you like and trust.

 

5)   It’s okay and even recommended to seek a second (or third or fourth) opinion until you find the provider(s) that is right for you.

 

For Providers:

1)  Part of the treatment for women with PPOCD is providing understanding and reassurance. I’ve had mothers call just to hear me remind them they are not going crazy, to help validate these thoughts are not their fault, and remind them of the coping strategies they have learned. This, along with making a proper diagnosis, is one reason providers must seek as much education and training on this issue as possible. There are wonderful educational courses on perinatal mood/anxiety disorders, so please consider learning more, as needed. (See the resources section below for more information.)

 

2)  If you do not feel comfortable diagnosing and/or treating PPOCD (trained or not), please seek supervision or consultation from a provider who specializes in pregnancy/postpartum mental health. This is imperative in making the proper diagnosis and protecting the health and safety of the mother and the child. You may also consider referring the mother to a provider who specializes in perinatal mood/anxiety disorders, if that feels like the best option.

 

3)   As mentioned above, it is very helpful when diagnosing Postpartum OCD for you, the provider, to involve the client’s husband/partner/parents/friends in the assessment process. It may also be helpful to obtain a signed release to speak with the mother’s obstetrician or other care providers. A team approach is an ideal way to ensure the safety of the baby while also giving the mother the diagnosis and treatment she needs.

 

Bottom Line…

Together, we can reduce the stigma, misunderstanding, and mistreatment associated with Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The more educated mothers, fathers, families, and providers become on this disorder, the better the diagnosis and treatment.

Mothers, remember you are not alone. Remember, this is highly treatable, and with patience and proper treatment, you will be well.  Trust me–you will.

 

Please share your thoughts/suggestions/questions by leaving a comment, below! 

#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
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Beyond Depression: Postpartum OCD Treatment--part 3 (& video); www.DrChristinaHibbert.com #PPD #pregnancy #postpartum #mentalhealth

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Related Articles/Posts:

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

Beyond Depression: Diagnosing Postpartum OCD (part 2) (& 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. PSI also provides educational courses on Perinatal Mood/Anxiety Disorders.

Postpartum Progress Blog

-Excellent source of education and support for mothers and families.

Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition

-Support for AZ families: Support Warmline, Brochures, & Provider/Family Education.

Postpartum Stress Center

-Education & support for Providers and Families)

Postpartum Couples Website

Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources

 

**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: 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

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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.

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DKyoxtsa_Vn4 img=x:/img.youtube.com/vi/Kyoxtsa_Vn4/0.jpg embed=false share=false width=640 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false responsive=16:9 /]

 

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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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.

Antidepressant? Or Not? 12 Facts on Depression & Medication

As I often tell clients who are depressed or anxious and considering taking a psychotropic medication, “When you need it, you need it.” What I mean is, if medication is one of the tools that will help you feel well again, it’s definitely worth considering.

 

But considering taking a medication can be tough for many people. Though I don’t prescribe medications (I’m a psychologist, not a psychiatrist), I am often the one helping clients decide what to do about taking an antidepressant, antianxiety, or other type of psychotropic medication. Here are a few of the things my clients and I discuss, in order to make their decision about medication a little easier. I hope they might shed a little light on depression and medication for you too.

 

 

The Facts on Depression and Medication

How Medication Works:

1)    Life stress and hormones literally alter brain chemistry and can leave us depleted of the neurotransmitters (like Seratonin) that make us feel “normal” and well. When these chemicals are out of whack, we end up with symptoms like sadness, fatigue, anxiety, panic—symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental disorders. (For more on this, read my Women’s Emotions series.)

 

2)    Take depression, for example. Even people who aren’t struggling with depression have their daily ups and downs. It works the same for those who are depressed, except the lows are much lower and the “highs” are not so high. This is why depression can make it so challenging just to have a normal day.

 

3)    Antidepressants work to correct flaws in the brain’s chemistry, bringing functioning up to a more “normal” level.

 

4)    Antidepressants are not “happy pills,” as many people believe. They don’t alter who you are or affect your personality directly. They simply bring you from here ___ to here —. Then you do the rest.

 

5)    Therapy also works to correct the chemistry of the brain, but it can take 12 weeks, on average, to really see change, whereas antidepressants usually kick in within about 2 weeks to one month, depending on the type. In cases of moderate to severe depression, therapy alone often doesn’t work, because the client doesn’t have the energy or ability to fully participate. Considering how much energy it takes for a depressed person to just get through the day, there is often nothing left for actually working on the depression. This is why antidepressants and therapy work so well together. The medication gives just enough of a boost that you can focus on making change in your life—learning to cope, learning strategies to prevent depression in the future, and eventually, learning how to create the experiences you desire in your life.

 

6)    Because of this, according to research, the “gold standard” of care for depression (for most people) is a combination of therapy and medication.

 

7)    For moderate to severe depression, antidepressants can make the difference between a lengthy battle that seems to never end and a smooth recovery to previous functioning.

 

Tips on Taking Psychotropic Medications:

8)    If you’re considering taking a psychotropic medication, like an antidepressant, antianxiety, or other type, please speak to your doctor and make sure your s/he understands these medications. Many people turn to their primary care physician for mental health medications. Some of these doctors are well educated on psychotropic medications. Others are not. Make sure your doctor understands  your needs and offers the education, advice, and support you need.

 

9)    It’s okay, and even recommended, to seek a second opinion or get evaluated by a psychiatrist (a doctor who specializes in psychotropic medications) if you’re not comfortable with what your doctor recommends. This is especially important if your symptoms are more complex or it’s your first time receiving a diagnosis and medication.

 

10) Just remember, it takes a few weeks for most psychotropic medications to work correctly. It’s not always easy to find the medication that will be just right for you, so be patient. It’s not an exact science—more like trial and error.

 

11) There can be side effects to antidepressants and psychotropic medications, so make sure you ask your doctor about them and become educated before you start.

 

12) Most importantly, never “quit” antidepressants or other psychotropic medications, cold turkey. These need to be tapered off over several weeks in order to avoid negative side effects or the resurgence of your previous condition. Please speak with your physician about a tapering plan when you feel ready to come off the medication and heed their advice.

 

 

A Few More Things to know about Depression & Medication:

Not everyone needs a psychotropic medication, and I usually recommend trying therapy or alternative methods first, IF it’s okay with your doctor and your symptoms are not severe. In fact, research shows therapy should be considered a first line of treatment for most cases of mild to moderate depression.[1]

 

That being said, I repeat, “When you need it, you need it.” If your efforts in therapy or other forms of treatment don’t seem to be working, or if you are getting worse, it may be time to look into a medication. It’s one of many tools created to help you be well, and it may just be the one tool that makes the difference for you.

 

**The opinions presented here are not meant to replace proper medical care but are merely suggestions based on my work as a psychologist. I am not a psychiatrist, nor do I prescribe medications. For information on your own medication treatment or management, please speak to your physician.**

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Learn and Grow with Dr. Hibbert and her community of really great people![/author_info] [/author]

 

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To Take an Antidepressant or Not?: 12 Facts on Depression & Medication; www.DrChristinaHibbert.com

Has a medication helped you? If so, tell us about it. What helped you make your decision about taking an antidepressant or not? What kinds of things might get in your way? Share a COMMENT, below, and help us de-stigmatize depression and medications!

 

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Related Posts/Articles:

[1] Stuart, S., O’Hara, M.W., & Gorman, L.L, 2003. The prevention and psychotherapeutic treatment of postpartum depression. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 6[Suppl.2]: s57-s69.)

“Sleep Better, Cope Better”: 6 Insomnia Causes & Cures

“Sleep Better, Cope Better”:

6 Insomnia Causes & Cures

Sleep is one of the best tools to improve mental health. It serves to restore the mind, gives us energy to handle life’s situations, and helps us manage our emotions too. Lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression, stress, worry, poorer thinking, decision-making, and judgment, and overall, poorer coping. As I always say, “Sleep better, cope better”.

And I would know. Having struggled with insomnia off and on for most of my life, I know that when I’m sleep deprived I’m grumpy, irritable, and just can’t seem to be nice! That’s why I’ve focused so much of my education on the topic of sleep—I know the extreme difference that quality sleep can make. And I’m not alone. An estimated 30 to 55 % of Americans will struggle with insomnia in their lifetime, and that makes for an awful lot of poorly coping folks out there!

If you feel like you’re one of those poorly coping folks, then I’m here to help. Below are some of the most common causes of insomnia that I see in my practice (and in myself!) and some of the solutions I usually offer. I hope they help you sleep easier and cope better!

 

6 Insomnia Causes & Cures:

Cause#1: You can’t settle down to sleep in your bedroom at night.

Cure: Establish a bedroom and bedtime routine that encourage sleep. 1) Set your bedroom up with soothing colors, a comfortable mattress and bedding, and items that calm you. Use your bed for sleep only, and refrain from doing mentally stimulating activities in your bedroom like work or even watching TV. 2) Then, remember that bedtime routines aren’t just for kids–adults need them too! Your mind and body need time to quiet down, so begin your routine an hour before you want to fall asleep. Your routine might include getting ready for bed, reading, taking a bath or shower, listening to calming music, or whatever promotes sleep for you. Do what works for you, and be consistent!

 

Cause #2: Thoughts, worries, and negative emotions flood you when you lie down to sleep.

Cure: Write it down, then “dream” yourself to sleep!  1) Turn on the light and write it all down. Getting the thoughts or worries out on paper gets them out of your head, reduces intense emotions, and gives you the chance to leave it ‘til morning and fall asleep easier. 2) Then, instead of thinking of all the “negative” stuff before you fall sleep, focus on the good. Visualize your desires, hopes and vision for the future, and “dream” yourself to sleep. You’ll not only fall asleep smiling, you’ll sleep better and wake happier too!

 

Cause #3: You can’t relax enough to fall asleep.

Cure: Go to bed only when you’re sleepy, and learn relaxation skills. 1) Make sure you only go to sleep when you feel sleepy. If you’re not sleepy yet, engage in a calm activity (like reading, light housework, etc.) until you’re ready to lie down. 2) Another great tool is to learn relaxation skills like deep breathing, meditation, and visualization. Then, practice these skills for 10-30 minutes before bed. Listening to the same soothing music each night is also a good way to condition your body to relax into sleep.

 

Cause #4: You feel sleepy in the daytime and awake at bedtime.

Cure: Re-program your body to fall asleep on time. 1) Limit caffeine and sugar after about 3 pm. 2) Set your alarm to start waking you up earlier. This should help you feel more tired at bedtime. 3) If these aren’t working, your internal “clock” might be off. You can reset your circadian rhythms with light therapy. Sit in direct sunlight (either by a window or outside) in the early morning for 20-60 minutes each day for 2 weeks. If you don’t live in a sunny place, you can buy a light box for the same effect. Sunlight helps reset your body’s sleep patterns naturally, allowing you to fall asleep earlier and feel more rested in the daytime.

 

Cause #5: You fall asleep fine, then wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.

Cure: “Get up” to get back to sleep. After 15-20 minutes, if you’re unable to sleep, leave your bed and engage in a calm, quiet activity. (My preferred option is cleaning out my closet; it’s not interesting enough to keep my mind awake, and it’s physical enough to wear me out). Repeat as needed. Trust me, though it may not happen immediately (or even that same night), you’ll eventually get tired enough to sleep again!

 

Cause #6: You’re a clock-watcher, lying awake, counting the minutes of sleep you’ve lost, and reminding yourself of just how tired you will be the next day!

Cure: Turn the Clock around and stop telling yourself lies! Watching the clock just sets you up for failure, filling your mind with negative thoughts that make sleep even more elusive. Instead, set your alarm before bed, then turn the clock around. If you can’t see it, you’ll be forced to let it go. And stop criticizing yourself for your lack of sleep. Most of what you’re saying is probably not even true–you can’t predict tomorrow, and it certainly won’t help you sleep any better tonight!

 

This is, by no means an exhaustive list (pun intended) of insomnia causes and cures, so be on the lookout for more posts like these on sleep and mental health. If, however, you’ve tried suggestions like these and nothing seems to help, you may be experiencing a sleep disorder. Talk to your healthcare provider, who can refer you to a sleep specialist. Until next time, here’s wishing you solid sleep, sweet dreams, and strong coping skills!

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Learn and Grow with Dr. Hibbert and her community of really great people![/author_info] [/author]

 

I want to know: What are your biggest sleep concerns? What works and what doesn’t work to improve your sleep? How does sleep affect your mental health? Leave a comment below and let us know!

 

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Links:

Dr. Hibbert on 30SecondMom:

Dream Yourself To Sleep

Deep Breathing

Meditation for Mental Health

Helpful Blog Posts:

Thought Management

The Key To Worry-Free

 

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