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An illness that can test a mother’s love

 

One of nature’s strongest bonds can be frayed by postpartum depression

 

At a time when new mothers are expected to celebrate the arrival of their child, Shana Calixte found herself rapidly descending into postpartum depression.

It happened after she gave birth to a boy in 2006, she says, and she did everything she could to keep the problem from her partner, friends and family.

“I avoided talking about it and kept saying that I could handle motherhood, so I wasn’t actually diagnosed with postpartum depression until my son was 15 months and we had moved to Sudbury.”

 An illness that can test a mother’s love

One of nature’s strongest bonds can be frayed by postpartum depression

 

 

Stories By Iris Winston, For Postmedia News

January 26, 2012 – At a time when new mothers are expected to celebrate the arrival of their child, Shana Calixte found herself rapidly descending into postpartum depression.

It happened after she gave birth to a boy in 2006, she says, and she did everything she could to keep the problem from her partner, friends and family.

“I avoided talking about it and kept saying that I could handle motherhood, so I wasn’t actually diagnosed with postpartum depression until my son was 15 months and we had moved to Sudbury.”

By this time, Calixte says, “I was having a lot of anxiety about going out of the house and a lot of intrusive thoughts about my son being harmed by me or others.”

Severe postpartum depression is a serious disorder.

“With postpartum depression, you worry about the children as well as the mothers,” says Heather Stuart, a professor in the department of community health and epidemiology at Queen’s University.

“It’s important to get the person appropriate medical help as quickly as possible to make sure that the situation doesn’t get to the catastrophic level where people are at risk.”

“I had a real dislike of motherhood and of my child,” Calixte says.

“And you don’t want to talk about that because you’re supposed to love and care for your child. I was caring for him, but I really resented doing it.”

She emphasizes that she very much wanted to have a child.

“Because my partner and I are lesbians, we had gone through extra steps to get this baby.

“This was a very planned child and my partner was very supportive, but I still experienced intense depression and had all sorts of conspiracy theories about people spying on us.”

Calixte says her recovery came about through medication, therapy and becoming involved in consumer rights.

Now the executive director of the Northern Initiative for Social Action, a consumer survival network run by and for people with mental illness, she says “hearing other people’s stories and sharing my own and not worrying that people are judging me has been one of the most important parts of my recovery.”

In 2010, that recovery was put to the test when her partner gave birth to a baby.

“I was really worried that I would experience postpartum depression again, even though I didn’t have all the biological associations,” she says.

“I had a lot of triggers back to when I had given birth, specifically around the (baby’s) crying, and I did nurse the second baby too. I went through a slight depression, but nothing like the first time.”

That, Calixte points out, could partly be attributed to the changed situation of the couple, who have been together for 10 years.

“When I had my baby, we were both graduate students in residence and didn’t have access to our own transportation. Now, we live in our own house in Sudbury, have a car and we both have full-time jobs.

“My partner also found a community of other new mothers. I had missed that. I was mainly alone or with other graduate students to whom babies were very foreign.”

Understanding postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It generally occurs in the first three months after delivery, but may appear up to a year later.

The baby blues – feelings of anxiety, irritation, tearfulness and restlessness – are common a week or two after pregnancy. Postpartum depression may exist if these symptoms do not fade or when signs of depression are in evidence a month or more after childbirth.

The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as the symptoms of depression that occur at other times. Along with a sad or depressed mood, they may include:

– Agitation or irritability

– Changes in appetite

– Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

– Feelings of withdrawal or being unconnected

– Lack of pleasure or interest in most or all activities

– Loss of concentration

– Loss of energy

– Problems doing tasks at home or work

– Negative feelings toward the baby

– Significant anxiety

– Thoughts of death or suicide

– Trouble sleeping

A new mother who has any symptoms of postpartum depression should seek help as soon as possible. She should ask her partner, family and friends for help with the baby’s needs and in the home, and she should talk to them about her feelings. She should also talk to her doctor. The treatment for depression after birth often includes medication, therapy or both.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

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