Guest Post: What is Postpartum Anxiety?

Today’s guest post comes from Sarah Letischuh, who sees patients in my building and is part of The BabyLove Alliance, Ltd. Anxiety is something I have struggled with all my life, with a bout after the birth of my son being one of the worst times I had anxiety. Sarah works with kids as well as adults and moms who are struggling with Perinatal Mood Disorders. One of the things I love about Sarah is how kind she is to everyone. She also has a lot of experience dealing with trauma, a must when we’re talking about pregnancy and birth. She’s truly wonderful. Check out her recent post on Postpartum Anxiety.
-Veronica

In my personal experience as a mom-to-be, I often heard about postpartum depression.    My doctors screened for it.  My friends experienced it.  It was talked about in the news.   On the other hand, I don’t remember hearing about postpartum anxiety until I began to learn more about perinatal mental health, in my role as a therapist.

6% of pregnant women develop anxiety.

10% of women develop anxiety during the postpartum period.

It is certainly normal to experience some anxiety during pregnancy and after the birth of a child.   Anxiety is a natural response to change and we know that being pregnant means lots of changes are occurring and will continue to occur.   The symptoms of perinatal  anxiety (anxiety during pregnancy or the postpartum period) are more intense and last longer than fleeting worries.

Symptoms of perinatal anxiety may include:

  • Constant worry
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Change in appetite (eating too much or not enough)
  • Intense fear or expecting something bad to happen
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches or feeling shaky

If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of perinatal anxiety please know you are not alone, even if no one else is talking about it.   These symptoms can be very overwhelming.  You may feel like no one understands what you are experiencing, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out for help.

A trained mental health provider can help you assess your symptoms and determine the best treatment option in order to help you obtain some relief from your anxiety.

I am available to meet with new parents in the South Metro to assess and treat symptoms of perinatal anxiety.   Please click here to read more about the counseling services I offer for new or expecting parents.   I can also be reached at 952-457-2322 or sarah@sarahleitschuhcounseling.com.

If you are from outside of Minnesota, I suggest visiting the Postpartum Support International  website to locate support in your area.
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Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

“I had no idea!”: Unrealistic Expectations for Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby

unrealistic expectations

There’s a common theme that I hear over and over and over: parents experience a huge disconnect between what they expect versus reality, and they find that very upsetting, irritating, and frustrating. Some of these unrealistic expectations are deeply ingrained into our popular narrative about what it means to become parents. This narrative is reinforced by fictional portrayals of pregnancy, birth, and parenting, and large commercial forces exist to profit off of these. It’s time to change that. And while there may be the rare case where these assumptions and intentions are met, those situations are not the norm. So, listed below, are seven of the most common scenarios I run across:

1) Your prenatal visits will have lots of time to answer all of your questions and are enough to teach you everything you need to know about giving birth. Prenatal visits can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes or more, and are entirely clinic and provider specific. In high-volume clinics, short appointments are not uncommon. Additionally, a recent study found that many moms did not fully understand what their doctors or midwives were telling them.

2) The care provider you saw during pregnancy will be there during birth. Depending on the provider’s specialty and practice structure (Individual, small group, large group), you’re most likely to be at the mercy of their call rotation schedule. With the exception of the practices that work on a rotating call basis with care providers at the hospital or birth center during an entire shift, or if they happen to have a chance to pop in earlier, you won’t see a doctor or midwife until you’re pushing–and then, who shows up may be a surprise.

3) A nurse will be there to help guide an support you through the entire birth. First of all, a nurse’s primary job is to keep tabs on the health and well-being of baby and mom throughout the labor. They are also required to document heartbeats, blood pressures, temperatures, cervical checks, etc. And while in many cases,  best practice is to have staffing ratios that allows for one nurse to be taking care of one mom in active labor, some hospitals are more likely to have much lower staffing ratios; some Twin Cities hospitals have one nurse for every 2 or 3 mom in labor.

4) An epidural is guaranteed to work (and everyone can have one). Not all women are able to have epidurals– and your doctor or midwife may not catch that ahead of time. Also, epidurals only work perfectly about 80% of the time. No matter what your goals for pain medication are, it’s good to know about other options–just in case.

5) Having a birth plan is enough communication of your preferences. Birth time is NOT battle time. While you are in labor, you don’t need to be using that time to negotiate over the things that are important to you. While nobody knows what your birth will be like, you need to go over your preferences with your doctor or midwife. They should be willing to listen to your concerns and what’s important to you. If they are dismissive or tell you what you want won’t matter, it’s time to think about finding a provider who will be flexible (as you should be, too) to wait until labor unfolds.

6) You won’t need any postpartum help. A new baby is way more overwhelming than most people expect. The baby takes a lot of care and attention, and mom will need 2-4 weeks to really recover from birth, so everything else can quickly get out of hand. Groceries need bought, food needs made, dishes need to get done, laundry needs washed, etc., etc., etc. Ask for help! If you can’t coordinate help via friends, family, coworkers, or church community, then consider hiring a postpartum doula.

7) Your baby’s doctor will help you achieve your breastfeeding goals. The reality is, very few pediatricians covered breastfeeding for more than a few hours in med school. They don’t often seek out breastfeeding education after they start practicing, either. When you take the lack of knowledge base, a common desire to be able to measure every single thing, including how much a baby is eating, and an inherent distrust in the ability of women’s bodies, it’s no wonder so many women give up breastfeeding at the direction of the pediatrician. Some providers so have a passion for breastfeeding, so choose that doctor or nurse practitioner very, very carefully.

Those were the ones I came up with. What else did I miss?

Warmly,

Veronica

 

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

Social media, the internet, and motherhood: The good, the bad, and the ugly

social media

This is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write since I got home from the Lamaze/DONA Confluence last month. The last two conferences I went to spent a TON of time covering social media basics. I’m on social media personally and professionally. BabyLove has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Google Plus page, an account on Pinterest, and is on Instagram, too. Me, personally, for the human being behind the smiling avitar….I like twitter (though my no-nonsense, very straightforward, always honest tweets don’t always land well.)

We’ve all had to grapple with the really crummy parts of the internet and social media. I know we know they are there. But I still want to take some time to touch on some things that I’ve been thinking about for the last month, especially in relation to pregnancy and motherhood.

The Good:

OK, so there are some really great things that social media can do for pregnant and new moms. I look at the various tongue tie support groups out there and know that if it weren’t for the internet and social media, we wouldn’t have so much progress in a movement that’s been parent-driven. It’s so grassroots, so worldwide…it would have never moved forward without Facebook groups and websites. Truthfully, it would have gone nowhere, as no community would ever be able to gain enough momentum on its own.

Sometimes social media can put you into contact with people you NEVER would have otherwise been able to meet and get to know. In my case, Twitter is where my people (AKA Tweeps) are. It’s where I’ve met people who I genuinely like and enjoy chatting with, even though I’ve only met a tiny handful IRL (That’s “in real life” if you didn’t know.) And the nice thing about twitter, too, is that there are things like #ppdchat that exist to help new moms navigate the challenges of coping with our ever-changing lives. While Facebook isn’t always a great place if you want to stick to civil discussions, there have been a few times where it’s made me like someone more. And for those of us who are very, very busy moms, it can be one of the few ways we can connect with each other in any way, shape, or form.

To sum it up: not all of us become mothers with a super tight group of women surrounding us. Some of us are introverts. Some of us have social anxiety that can make going to playgroups absolutely hellish. However, thanks to the internet we can get that connection, interaction, and support we need to keep up afloat in even the choppiest water.

The Bad:

As I wrote in my previous post about not googling your birth, the internet and social media is full of way too many opinions and it’s hard to find the facts. So while it may seem easier to search for an answer yourself, it can quickly get to be too much. I’m sure your social media connections are perfectly fine people, but again– you’re just getting a lot of opinions. Now, for superficial things, like where to buy clothes for your child or ideas for parks to go to, opinions are fine. But when it comes to your health and wellbeing or your child’s health and safety, you NEED to find people who know what they are talking about. If you take someone’s opinion and they were wrong…that’s bad.

The Ugly:

You know what’s coming: the trolling, the name calling, the bullying…and I’m talking about adults, not teenagers! Because SO MUCH of motherhood that we hold near and dear (specifically birth and breastfeeding) isn’t controlled by what WE want as women and mothers, but rather by the doctors, midwives, nurses, and lactation professionals we come into contact with, when we have lost our say in the outcomes, we feel small, violated, and wronged. It’s from THAT place of anger that I think most of the vitriol stems. And it’s fair to be angry when we go to someone we trust and they refuse to help. It’s just not fair to transfer that anger to innocent women in that mommy Facebook group.

Then there will always be those moms who get a kick out of stirring up anger and controversy, spreading gossip, using social media to target moms that…OK, you know what? I don’t know why those women behave that way. Having been that target, all I know is that it sucks. I’m sure someone who specializes in this area of things would be able to articulate it better, but I find those moms are usually dealing with a huge amount of anger, a lack of self-esteem, or they just get their kicks out of manipulating other people. I don’t have any easy answers for that, especially if they are people you know IRL.

Bottom line? Being a mom is isolating in about a million ways. If you’re struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, or just floundering in general, there are some amazing resources out there. But do not belittle, name call, stalk, or harass other moms. I’m not saying you would, but…just don’t do it. And if you ask the internets for help, do so from a place that’s genuinely open to what you’ll get back. If you need to whine about something, whine away…just don’t ask for help when all you really want to say is, “THIS SUCKS.”

Of course, it can take awhile to find your place. And do only what you are comfortable with–It’s hard enough to figure out who you are as an adult without throwing the sticky layer of motherhood on top of it.

That’s what I have for today. Be kind to yourself and others.

Warmly,

Veronica

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

Crystal and Veronica talk about loss and infertility

loss and infertility

It’s time for another installment where Crystal and I talk about a topic and you get to see the conversation word for word. Today, we talk about infertility and loss.

Hey Crystal,

I wanted to talk to you about pregnancy, loss, and motherhood.

I have never lost a child myself. I have, though, supported many families who have. All of those babies NEED to be remembered. However…

There is NO easy way to become a parent. It’s all tough. There is no sure-fire way to end up with a child. The road to motherhood and fatherhood is paved with pain, anguish, tears, and faith. Always. And in my mind, we are all best served by honoring that, speaking about it in realistic terms, and moving beyond the fairy tales.

Loss happens early in pregnancy, late in pregnancy, after birth, and after the adoption should have been finalized. All of them are equal. All of them are very, very sad.

You’ve experienced infertility. I want to hear your story. I want to know what your thoughts are.

-Veronica

Yes, grief and loss can definitely occur in several different realms of adding to your family. As we discussed yesterday, there is no “sure thing” when it comes to family building.

My story began in 2000, when my husband and I decided to start trying to have a baby. 18 months later, we were still not pregnant. I felt very dismissed by many professionals, because I was “only 25″ (I couldn’t be going through infertility, right?) so it took me some time to seek additional help. In addition, there were several of my friends and family getting pregnant easily (seriously, NINE in SIX months, all of whom got pregnant either unplanned or very quickly) and it was heartbreaking. I felt like nobody understood. And then people, in an effort to be helpful, say very insensitive things.
Needless to say, I ended up seeking a reproductive endocrinologist, and after two rounds of Clomid, we were pregnant. My son was born in March of 2003.

-Crystal

That’s such a true, powerful phrase: There is no “sure thing” when it comes to family building.

I feel pretty lucky, now that I think about it, that I didn’t end up with severe endometriosis symptoms until AFTER my second child was born. The same thing I’m doing now to treat it kept it at bay until my husband and I wanted to have kids. It’s entirely possible, though, that I could have had problems getting pregnant.

We also have the “F” word to think about: Failure. It’s a word I always, always try to avoid whenever I talk about pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. And then on the flip side, I HATE when birth professionals talk about “success” and their “success rate” for x. Hate it. Those words take away the mom’s ability to speak her own truth, they give credit to the professional, and discussing failure does not allow for the nuance of biology, variations of the maternity care system, and life in general.

Sorry, that was an aside.

For the most part, it’s getting easier for moms and dads to talk about loss and stillbirth publicly. Have you ever talked to moms who lost a baby 20 or 30 years ago? Their stories are HEARTBREAKING. Although, I talk to moms who had a miscarriage or stillbirth in the past year and I’m still disgusted by how those moms are treated in the hospital. It’s heaping trauma upon trauma.

So, for moms who had trouble getting or staying pregnant, once they do have a viable pregnancy, what sort of things do you recommend? I can’t imagine it’s a good idea to let the fear take over.

Yes, I have unfortunately worked with women who have lost babies long ago, and the trauma still lingers. Very sad.

For women now, getting pregnant following infertility or loss, I recommend support groups (they have some specifically for pregnancy after loss), and normalize their anxiety. This often, in and of itself, is helpful. Having their partner hear that, whether it’s with me or from their partner, can be helpful as well. Then, we work on self soothing techniques, like breathing, relaxation and mindfulness skills. Finally, I may implement some therapy skills, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help the anxiety and panic symptoms.

Thanks for another good conversation, Crystal!

Back at you! This is fun!

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

My Struggle With Postpartum Anxiety

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Oy. That’s a difficult title to type out.

So, some of my classes have heard me talk about having Postpartum Anxiety after the birth of my son. I’ve talked about how it created this cloud over my life, and how I was too overwhelmed to even want to get help. Ironic, isn’t it?  The childbirth educator, after talking for years about how it’s OK to ask for help…couldn’t.

But let me back up.

In retrospect, I’ve had bouts of anxiety off and on for years. When my son was born, though, it was a perfect storm for anxiety to spring up: We moved weeks after he was born, from our house in Rochester to a tiny townhome in Woodbury with a teensy kitchen and noisy neighbors.  Money was tight, as I was on unpaid maternity leave.  We had moved away from most of my support structure.  There were no grandparents closer than 45 minutes away.  I was in a new city with two little ones.  And when I had a falling out with one of the few people I knew in the area prior to moving, well….hello anxiety.

I’d like to think that I did ok-ish, but I did find a lot of things completely overwhelming. I struggled with simple things, like figuring out how to juggle one sick kid and one healthy one on my own. Small issues would become so major to me. My sweet husband deserves an award for being kind and patient and supportive and helpful while I floundered.  But the main thing was that I started having issues sleeping at night.  I would lie in bed for hours and hours, thoughts racing through my mind.  My saving grace, the one thing that kept me going through those dark nights, was the iPod touch my sister gave me and the podcasts I would listen to when I couldn’t sleep.  I would have been better off, though, had I asked for help.  And ironically, as I started to get to know local psychologists who worked with Postpartum Mood Disorders….I still couldn’t find the strength to admit how much I was struggling.

I am glad to say, though, that while my youngest is now in Kindergarten (and so I’m out of the “postpartum” window), a few months ago I FINALLY found the strength to ask for help. My anxiety was getting in the way of my life again, and it took a friend who also was being treated for anxiety to look me in the eyes and tealk to me about getting help.  Maybe it’s becasue she knew what I was going through that I was willing to listen.  All I know is that I made an appointment that day, and by the end of the week, I had a plan to start feeling better.

Do I feel anxiety-free? No, not yet.  But I do feel so much better than I used to.  And guess what?  It wasn’t as scary to get help as I thought it was going to be.

If you are struggling, there ARE resources out there.  My favorite organization is Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Minnesota; they have lots of local mental health workers who specialize in Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Disorders and they even have a help line staffed by trained volunteers who will return your call in 24 hours and will help you find resources.  And no, it does not make you a bad mom to ask for help.  If you’re breastfeeding, taking medication doesn’t usually mean you have to stop breastfeeding.  But really, take it from me–ask for help.  It’ll be OK.

I’ll admit, too, that I would never have wanted to write this post, had I not read over the weekend that one in six American adults are dealing with anxiety at any given time.  So at least I know I’m not alone. 

Thanks for listening.

Warmly,

Veronica

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.