Tag: PPDKenya

Postpartum PTSD: When moms experience trauma during childbirth

child birth experience

Every birth experience is unique. Many new moms look forward to the end of pregnancy and the beginning of a new journey as they enter motherhood. Some moms will, however, experience trauma during childbirth, sometimes leading to Postpartum PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

After delivery, many moms may feel fearful, disappointed and even angry that their birth experience did not go according to plan. There are many reasons why a birth experience may be difficult or traumatic. To understand this better, it is important to define what birth trauma is, and how it affects new moms.

What causes trauma during childbirth?

When Moms Experience Trauma during childbirth

Trauma is defined as the result of an extremely distressful event that interferes with an individual’s ability to cope with daily living. According to a 2013 News Release by WHO, trauma may result from experiencing violence, accidents, war and loss among others. WHO estimates that up to 3.6% of the global population has experienced PTSD in the years preceding this release (link).

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

Researchers define Trauma during childbirth as the perception of threatened or real injury or death to the mother and/or the baby. A different school of thought opines that childbirth trauma should only be defined by the women going through it.

A 2017 study conducted to explore the experiences of women who have had traumatic birth experiences indicated the following findings: Many of the responses included extremely severe physical pain, the lack of support, the lack or loss of control over the birth experience as well as fear for the baby’s health.

What then makes certain birth experiences difficult?

Some moms will experience births that look really difficult to the outsider, yet, the moms are able to process the experience and feel optimistic about it. Others on the other hand, present what looks like a perfect birth experience, and remain deeply distressed in the postpartum period. For a number of moms, the birth experience brings them close to death, and affects them for years to come.

Read More: 9 Myths About Postpartum Depression

To further understand these dynamics, it is important to define what constitutes a good or bad birth experience. Research provides four objective parameters for this:

  • The duration of labour
  • The use of medication to relieve pain
  • The type of delivery
  • Medical intervention

Sudden birth experience

These four parameters shed some light on trauma during childbirth. For instance, some moms experience early labour so that they feel that everything happened too fast. In such scenarios, there is the lingering thought that the birth process did not go to plan. One of our moms once reached out and shared how, despite having hoped and planned for a vaginal birth experience, her baby was not progressing as expected and she ended up getting a CSection. In her experience, everything was moving too fast and this proved to be traumatic.

“I feel like my body failed my baby,” she shared with us.

Too overwhelming

Some moms will feel so taken up by the whole process that they feel disconnected from what is happening (without the use of anaesthesia). One mom explained how the birth process felt like ‘an out of body experience’, like she was an outsider looking in and completely swept away by the procedures.

A matter of life and death

For moms whose birth experience is a medical emergency, there is always the risk of trauma. Whether it is failed anesthesia, baby developing complications and/or staying in NICU, or the mom experiencing heavy bleeding, an experience that places either mom or baby in danger can prove to be traumatic. This is also seen in moms who fear that their babies may die after birth.

Read More: #PostpartumDepression – The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

PS: This study also indicated that for many moms, a traumatic birth experience can be traced back to actions by health care providers. When a nurse is unkind, or breaks sad news without empathy, new moms tend to feel ignored and that their needs do not matter.

“In some cases, care providers used lies and threats to coerce women into complying with procedures. In particular, these lies and threats related to the wellbeing of the baby. Women also described actions that were abusive and violent. For some women, these actions triggered memories of sexual assault”

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2017)

As such, it is important to note the extent to which care providers can influence a woman’s experience of trauma during birth. Other risk factors for a traumatic birth experience include a history of mental illness, previous sexual abuse and trauma in previous births.

Postpartum PTSD is different from Postpartum Depression

Many moms will often confuse Postpartum PTSD with PPD, but the two maternal mental disorders are very different. Mothers with PPD will typically experience difficulty bonding with the baby, weepiness, loss of appetite, inability to enjoy activities they previously did, and in some cases, suicide ideation. Read more about the symptoms of PPD in this post.

In Postpartum PTSD however, moms experience the following symptoms:

  • Intrusive thoughts relating to the process of childbirth
  • Nightmares or flashbacks that are too real
  • Anxiety/ Panic attacks
  • The avoidance of things that relate to the specific birth experience such as details of the hospital and the thought of labour and birth
  • Inability to talk about the birth experience because it is painful and may lead to panic attacks

Postpartum PTSD is treatable, and if you think you may be suffering, it is important to get help. Postpartum PTSD arising from childbirth trauma is NOT your fault. Please get in touch with us and we will link you to professionals who can help.

Spread the hope:

#PPDMyStory – One Kenyan Mom’s story and how she got help

African mom and baby, postpartum depression

We are starting a new series titled #PPDMyStory where we will be sharing life stories of moms with Postpartum Depression, their motherhood journey and how they are recovering/ recovered. This is in line with our efforts to sensitize the community on maternal mental health and to raise awareness for Postpartum Depression (PPD).

#PPDMyStory

Today’s entry comes from one of the moms who we have had in our support group sessions. She requested anonymity, so we will simply share her story as she did.

You recently had a baby, how was pregnancy?

My pregnancy had few complications. However, I enjoyed the last two trimesters because I did not experience intense morning sickness like I had been experiencing in the first trimester. In the last few weeks, I experienced some intense feelings of physical discomfort and this was made worse when I got really bad news about two weeks before I gave birth.

Read More: 8 things no one tells you about pregnancy

Your baby is 2 years old now, how has the experience been with him?

My experience with the baby has been more blissful than I thought it would have been. Initially I thought that I was never capable of loving this new human being but I have grown to learn what he likes and what he doesn’t. I have also grown to dedicate moments where we spend time together just to bond and appreciate each other’s existence on earth. Being a mother to my son is the most amazing experience ever.

A few months after birth you started feeling that something was off, that it was more than just baby blues. Please share with us about that period.

Getting sad news just two weeks to delivery made me question if I was ready to be a solo parent. It made me question my capabilities and I gradually started to feel like I had let down a small human being who had no idea of what I was going through. I gradually sunk into a state of physical numbness and emotional turmoil, and stopped enjoying activities I used to love like writing or going out with friends.

Waking up was dreadful, and during some moments I would play out thoughts of cutting my existence for good. I felt worthless. My self esteem took a plunge and I could not bring myself to work (as a freelance writer) because the voices in my head were constantly playing out situations that were far-fetched and independent of my reality.

When did you learn that it wasn’t just feeling off, that you had Postpartum Depression?

I came to the realization that these were not baby blues or just feeling off after 9 months of stagnation in my daily life. Things were crushing in my reality. I got to a point I could not effectively handle the bills, all my savings were almost depleted, I was in a constant state of despair, guilt and regret and to top it all I never wanted to live any longer.

Read More: Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

What symptoms did you experience? What did you feel during this time?

Some of the symptoms I experienced include:

  • Feeling helpless and out of control
  • Poor memory
  • Lack of interest in activities I once enjoyed
  • Intense guilt and feelings of regret
  • Weight gain
  • Constant exhaustion but total lack of sleep
  • Constant sadness and moments where I would cry without a distinct reason
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling like I am a bad mother for not being happy and grateful for this new bundle of joy
  • Intrusive thoughts of harming myself and having someone better take care of the baby

How did you get help? What kind of support did you receive?

I was referred to Samoina of PPDKenya by a mutual friend and after a few weeks of direct communication with her, she recommended that I attend some group therapy sessions that were organised for both young moms and dads with signs of PPD. Initially she had recommended that I seek individual counselling sessions but I was a bit hesitant to open up so I eventually felt like the group therapy sessions would help me open up. After attending the group sessions I was subscribed for a series of additional individual sessions with the therapist for about three months and I was accorded thorough emotional and psychological support.

What about your healthcare provider? Was anyone able to pick up your symptoms?

My healthcare provider at the time did not pick any symptoms mainly because when a mother goes to clinic after childbirth the focus is normally on the wellness of the baby. There is also the general assumption that is made, that the mother is okay, while they may not be.

Looking back, what risk factors do you think predisposed you to PPD?

My biggest risk factor that triggered depression was an unsupportive partner. This drained me a lot. In addition, I was constantly exhausted due to lack of good sleep.

Read More: Out of This Life – A Photo Exhibition on Suicide in Kenya

What positive coping mechanisms have worked for you in your recovery journey so far?

Positive self-talk is a winner for sure. I used to love myself before conception but when PPD hit me hard I hated how I looked and even how I felt inside. After therapy, I am able to refute negative thoughts about my being and during moments when I feel overwhelmed, I always remind myself that I am in control (among other positive affirmations). I have grown to embrace meditation as part of my daily routine where I get in touch with my soul and I also get to let go of what no longer serves me.

In addition, I also engage in daily physical exercises which play a big role in breaking tension in moments when I feel otherwise. I journal long-term and short term goals to keep me motivated to work and achieve something tangible. I stick to a distinct schedule which also includes time for me to take naps and a quality time to sleep.  Also, I have gradually revived my spiritual life which was typically dead.

What encouragement would you give to a mom who has PPD, or an expectant woman on how to take care of her mental health during pregnancy?

Post Partum Depression (PPD) is a mental health condition that should not necessarily be a death sentence. As a woman, many factors can predispose one to PPD hence one should be keen to look out for distinct symptoms and at the onset of PPD seek psychotherapy/counselling. In addition, there are various inexpensive ways of seeking professional help as offered through PPDKenya.

What one thing do you wish you knew about PPD before your experience?

I wish that I knew what PPD is, its symptoms and how to protect myself from the trigger factors that initially sent me into a extended period of depression.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, and with other moms. We hope your journey will encourage a mom who is scared of asking for help. Would you like to share your story on our website? Please get in touch on email: ppdkenya@gmail.com with the subject ‘PPD My Story’

Spread the hope:

January is Mental Wellness Month – Here are 5 tips to help you

Mental wellness matters.

Did you know that every January is Mental Wellness Month? By definition, mental wellness refers to the state of emotion of psychological well-being in which a person is able to use their emotional and cognitive capabilities. This way, a person is able to function and meet the demands of daily life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental wellness encompasses more than the absence of mental illness. The state of well-being means that an individual is able to realize their abilities, cope with normal stressors in life as well as make a contribution to the society.

Marking mental wellness in January (and beyond)

January marks mental wellness month globally. The movement was started to help people take better care of their mental health. This approach takes a proactive angle to keep off a negative mental scale. Aspects of daily life can profoundly affect one’s mental state. These range from financial constraints to work-life balance, relationships and chronic illness.

In this state of mind, one may experience erratic sleeping patterns, social isolation, mood swings and low energy levels. When discerned early, it is possible to improve one’s mental state. Below are some tips that you can use to maintain a positive state of mind.

Mental Wellness Month
Mental Wellness Awareness

  1. Take care of your body

Physical exercise is one of the ways in which you can ensure mental wellness. Exercise helps manage anxiety and reduces tension in the muscles, both of which are associated with prolonged stress. In addition to this, exercise helps the body release endorphins. Endorphins are body chemicals that trigger positive feelings in the body and reduce stress.

Taking care of your body also means eating healthy. Processed foods not only affect one physically, they also impact one’s mental health negatively. These foods slow the body’s metabolism and cause you to feel more fatigued. Opt for healthy foods and more fruits and vegetables.

Read More: 5 tips for managing Postpartum Depression during the holidays

  1. Practise selfcare

Selfcare means doing the things and activities that enhance your emotional and mental health. It means making yourself a priority above everything else. Figuratively speaking, it is wearing the oxygen mask before trying to save anyone else. This goes a long way in taking care of one’s mental health.

Selfcare looks different for everyone. Getting adequate sleep, meditating, journaling and unplugging from the internet are all examples of selfcare. Other examples of selfcare include doing something creative, positive affirmations and taking time to recuperate.

  1. Maintain social connections

For many people, maintaining social connections is an integral part of mental wellness. Surround yourself with people who build and encourage you. These connections not only help to keep you grounded, they are also a reminder that you are not alone. Having someone to share with, dance with and laugh with makes a big difference.

Read More: When moms are unable to bond with their babies postpartum

  1. Set realistic goals

Setting unrealistic goals is one of the ways how mental wellness is challenged. To counter this, decide what you would like to achieve. It helps to break down these goals into doable tasks and then working towards them at your pace. There is an incredible sense of achievement as you tick off the tasks. A number of tools are available to help you keep track of your progress.

  1. Do not be afraid to ask for help

If you feel the need to, get in touch with a mental health care provider or therapist. There is no shame in asking for help. A mental health care provider is trained to help you cope. Additionally, the professionals can help you create a plan to look after your mental health. In more severe situations, one may need medication to help them cope. The bottomline is that there is no shame in having a mental illness. It is not a sign of weakness.

Would you love to join us for the 30-day mental wellness challenge? Click on this link to learn more.

 

 

Spread the hope:

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

 

Spread the hope:

Enjoy this blog? Follow our work.