Special Report: Understanding and coping with postpartum depression

KIMT News 3 — When you picture meeting your child for the first time, it’s hopefully an exciting image.

We all stress how much we love our kids no matter what happens, but sometimes that love can be proven difficult even if you’re not doing anything wrong.

“You are so uncomfortable at that point you just want it to be done and meet this little baby. Things will be perfect, I was really, really excited,” Casey Redman said with a laugh.

Casey celebrated the day she found out she was going to be mom.  She and her husband Kraig had been trying to conceive for three years.  They discussed starting fertility treatment, but the month before that appointment, they found out they were pregnant. Nine months later, Henrik came along.

Despite the excitement of becoming a mom, just two weeks after bringing Henrik home, it all changed.

“In that week I knew in my head something was off but I don’t know it I was in denial or if I just thought this was the new normal,” Casey said.

She describes that time like being on auto pilot.

“Oh I need to feed him, I need to change him, but there were times where I would look at him and be like, I’m so in love with this baby.  The anxiety of making sure everything was going OK, but yet being in a good mood. You wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t be able to think about anything else besides the baby,” Casey said.

Husband Kraig started noticing something “off” about his usually bubbly wife.

“Every little peep, I’d hear her rollover in bed or something,” Kraig said.

Kraig said Casey rarely slept.

“After it went on for two weeks, not getting more than a half hour of sleep in increments, she started kind of zoning, including little things with pumping, she started to not want to pump,” Kraig explained.

Close family describe the new mother as emotionally “just not being there,” despite caring for her baby.  It was that ongoing strange behavior that finally prompted Kraig to call the doctor.

“I would take the Henrik downstairs and try to let her sleep — she wasn’t, so I finally called the doctor and started to ask some questions. She assured me what to do I guess,” Kraig said.

The main concern was if Casey was starting to become less attached to the baby — both she and Kraig insist she wasn’t.  An emotional detachment is just one warning sign of what’s known as postpartum depression.

“I just kept thinking is this how it’s going to be. I guess I just have to deal with it. Then it was later on where I was, no I don’t think this is right,” Casey said.

Doctors say postpartum depression can happen right after childbirth. There are three levels of the disorder:

  • Baby blues is the most common disorder women face. This is a brief fluctuation in mood. You can snap out of it in seven to 10 days.
  • Postpartum depression begins within the first month after giving birth. Symptoms include difficulty sleeping or excessive sleepiness, marked weight loss and lack of interest in activities and food.
  • Postpartum psychosis a level that’s dangerous if not treated in time. Signs include  hallucinations and delusions, disorganized behavior, along with confusion or disorientation.

“Years ago it was I can’t take drugs, oh I don’t want to take anything —  they were afraid. It’s absurd,” Dr. Stephen Thorn said.

Dr. Thorn has delivered babies for 30 years now.  With that experience, he’s diagnosed and helped many new mothers who are suffering emotionally.  He believes more people are aware and talking about the disorder.

“What I found out is people are more open now. It is an increase.  I think there’s factors involved.  Just the fact that husband and wife are working now, there’s other issues. It’s not just moms home taking care of the baby so everything is taken care of, that doesn’t happen anymore,” Thorn said.

He says many husbands or family members will notice the signs or symptoms before a mom even realizes she’s dealing with the emotions.

“There’s a lot of signs — not talking, OK for example women clean house and all of a sudden things aren’t clean, not picked up. Not dressed, no makeup, did they comb their hair, wash, shower, little things like that,” he stressed.

It can happen to anyone after giving birth.  Whether you had everything go as planned the day you brought your little one into the world or there were complications.  Mental health experts say 50 to 80 percent of women suffer from baby blues, while 10 to 15 percent deal with postpartum depression.

“We do an anti-partum.  They come in and they’re newly pregnant, they see the nurse we end up having them do an EPDS, a depression screen,” Thorn said.

There are 10 questions and each question carries a certain numeric value. Some questions from the screening include — rate how often you’ve been able to laugh, how much you look forward with enjoyment toward things, if things have been getting to you, and you’ve been so unhappy that you’ve been crying. If you score high, doctors will talk with you.

That discussion will help you and the provider decide if you need some counseling or if medication is the way to go, but sometimes it’s just a little sleep and exercise that can change it all.

“If you’ve ever been up all night whether you work or what, you can’t sleep or you’re asleep then you’re waking up because baby’s crying — that’s a huge part. That’s why I tell all the patients when you go home, baby sleeps, you sleep,” he explained.

Casey snapped out of it in two weeks.  One night she woke up from eight to 10 hours of sleep and realized she just hadn’t been herself, so she asked Kraig.

“I was happy she finally went to sleep. When she did after she slept for eight or nine hours straight, she woke up thought half of it was a dream. Asked me questions about people that came over, how she was acting, I said you were a little off,” Kraig said.

Kraig reassured her she was being a great mom the whole time, but the situation worried both of them.

With another baby on the way, Casey says she’s hopeful her husband and family will let her know sooner if they notice she’s acting differently.

Her message is that moms need to remember to keep their health in mind while enjoying your newborn, and remember you’re not alone.

“Parenting is hard. Having a newborn is hard. Not getting sleep is hard. That’s a combination of all that on top of hormone imbalance in your body — this is completely life-changing,” Casey said.

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