8 Things No One Tells you About Pregnancy

Pregnant woman holding belly

D-day is nearing, and you are likely counting down to the birth of your baby. You have scoured the internet to read up on every article about pregnancy. You have also likely signed up for a lamaze class, and watched every birthing video you can stand. The truth is that amidst these preparations, there are still many things that moms-to-be do not learn before delivery. We are here to let you in on 8 things no one tells you about pregnancy.

  1. You may experience emotional upheavals

Whether due to the upsurge of pregnancy hormones, or just the sheer thought of bringing new life to these world, your emotions will likely be all over the place. Pregnancy is expected to be a happy time. Moms-to-be are expected to be filled with excitement for the coming bundle of joy. This is not always the case. Many pregnant women will experience fluctuating emotions, and a number may develop pregnancy depression.

Read More: Depression during pregnancy – what you need to know

  1. You will experience increased vaginal discharge

Many pregnant women will experience increased vaginal discharge. This is attributed to changes in the cervix. During pregnancy, the cervix and vaginal walls begin to soften. This allows the body to produce increased discharge to prevent infections. In the later stages of pregnancy, the baby’s head adds pressure to the cervix. This also increases the production of the discharge. It is important for pregnant women to note that this vaginal discharge is normal. It is called leukorrhea, and has a thin milky consistency with a mild smell.

  1. Your birth plan may not go how you envision it

Many moms-to-be will create a birth plan to help with preparation for labour and delivery. While this is a good idea, the truth is that delivery does not always go the way you want it to. The process of childbirth can be very unpredictable. Sudden turns of events may call for an unplanned emergency c-section. The most important thing to remember is that having a healthy baby and healthy mother is what matters. The mode of delivery does not define you as a mom. As such, it helps to be open minded about it.

  1. It is a whole new season of adjustments with breastfeeding.

New moms will often experience cracked nipples. Now, picture cracked nipples, and a little clueless human being trying to latch. This is HARD. And on many days, you will want to give up, because sore bloody nipples are not anyone’s cup of tea. Good old Vaseline will be your friend, amidst all the shrieks and tears. It does get better over time!

  1. You will experience lochia

Lochia is the medical term that refers to the vaginal discharge after birth. This discharge contains blood, tissue from the uterine lining and bacteria. Some women will experience cramps too, so painkillers will come in handy.

To contain the lochia, you will need to wear a mommy diaper. This comes in two variations: the mesh underwear that comes with a maxi-pad or the adult diaper. Both options can be used as they are. The use of ice is optional, but helps to soothe the soreness. Many hospitals will often provide the mommy diapers, but you may want to carry a pack or two in your hospital bag.

What you need to know when pregnant
Pregnant? Here are 8 things you should know
  1. You may have to re-invent your wardrobe

As the pregnancy progresses, you will need to change a few clothing items. This allows for comfort in the last trimester. Depending on your choice, the clothes may also double up as nursing wear for easy breastfeeding. Invest in button-down blouses, zipped tops and comfortable pants in the first few weeks after birth.

  1. You may not experience that magical bond with your child immediately

Not all moms will have an instant bond with their child. This may happen due to the trauma of labor, or depression during pregnancy. Sometimes, it happens simply because of the overwhelming experience that this new chapter represents. And that is okay, to a certain extent.

Baby blues are fairly common, and will often die down on their own. In Postpartum Depression however, these blues only intensify. They have a vice-like grip on any mom, and will often wash up like mighty waves on the shore of your heart. If you do experience this, do not be afraid to get medical attention. There is no shame in asking for help.

Read More: When moms are unable to bond with their infants

  1. The kids will grow

In spite of the challenges at the onset, the kids grow. It is easy to get lost in the overwhelming duties of taking care of a newborn. The unending diaper changes and sleepless nights can easily take a toll on new moms.

The different stages may feel like they last forever. The truth is they don’t. As often as you can, try to live and enjoy the moments. Remember to take care of yourself too. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

 

5 tips for managing Postpartum Depression during the holidays

The holidays are favorite time of the year for many people. There is a sense of joy that fills the air as families seek to spend time together and make special memories. It is meant to be a wonderful time, of good holiday cheer. But for women with Postpartum Depression (PPD), it is not always easy.

For mothers suffering PPD or any other perinatal mood disorder, the holidays and festivities may only serve to intensify the symptoms associated with the condition. Contributing factors vary from one mom to another, but have a significant bearing on a mom’s mental health.

How do the holidays affect moms with PPD?

Add to this the typical stress that comes along with the holidays, and it is easy to see how these factors may increase the symptoms of PPD. Some of the symptoms of PPD include fatigue, loss of appetite, lack of adequate sleep, irritability, guilt feelings and hopelessness. These symptoms tend to intensify over the holidays. Additionally, the feeling that one needs to be cheerful or grateful may exacerbate the symptoms of PPD. It is difficult to smile and be happy when you are not, and everyone else is in a festive mood.

Below are five handy tips to help the mom with PPD get through the holidays:

  1. Engage your supporting system

The festivities come with a long to-do list. It is often overwhelming to think about all that needs to be done. Whether that is visiting relatives upcountry, hosting family and friends or simply spending time with family, these activities can be draining. One of the practical steps that you can take to manage PPD during the holidays is to take only what you can handle. Be careful to set limits – you cannot do it all, and neither should you.

Do not be afraid to ask for help and to lean on your support system, however that looks like for you. If it means reducing the number of guests, traveling a few days before or simply enlisting the help of close relatives if hosting guests – whatever that means, be sure to take measures to manage the load.

Read More: Moms share 5 things they wish they knew about Postpartum Depression

  1. Selfcare is important

Selfcare refers to the things or activities that promote your emotional and mental wellbeing. Simply put, it means making yourself a priority because it is only through selfcare that moms are able to better their mental health, and in effect, take care of their families.

Selfcare during the holidays is especially important for moms with Postpartum Depression. It is okay to step away if you feel you need some time for yourself. Instead of sitting and pretending that you do not need some time alone, it is okay to excuse yourself and take a moment’s breather as often as you need to. For some moms, unplugging from the Internet is the way to go. While keeping up with a fitness routine during the holidays is not easy, it is advisable to try and remain active. This may mean taking a walk, spending time in the outdoors, taking a beach run or even doing some yoga.

  1. Allow yourself to indulge in simple holiday pleasures

Be sure to spend some time and indulge in simple holiday pleasures that are most amazing for you. Whether that’s sleeping in, enjoying a holiday movie or allowing someone else to babysit in order to enjoy a cup of coffee at your favorite spot – do whatever feels wondrous for you, and make no excuses for it.

Read More: 9 Myths about Postpartum Depression

  1. Communicate

Communicate your needs with your loved ones whenever possible. This not only helps prevent disappointments, it helps manage the symptoms of PPD. Settle for one activity that will make the holiday season meaningful to you. It could be a family picnic at a natural space in the town, or perhaps getting a couple of gifts. Spending time with one’s parents can also add meaning to the holidays. Communicating these needs is important, and you should not feel resentful for having had to articulate your needs.

  1. Remember that it is OK not to be OK

This last tip is a reminder for moms with PPD that sometimes, the darkness will creep in during the holidays. The holidays can present emotional upheavals for many moms, for a myriad of reasons. From grieving to loss and loneliness, there are many triggers that can make it extremely hard to enjoy the holidays.

With these realities, it is okay not to be okay during the holidays. It is okay to be sad, to mourn the loss and to feel the loneliness. It is okay to sit with these emotions and to acknowledge them for what they are. Ensure that you practice selfcare during the holidays. This helps make the season a little more manageable.

 

 

 

Postpartum depression in new dads

One of the most intriguing questions that we received during the last conference we were invited to was from a gentleman who asked us (paraphrased):

“If postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 new moms after child birth, and has been related to the sudden drop of hormones, why do dads get Postpartum Depression seeing as they do not give birth?”

Our team was elated to get this question for one reason: more men (dads, partners, lovers) asking questions about maternal mental health means more awareness and less stigma, and ultimately goes a long way in creating support for them and the women in their lives who need it. This is why, when Harriet from People Daily reached out for some insight into Postpartum Depression in men, we were more than happy to be able to contribute.

Read More: Science Says Men Suffer from Postpartum Depression, Too

Postpartum Depression in dads affects 1 in 10 new dads, and is also referred to as Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPPD). The precise cause of PPPD is still under research, but it is believed that it is connected to the sleep deprivation and social upheavals that the birth of a new baby brings. Additional factors that may predispose men to PPPD include previous mental illness, loss of a child/ partner during the birth process, a strenous relationship with one’s partner as well as a sick/colicky/preterm baby.

One of the challenges we have had as far as helping men is concerned has been the willingness to share that they are going through. This has often been attributed to the notion that men ought to be ‘strong’, or that showing emotion and asking for help is a sign of ‘weakness’. The truth, however, is that men can, and do get mental illnesses.

Treatment is available for dads with PPPD. Talk therapy, alongside medication has been shown to be quite effective. New dads are advised to get help from a qualified mental health professional, preferably one who has dealt with men/ new dads.

Thank you for the feature, People Daily. Click here to read the full post, and personal accounts of Kenyan dads who have had PPPD.

Image source

 

Mental360 discussion forum on World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day was observed on the 10th of October this year under the theme, ‘Youth and Mental Health in a changing world’.

“Adolescence and the early years of adulthood are a time of life when many changes occur, for example changing schools, leaving home, and starting university or a new job. For many, these are exciting times. They can also be times of stress and apprehension however. In some cases, if not recognized and managed, these feelings can lead to mental illness. The expanding use of online technologies, while undoubtedly bringing many benefits, can also bring additional pressures, as connectivity to virtual networks at any time of the day and night grows. Many adolescents are also living in areas affected by humanitarian emergencies such as conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics. Young people living in situations such as these are particularly vulnerable to mental distress and illness.” (source)

This snippet from the WHO organization shares on why mental health awareness is important, particularly in the youth. Statistics show that 50% of all mental illnesses typically start at the age of 14. The fact that many of these illnesses go undiagnosed and untreated among the youth means it is a major issue in many countries across the world.

In Kenya, research shows that depression and anxiety are the leading mental illnesses, especially in the youth. It is against this background that different stakeholders sought to host a discussion forum on mental health and the youth. This is important because it not only allows the youth to build mental fortitude, it also creates awareness and allows them to seek for help.

Read More: STILL A MUM 2018 PREGNANCY AND INFANT HEALTH CONFERENCE

In Kenya, Mental 360 exists to promote mental health by raising awareness, creating support systems for the youth and advocating for the rights of persons experiencing mental health challenges. On 11th October 2018, the team held a forum with the aim of engaging stakeholders to find out how to improve the mental health of the youth in Kenya.

PPDKenya was invited to talk about teen pregnancies and how this predisposes teen and young moms to Postpartum Depression. One of our team members, Lindsey, also share a moving account of her PPD story and what we can do to help moms living with PPD. Here are snippets from that conversation:

Teen pregnancy, also known as adolescence pregnancy, is pregnancy that occurs in females below 20 years. Some of the risk factors associated with teen pregnancies include:

  • Lack of sex education
  • Broken families and especially where kids are exposed to violence
  • Sexual abuse
  • Harmful cultural practices that include early marriages and FGM
  • Peer pressure to fit in
  • The glamorization of teen pregnancy and the influence of the media

Read More: Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Owing to the challenges of teen pregnancy, teen and young moms are predisposed to PPD. PPD typically affects at least 20% of new moms, but the rates are higher in teens at approximately 36%. This risk increases significantly in teens who have lived with mental illnesses. What’s more, for teens with mental illnesses, pregnancy and parenting only aggravates the condition.

How can we help teen moms?

  • By recognizing that teen pregnancy does not mean that one cannot be successful in life.
  • By reducing the stigma against teen moms.
  • By helping them get the medical help they need.
  • By supporting them to go back to school through the ‘return-to-school’ policy
  • By listening and empathising with them, and providing a safe space for them to share.
  • By addressing the socioeconomic risk factors at the heart of teen pregnancies – poverty, harmful cultural practices, access to sex education and sexual violence. A holistic approach is required by different stakeholders – the Ministry of Health, leaders of religious institutions, schools, Youth-led organizations such as Mental 360 and the civil society among others.

Below are some of the images from the event.

 

UPDATE: We recently had this conversation on our bimonthly tweetchats. Catch up with that thread here

Moms share 5 things they wish they knew about Postpartum Depression

 

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is one of the most common maternal mental illnesses; with statistics showing that 1 in every 9 moms will get PPD. Yet, as common as it is, many affected moms typically admit that they wish they knew more about PPD before they had it. They admit it would help them accept the condition and seek help faster. We asked some of the moms who have reached out to PPDKenya (and gotten help) what they wish they knew about PPD before child birth. Here are the responses:

  1. I wish I knew PPD steals even little joys

Lyn, a mom of two girls, shared how her PPD stole even the smallest of triumphs. She could not find joy in her motherhood experience, and this impacted her ability to bond with her second daughter. One of the ways in which Postpartum Depression manifests is through a mom’s inability to bond with her child. This does not mean that a mom hates her child; on the contrary, she may be overprotective of her bundle of joy, but just can’t find it within herself to bond and play with her baby.

  1. I wish I knew PPD is a treatable mental illness

Lucy, a mom to one said, “I wish I knew Postpartum Depression is a mental health condition that can be treated through therapy. “ One of the myths about PPD is that it is a permanent condition for which there is no help. PPD is a temporary condition for which treatment is available. Moms do get help, and go on to make a recovery. Part of the reason we continue to do awareness campaigns on Twitter (check out our previous #PPDKenya tweetchats here) is because when moms are aware, then they can know what the symptoms of PPD are and where to get help.

Read More: Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

  1. I wish I knew Depression after birth is NOT normal.

“Depression after birth is NOT normal, and I wish I knew this. Additionally, PPD affects both moms and dads,” Kristy shared with us. Many moms who reach out for help with PPD will often admit that a well-meaning person told them what they felt was ‘normal’ and it would pass. The truth of the matter is that PPD is anything but normal. When a mom starts to exhibit symptoms of PPD, and they go on for more than two weeks, then there is cause for concern. More importantly, moms are reminded that, just because you exhibit just a couple of symtoms of PPD, it does not invalidate your concerns.

  1. I wish I knew that it was possible to get Pregnancy depression and PPD thereafter

Jacinta* shared how, struggling with depression during pregnancy and not knowing what it was only compounded her symptoms after childbirth. Her pregnancy depression symptoms included weepiness (over just about everything), inability to comprehend a future with baby, so much so that she had intrusive thought even before baby was born. Left unchecked, Jacinta’s Pregnancy Depression morphed to PPD, and she shared how, knowing what she does now after support group sessions, she wishes she had gotten help earlier.

Read More: Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression

  1. I wish I knew how incredibly lonely PPD is.

Victoria* shared and said, “I am afraid of telling anyone close what’s happening anymore, because the last time I tried I was told that I have become ungrateful, so I continue to struggle with my PPD in silence. I feel so alone.”

The stigma associated with maternal mental illness means that moms feel ashamed for seeking help, and end up keeping it to themselves. The truth is that there is no shame in reaching out for help, and if you have PPD, please know you are not alone!

At PPDKenya, we understand what you are going through. We are here to walk the journey with you. We will help you get the help you need. Get in touch using our Contact Page.

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