The goal of the Mental Health Mom Series is for Moms and Moms-to-be to share their stories to be used to help inspire, uplift and spread awareness about mental health and motherhood.
Whether you suffer from depression, PPD, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder or something else your story may help change the life of another mom reader and that’s important to me!
A submission by Tiffany of The Crazy Shopping Cart
For most women, pregnancy is a wonderful, joyous time. They feel the wonder and awe of a new life growing inside of them.
For some women, pregnancy is great, but it is also full of morning sickness, fatigue, and kinship with an elephant (especially around the ankles!).
For 20% of women, however, pregnancy is a time of anxiety, fear, and depression that far outweighs what should be expected from these hormone changes.
So often we hear of postpartum depression, but we rarely hear of another equally-severe diagnosis: antepartum depression.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I started feeling some anxiety. I would envision myself on a walk after she was born, and then someone would come to steal the stroller from me. Or I would be driving down the road, and suddenly I could clearly “see” myself in a horrific car accident that would cause too much damage to my abdomen for the pregnancy to be saved.
It’s typical for first-time moms to be nervous about when the babe comes, so I thought I was just normal. I mentioned it once or twice to friends (and even my mom), and they all assured me that they had the same thing happen to them.
But then the nightmares began.
These weren’t regular nightmares. They were real. Every night, I would find out my husband of fewer than two years was having an affair because I was getting too fat.
While I knew in my head this was ludicrous, I couldn’t shake the feeling. I would wake up each morning, dreading when my husband would leave for the day because it meant I could no longer reassure myself that he wasn’t cheating since he wasn’t in my sight.
I had these nightmares every single night. For weeks. They got more and more real, and after a few months, I couldn’t really distinguish between my dreams and reality. I tripled my exercise and cut my calorie intake in half because I kept hearing my husband’s voice from my dreams mocking me for being fat, asking, “How could I ever still love you when you look like that?”
Until one day, my baby stopped moving. For an entire day and a half, I felt nothing from my 31-week belly.
My husband rushed me to the ER, where my OB/GYN monitored my baby and pumped me full of fluids. I still remember the look of horror on my poor, clueless husband’s face when I confessed everything that had been going on.
Thankfully, I had a very kind and understanding doctor. He explained to me that I had antepartum depression, which is depression that occurs during the pregnancy. Its symptoms include
- Persistent sadness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Change in eating habits
- Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness
In fact, antepartum depression is almost more dangerous because it is often chalked up to pregnancy hormones. We assume that we’re just having “pregnancy brain,” we’re overly tired, etc. But since our baby is still 100% dependent on our body for its nutritional needs, our baby directly suffers when our health does, and that includes mental health.
Just knowing what was happening and where these thoughts were coming from made a tremendous difference. Then with proper counseling, medication, and my now-informed husband, I was able to control it through the rest of the pregnancy.
If left untreated, antepartum depression can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental problems.
Even with proper treatment through the rest of the pregnancy, my daughter (my first child) was born full-term at 37 weeks, weighing only 4 lbs 8 oz.
Thankfully, I did not have postpartum depression with my first pregnancy. Most women who experience antepartum depression will then go on to have postpartum depression.
When my second pregnancy hit and I began having vivid, disturbing dreams of my innocent husband molesting our now-two-year-old daughter, I was able to recognize it right away. I spoke frequently with both my husband and my OB/GYN. This allowed this pregnancy to go more smoothly, and I even was able to recognize my postpartum depression more quickly.
As you go through your pregnancy, or as you watch the pregnancy of someone else, please keep an eye out for these symptoms! Sometimes, yes, you’ll encounter these while pregnant (especially sleeping too much or a change in eating!).
However, they could be a sign of something more serious, like antepartum depression.
Tiffany Thomas is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals! She and her husband, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart. They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi together, and saving money. You can keep up with Tiffany and The Crazy Shopping Cart on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
For mental health resources and where to look for help visit our Mental Health Resource Page.
Related: PTSD Is More Than I Thought
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