My depression story: Medication after pregnancy loss

My depression story: Medication after pregnancy loss

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"The doctors helped me understand that I could do my baby more harm if I stayed depressed during pregnancy than if I took my medication."

I didn't know I had PPD

Looking back, it seems pretty clear I had postpartum depression (PPD) after I had my first child. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and felt very alone and weepy. But I never said anything – how could I, when I wasn't even able to articulate it myself?

I felt bad that I was so sad – after all, I had this beautiful, healthy daughter. Wasn't I supposed to enjoy this time? It was a tough period, but I fought through it. When she was 3 months old and I returned to work, I gradually felt better.

Three years later, I had my son – and again I felt terrible. I had all the same feelings as before, but they were heavier somehow, bigger. I felt hopeless. Still, though, I blamed myself. I felt like I wasn't doing enough as a mother.

What helped me when I was depressed

At my 6-week postpartum checkup, my ob-gyn said, "You are not yourself."

And she was right – I'm normally a very enthusiastic, positive person. My ob-gyn recognized that I wasn't just tired or a little blue. She changed my life by saying, "You have PPD. I can give you medication to help."

She gave me a prescription for an antidepressant, and I started seeing a therapist. The fog lifted. I could get out of bed and do what I had to do: care for my children.

My therapist recommended exercise. I started going for walks with the stroller. I felt peaceful and could explore my feelings without so many distractions around me.

In the long run, I realized that I didn't have just PPD. I have, and probably have had for a long time, depression and anxiety. I couldn't see that until I had been on medication, because I didn't know how to identify what was going on.

Medication after pregnancy loss

I stayed on medication after my son was born. By the time he was 3 and my daughter was 5, my marriage had ended. About a year later, I remarried and found myself pregnant again. But at 16 or 17 weeks, I had to terminate the pregnancy because of serious medical issues. It was the absolute worst thing I have ever been through. It took a lot of therapy, and staying on my medication, to feel better.

Then, at age 43, I became pregnant again – and was terrified. Despite my doctors' assurances, I felt that taking an antidepressant while pregnant may have played a role, no matter how unlikely or remote, in the medical issues of my previous pregnancy. As scared as I was of being depressed while pregnant, I was more afraid of harming my child with drugs.

I went off my antidepressant, and it was a nightmare. I fell into a deep depression. I made it through one trimester, at which time the doctors convinced me that my baby – another boy – was perfectly healthy. They helped me understand that I could do him more harm if I stayed depressed during pregnancy than if I took my medication. I went back on a very low dose and stayed on it.

My younger son was born healthy. He's 16 months now and doing great.

What I wish other moms knew

Any time you are not feeling quite right, not quite like yourself, tell someone. Tell your doctor. Especially if you're a new mom. Sure, it may well be that you're only tired or it's only the blues, but what if it isn't? Find out. I regret missing out on enjoying the early months with my first babies.

Read more moms' stories about depression during pregnancy and more moms' stories about postpartum depression.

As many as 1 in 10 pregnant women suffers from depression – and at least 1 in 10 new moms suffers from PPD. But many women don't get help because they're ashamed of how they feel or brush off signs such as fatigue or moodiness as normal.

If you experience symptoms of depression, tell your doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. Or contact Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773 for free, confidential advice and help finding a therapist or support group in your area.

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