August 10, 2007

PPD's elusive symptoms

When I suffered from postpartum depression, I kept insisting that I wasn't depressed. My vision of a depressed woman consisted of lots of weeping, general moping around, hand-wringing, etc. Not a woman who was overcome by nausea 100 times worse than any morning sickness and vomiting violently when not on the toilet with diarrhea. I was a gastrointestinal specialist's fantasy. And after I was sent to a G.I. specialist, I went through the ringer: had an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, tests involving dozens of stool samples (so here I felt like total crap and got to mess with it too!), and many, many other pokes and prods. All the while, I couldn't care for my babies, couldn't even function, much less get out of bed to brush my teeth, and was hospitalized twice for several days at a time for dehydration. Three months after all this G.I. fun, my specialist threw his hands up at me, said there was no intestinal cancer, and that I should go home, get over it, enjoy my babies and have a nice life.

So here's the deal. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the symptoms of postpartum depression include:

- feeling restless and irritable
- feeling sad, hopeless and overwhelmed
- crying a lot
- having no energy or motivation
- eating too little or too much
- sleeping too little or too much
- trouble focusing, remembering or making decision
- feeling worthless or guilty
- withdrawal from family and friends
- loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations or hyperventilation

This is a helpful list for a start, but I don't see "violent vomiting" or "intense nausea" or "fainting" or "endless diarrhea" or "dehydration" anywhere on this list. I'm sure there are plenty of other PPD symptoms that are not included as well. I've heard from new mothers who developed obsessive compulsive disorder during postpartum when they'd never experienced it before in their lives. All this leads to major do you even know if you have PPD? How do doctors know what to look for?? SO MANY WOMEN ARE NOT BEING DIAGNOSED!!!

Bottom line is that caregivers and family members need to be in tune to any and all disconcerting changes in a new mother and to be aware that PPD can manifest itself in myriad ways, from gastrointestinal issues to obsessive compulsive disorder, to intrusive thoughts. The key to PPD prevention and successful treatment is awareness and education. But especially awareness.....please help me spread the word.


joy said...

I really admire what you are doing Kristin. The awareness that you are help creating is badly needed in the community.

The Goddess In You

Anonymous said...

Nice job, Kristen!

The symptoms you mentioned, diarrhea, fainting, vomiting, nausea and dehydration--panic disorder? There is a PP panic "section" of PPD/A.

I think "perinatal mood disorders" covers what moms actually endure and may help more moms get a diagnosis more easily too. I know *I* sure did not feel depressed, I was super anxious though.


Kristin said...

Hi, Diane -- thanks for your comment!!

You bring up a great point -- the fact that there are about a half a dozen or so different forms of perinatal mood disorders, PPD simply being one of them. (Although it seems like many people commonly refer to PPD as the umbrella term.)

My symptoms definitely could fall under the panic area. I think in my case, it could have also been partly post-traumatic stress syndrome due to the fact that I'd lost a baby boy roughly a year before I had my daughter and I hadn't dealt with it at all. But, no matter what category it fell under, it still blows me away that the various specialists I went to never saw a connection to my illness and the fact that I'd just given birth. That seems so bizarre in retrospect.

Thanks again for commenting -- hope you'll visit again!