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The Dark, Dirty Secret of Prenatal Depression

Posted Mar 25 2013 8:30am

It’s been quiet around here lately, no?

*casts a guilty glance*

I know. I know.

. . .

To get you quickly up to speed: the Knish is just fine. He’s very active and I believe he has waged a war against my belly button from the inside. I think he knows that I really don’t want my innie to become an outie and he’s on a mission to pop it out, one kick at a time. At nearly 28 weeks along, the time is flying by. I’ve got another run-in with a glucose test next weekend. Fingers crossed, I’ll pass it.

We have a follow-up ultrasound in two weeks. I can’t wait to see him again.

Other than that, the belly and boy continue to grow. I am (finally) gaining weight. And I’m nesting like crazy.

. . .

Speaking of crazy…

I’ve certainly felt like it. For a while now, actually. And it’s been over the last few months that I’ve stumbled upon probably one of the dirtiest, darkest secrets about pregnancy they never really tell you about. And I’m not talking about pooping while birthing (although, yeah – pretty dark and dirty).

I’m taking about prenatal depression.

And no, that’s not a typo. I know – it seems like I should be saying “post-partum” depression but no – ooooh no friends. It can start LONG before your baby ever gets here.

And no one really talks about it.

The Dark, Dirty Secret of Prenatal Depression

It’s interesting really. I do so much vocal, out-loud advocacy for the infertility community because as far as I’m concerned, infertility is nothing to be ashamed of: it’s a disease. And yet, I haven’t posted here because I’ve been so ashamed of dealing (or rather, not dealing very well at all thank you very much) with prenatal depression, which is just as much of a disease as any other.

I’ve clammed up about what it’s like to live with this kind of depression in the very ways I advocate others to fight through when dealing with their own infertility. And then it just became layer after layer of guilt, of feeling like a phony, a sham…

Who am I to tell others to speak out when I’m just cowering in shame over here?

. . .

I’m finally opening up about this in more detail here because of this Slate article, found via a link on a completely unrelated topic sent to me by a friend:

“Despite these stats, prenatal depression is still relatively under the radar, and many obstetricians are not well-trained in its complexities. Until very recently, doctors didn’t even know a woman could get depressed during pregnancy: They thought antenatal hormones protected against it. And women who have prenatal depression don’t want to talk about it. You’re supposed to glow while pregnant, not spiral into darkness.”

(Source: Not Just the Pregnancy Blues: Why isn’t anyone talking about prenatal depression? )

As I read this article last week, the tears just began to flow. I found myself unconsciously nodding along to Grose’s words. I’ve definitely felt detached from this space here because I’ve been carrying such survivor’s guilt. But then at the same time, there’s this vicious part of prenatal depression that harps away at a woman’s psyche: “You should be happier for this pregnancy.”

Now add that infertility layer on top and you might see why I’ve felt crippled by this depressive weight lately. It’s been an oppressive, silencing wedge between me and my writing for the past month.

. . .

Prenatal depression is more than just “feeling blue.” It’s struggling to get out of bed in the morning. It’s constantly worrying about every thing you put into your mouth and your body: will this harm my baby? It’s worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to give birth vaginally or via cesarean (which is still up in the air right now).

It’s not just worrying about what kind of mother you’re going to me or getting the pre-parenthood jitters. It’s finding yourself trapped by paralyzing, irrational fears and then being equally as terrified that all of your worrying and stressing out and trying to suppress the random bursts of tearful sadness are hurting your baby.

It’s not eating enough when your baby needs the nutrition the most. It’s counting down the hours until you can go to bed for the night so the day will be over quicker.

It’s watching your marriage morph into something that confuses and scares you because your partner is confused and scared about the kind of woman you’re turning in to: a woman one who can barely function. And all he wants to do is understand and help.

And all you want to do is sleep.

. . .

Numerous studies have pegged the rates of prenatal depression at more than 10 percent of women, and yet the myth persists that pregnancy protects you from melancholy. And it’s a dangerous one. The lack of public conversation about prenatal depression and the fallacy of the happy, glowing mother-to-be can block women from recognizing the problem and seeking help.”

(Source: Not Just the Pregnancy Blues: When should a pregnant woman take antidepressants? )

I’m seeing a therapist who works specifically with women and couples who are undergoing fertility treatment and especially women who are pregnant after treatment. She’s amazing – there’s a level of understanding and intuitiveness she possesses that makes opening up in our sessions so much easier than a therapist who just doesn’t understand the emotional complexities of pregnancy after infertility.

At my last session, she threw out the idea of possibly adding medication. Not a requirement – just a recommendation with a referral to a psychiatrist who works with pregnant patients. It’s a loaded suggestion for sure, and one I know that’s fraught with deep opinions on either side. To give you an idea of where I’m at when it comes to medication beyond my thyroid meds during pregnancy, consider this: when I had a fever of 101° back in January, while I had a nasty cold, I had a full-on panic attack meltdown about having to take Tylenol until my fever broke.

That said, I’m seriously considering resuming antidepressants for the first time in almost six years. This is an extremely personal decision, one that I’m making very carefully with my husband.

(I know it’s a loaded issue for some and I just ask that for the sake of my own decision-making process , please leave any loaded opinions out of the comments for now. Right now I just need support on trying to forge ahead in the healthiest way possible for me and my baby.)

. . .

I’ve got some more thoughts on all of this, but this post is already pretty verbose so I’m going to save it for a second post tomorrow, one that I hope you’ll join me in sharing your thoughts with me.

Stay tuned tomorrow for The Untethered Boat of Pregnancy and Parenting After Infertility.

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