Im interested in peoples experiences with Post Natal Depression (P.N.D.) and psychosis, especially, but not exclusively from a Dad's point of view.

When did it start? How long did it go on for? What 'cured' it in the end (if at all)? How did you cope as a father and family? Did your job suffer? What are you thoughts behind the perceived stigma attached to P.N.D.?

Edit: To be clear, I was orginally interested to hear about Dad's experiences with their spouses depression (which is my experience), but very interesting all the same to hear of paternal depression, which is possibly even less talked about.

This question is marked "community wiki".

asked 04 Nov '09, 11:36

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Mungo
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edited 04 Nov '09, 22:56

I have my own to share, but thought I'd get the ball rolling as there wasn't an existing question to add them to...

(04 Nov '09, 11:36) Mungo

Also, could someone with enough reputation start a post-natal-depression tag? Thanks :)

(04 Nov '09, 11:37) Mungo

I think it's just a cultural thing. Here it's referred to as postpartum depression. I added both tags.

(04 Nov '09, 11:42) Scott ♦♦

What do you mean by psychosis?

(04 Nov '09, 11:43) Scott ♦♦
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"Postnatal psychosis is an uncommon, but severe, form of depression that can occur after childbirth. As well as symptoms of severe depression, there are also other serious symptoms such as delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (such as hearing voices), odd behaviours, and irrational thoughts."

The 3 severity's of PND are generally seen as 'Baby Blues' -> PND -> PN Psychosis

(04 Nov '09, 12:00) Mungo

This should be tagged postpartum depression. I believe the term postnatal generally refers more to the baby, not the mother.

(10 Nov '09, 05:57) Jeremy Ross

Jeremy, Post Natal is the common name in the U.K. Postpartum is hardly used at all.

(11 Nov '09, 14:53) Mungo
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Well, being a mom I can't give you the dad's perspective, but I can share my side of the experience. :-)

I had postpartum depression with both of my children. With my son it was mild, but with my daughter it was quite severe. I suffered depression and OCD and it was debilitating. I was unable to take care of the children on my own and depended on family to assist me. My husband was amazing during this time and we were fortunate that he had the job flexibility to provide the level of support I needed (which was intense and exhausting). In the end it was medication and therapy that helped, and overall it took about 3 months from the time I first started treatment to really get "better."

As a mental health professional myself, I knew how critical it was to get treatment and thought I sought help early (as soon as I noticed symptoms). After talking to my psychiatrist I realize that my symptoms started during the third trimester (according to her this is commonly when they start as hormone levels change), though they didn't reach "critical mass" until three months postpartum.

The stigma is a challenge. As uncomfortable as it is to talk about I have felt it is my mission to share my experience with as many people as possible, because I know too many women who have suffered in silence. IT IS HORMONAL. It is not a weakness or character flaw. I wish more people understood that.

Two resources that I found to be incredible helpful were the Self Care Program for Women with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, and the Postpartum Promise, both of which can be downloaded for free.

link

answered 04 Nov '09, 16:38

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+1 for "IT IS HORMONAL. It is not a weakness or character flaw. I wish more people understood that."

I always compare it to a illness or injury like a broken leg and tell people to use the same attitude they would for that.

(04 Nov '09, 22:58) Mungo

Not sure that my experiance should be termed post-natal, as the symptoms began several months before my first was born, but it was almost certainly triggered by the stress associated with becoming a parent. Anyway, my doctor was useless and hadn't got any idea what was wrong. So it was something that I and my wife had to live with for probably 6 months. During this time I got gradually worse. Once Adam was born I got worse still, which left my wife not only having to care for our newborn, but also feeling that she should be doing more for me.
I also started taking a lot of time off work, mostly half days. Thankfully my employer is fairly understanding. Eventually our health visitor recognised my symptoms as depression. 8 months on Prozac and I was okay. Although I believe it has permenantly harmed my relationship with my eldest.

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answered 04 Nov '09, 13:34

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Let me start by saying that I don't really hold the belief that there's a stigma attached with postpartum depression. Depression and other issues postpartum are very common, and people in general seem more open to talk about them nowadays than before.

In our case, it started as high levels of stress and anxiety within a few days after birth. I believe most of it stems from trouble with breastfeeding, which can certainly be a devastating situation for a new mother who never imagined that she would do anything other than breastfeed normally. It seemed that from this point forward, any problem was viewed through a magnifying lens. Every problem we encountered, most being minor, was blown out of proportion and made much more difficult than they should have been.

My wife was diagnosed with mild depression/anxiety years ago and took medication for a few years. Within a couple of months after birth, her midwife had her resume zoloft. In retrospect, I wish she had started it before birth. In her case, the issue was anxiety, not depression, although the experts seem to commonly link the two.

We had a very difficult 8 weeks postpartum. Fortunately, we had a lot of support from family to help out. My wife's mother and sister seemed to be at our house constantly during that time. She needed the help because she was attempting to breastfeed (which always failed) and then pumped for 30 minutes or so. This schedule was really too much for her. She was depressed, detached and exhausted, physically and mentally.

Now we're all much better. Our son is 5 months, he still doesn't breastfeed but mom pumps plenty of milk -- so much so that she donates the milk to women across the country. What got us past the rough times? I'd say it was help from the family, time, and our son maturing to the point that he sleeps better and is more engaging, which may sound silly, but when your baby smiles and laughs at you all the problems else melt away for a brief time. It's a very welcome distraction.

You didn't give many specifics on your situation, but my general advice would be to get help from family if available, visit a counselor that specializes in this type of problem (we did that, forgot to mention), and give Mom a break by letting her go shopping, get her nails done, or just go to the grocery store while you babysit. Most importantly, OBs and midwives are trained to help with postpartum issues. You need to be talking to them about any problems you're having and don't shy away from conveying the severity of them.

link

answered 06 Nov '09, 20:55

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+1 Reading your post certainly brought back memories and I totally agree with what you say about getting an ample amount support and that helping.

(07 Nov '09, 19:50) Emi

I had post partum depression, quite badly after the birth of my first child. We had extenuating circumstances as my daughter was born with 2 holes in her heart and shortly after birth went into heart failure. I cannot remember a worse time in my whole life. I never left her side, I lived in the hospital with her for the better part of the first 3-4 months of her life. Due to the extreme situation, I was unable to sleep for fear of things going wrong or mistakes in her care bing made. This made my depression many times worse and I eventualy could barely cope. I was put on some pretty major medication, one to stop my racing mind and one to knock me out to force me to sleep. I also sought professional help which helped me realize that what I was feeling was absolutely rational and justified, considering what we were going through. My husband had a really hard time coping with the situaiton as we had no life. He would come to the hospital every night after work to visit us for a couple of hours before he went home to bed alone. He would move in with us on the weekends into the cramped hospital room. If our marriage was not as strong as it is, we never would have made it through that time in our lives. When he recalls that time, it still stresses him out and he says that he was more worried about my mental state than he was about our daughters physical state. He felt really helpless and alone. He ended up going on anti depressants for about 4 months to get back to his old self. By about 8 months after her birth, we as a family were finally back to normal emotionally.

link

answered 04 Nov '09, 19:08

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Actually, for a short time after our daughter was born, and she was sleeping in a bassinette in our room, when she cried I would wake up in bed and think that she was either in my arms in bed, or that she was beside me in the bed and if I wasn't careful that I'd roll over her. Of course, she was never in the bed, but I'd carefully pat around me on the bed trying to find her before I moved.

I blame it all on the sleep deprivation, but it happened repeatedly and I've heard of at least one other father having the same thing happen. So there's a hallucination for you.

link

answered 04 Nov '09, 21:54

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I had quite a severe Postpartum depression after I gave birth to my daughter. I think what made my symptoms even worse, was the fact that mentally I knew what was happening but physically I was not able to cope with the feelings of helplessness and this in turn made me feel even more frustrated.

I had a C-section, and was home after a couple of days. My husband was very extremely supportive and helpful during the first few weeks. My parents were over from the U.K and so were my in laws, but once my parents left, I felt alone and abandoned and weak. I craved "Empathy" because it seemed to me like I was not getting any. Suddenly I felt homesick for the first time in many years, I wanted to be in surroundings that were familiar and to be close to people who would empathise with me, and who would listen to me, listen to my questions about things instead of constantly telling me what is best for the baby.

Sadly, it was my mother in law who caused me alot of the distress and helped push me deeper into a depression. Her dominating character was not what I needed during those days, she had a manner that was too interfering and she would insist on things that she felt was right. Sleep depreviation had weakened my senses, and I was constantly on the verge of tears instead of answering back or standing my ground. I didn't want to involve my husband because I felt he already had his own issues with her,and I just didn't want to change my way of speaking or dealing with things. Maybe I was too weak, I do not know.

It continued for almost a year. There were severe trust issues so I wasn't able to comfortably leave the baby with her. Although its not a dramatic story I know that I could have avoided such severe depression had I been around my own family and friends.

link

answered 05 Nov '09, 14:11

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edited 05 Nov '09, 22:41

My wife's depression started in the first few weeks after my son's birth. The birth was pretty horrific - an emergency c-section, ambulance trip and all - and completely not what we had planned - a gentle, pool based homebirth! This is, in my opinion, probably one of the first causes of her PND (I often think of PND as being similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

This developed inf feeling various forms of depression, anxiety and finally psychosis (thoughts of harming herself, the baby, seeing things that didn't exist).

Unfortunately, in the first 5 months she kept pretty much all the signs hidden from myself, friends and our health visitor. In the case of the latter, because she thought our baby would be taken away from us.

It came to a head a few weeks after she first told me, I was away from home (I work from home normally) and things got very heavy, very quickly.

She was offered an immediate course of anti-depressants and counselling (in the UK you can have up to 6 free sessions after diagnosis of a problem by your family doctor). She took the latter straight away. At the time we felt that the counselling only skimmed the surface of her problems, without asking any deep questions. However we now recognise that things were so bad then that this was perhaps what she needed most urgently.

Before this episode we had always been slightly wary of the over-use of anti depressants and my wife was adamant for months that she wouldn't take them. However, it slowly became apparent, that despite her ups, her downs were becoming unmanageable. Once she took these, the change wasn't instant, but it took the edge of things and seemed to kick start her improvment. Rather than her default mood being sad, she was now often chirpy and happy. In hindsight of course she wishes she took these much earlier.

All the advice also says tell people early. We didn't. My wife was completely paranoid about peoples reactions. I secretly overruled this and told my employer, with whom I'm close, and a few trusted friends. My employer was brilliant, giving me a lot of time off at short notice when I needed it. I'd advise everyone to make sure that your employer knows what's going on, rather than having to create elaborate excuses for time off at short notice. In hindsight, again, we now recognise we should of told everyone straight away (eventually everyone was told after 13 months or so).

Some of the best help has been from a local secular, but Christian funded, organisation that offers free conselling from women who have been through the same or similar experiences

Taking time off work (a long time, don't go back too early), telling everyone and finally taking the anti-depressents, all 3 of these things combined made the real difference.

Our realtionship is changed forever (although, lets face it, your first child changes you a lot anyway). At worst we both couldn't see it lasting. We're stronger now, but more from battle scars than anything.

I should add, I felt very lost throughout this. Typical dumb male always one step behind. I was happy to do anything she asked, but in the new situatioon into which i'd been thrown, I was awful at thinking ahead, or for her - which is what she really needed.

Of course, it's difficult as the main breadwinner and a balance has to be kept (if only, in all seriousness, for your own sanity), but I can't re-iterate enough how much domestic and emotional help women with PND need from their spouses. You are (usually) the last remaining person they don't feel threatened by.

I found the 'Surviving Post Natal Depression: At home no one hears you scream' (Amazon Link) invaluable in understanding what my wife is going through and would recommend it as a must have to anyone in a similar position.

Our son is now just over a year (and thriving). My wife recently had her doasge upped to help with anxiety and night terrors. She also occasioanally takes sleeping pills when she is really exhausted. Things are better though, the overriding mood of the house is happy, not sad and angry.

link

answered 11 Nov '09, 14:52

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Have you tried an herb called 5HTP? My friend said it turned her right around. I got some for myself, but didn't end up using it because I started getting some sleep and realized my depression was related to sleep-deprivation. So my husband and I worked out ways that I could sleep more. The bottle says, "Don't use if pregnant or breast-feeding", but my midwife said it was OK. Check with doctor/midwife first, but it seems to really work - and is natural.

link

answered 06 Nov '09, 16:49

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So sad to hear so many people suffer. My story is similar to the lady above, I had no friends or support, my mother in law was mostly to blame, controlling, I also had trust issues with her and my father-in-law, gave birth in a country with no empathy, just get on with it, very alone. Husband at work all the time. One night he found me screaming on the bathroom floor sobbing to go home, the next night saying goodbye to the kids as I thought I was dying. Worst of all I never asked for help as there wasn't any. In Scandinavia you're expected to be hard. My outcome: a terrible relationship with my son, he is jealous, untrusting and I know I could be much more for him but somewhere inside I tell myself, "Who cares?" I can't reach him anymore he's become cold, it affects his life in every way and I wish I could have had help then, but like so many others I thought I was going crazy and they would take my kids away. I wish so much I could fix our relationship but I fear its too late.

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answered 13 Nov '10, 08:47

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edited 13 Nov '10, 16:22

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@Hobbs, I'm sorry to hear your sad story. I'm not sure where you are living now or how much time has passed. I suggest trying to seek out some counselling for you and for you and your son. Maybe they can help you work through things and help you build up your relationship with your son.

(13 Nov '10, 14:59) Tammy ♦♦
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Asked: 04 Nov '09, 11:36

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Last updated: 13 Nov '10, 16:22