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Antenatal depression

Antenatal depression, Motherhood

Is it too soon to come off the drugs?

Around the midway point of my pregnancy with Elowen, I walked into my doctors office and announced I was depressed. I’d been here before, depression wasn’t new to me. And there was no doubt in my mind that I was suffering with depression again. I also knew that the cause of my depression was largely situational. I was a pregnant, stay-at-home to a mum to a toddler, who for 8 hours a day, most days of the week didn’t speak to another adult. I was living 100+ miles away from my friends and family and I was incredibly lonely.

When the doctor asked me what I wanted to do about my situation I knew I wanted drugs. I believe my exact words were “I know why I’m depressed, I know what I’ve got to do to fix it (relocate back to Bristol) but right now, I need something to get me through the day.” I left that appointment with a prescription for Sertraline. An anti-depressant which I would take every day “for a year or so”.

Sure enough, after the side effects of dizziness and sweating died down, Sertraline got me through the day. I stopped crying all the time. I enjoyed being a mum again. I looked forward to having two children instead of dreading it. I felt like I could cope. But also, aside from the meds, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. We were going to be moving back to my hometown.

We put our house on the market over Christmas and by April this year we were in our new home, located a short drive away from my closest friends. I’ve had more of a social life in the last 3 months than I have the 3 years that preceded our move back home. I feel better connected and supported. Not just as a mother, but as a person.

Which beggars the question, is it time to come off the drugs?

I don’t think anybody plans to take medication for mental health long term. And in my mind, it was only ever meant to be a temporary measure until our situation changed. I want to be able to feel happy without my little box of pills.

And yet, I still feel reluctant to stop taking them.

Whilst it’s now been well over 6 months since I truly felt like I was in the depths of depression. Those thoughts and feelings are still fresh in my memory. How sad I felt. How useless I deemed myself to be. How sore my face felt was from all of the crying I did. I don’t want to go back to that. Ever.

For me, it’s just easier for my prescription to keep dropping through my letterbox every couple of weeks and to keep taking the pills daily. Safe in the knowledge that they will keep those awful thoughts and feelings at bay. The drugs have become a psychological crutch, which is precisely what didn’t want to happen.

I’ve yet to register with a doctor here but I know my medication is something I will need to talk about when I do, which is probably why I’ve been putting it off.

I don’t want to stay on anti-depressants forever. But is it too soon to stop?

 

Jenna xx

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Antenatal depression, Motherhood, Parenting, Pregnancy

Antidepressants and pregnancy: My experience so far…

When it became apparent to me that I was suffering with antenatal depression, I spent a lot of time reading blog posts about others who had been in a similar situation. Reading those posts was what gave me the courage to walk into my midwife appointment and tell her everything I had been feeling. However, what I found frustrating was that nobody really talked about what happened AFTER they’d been to see their midwife/GP. Did they take medication? Did it help? Did they opt for some kind of talk therapy? Did that help?

I, of course, don’t expect anyone to have to write about such personal details for the whole world to read. But I was desperate to know what worked for people and what didn’t. Which is why I thought I’d write a bit of an update post for anyone who is the same same boat as me.

A little bit of background information:

I suffered with depression in my late teens/early twenties due to stressful family situations and although I was eventually prescribed antidepressants, I gave up on them in less than a week because I was scared they were going to turn me into some sort of emotionless robot. I taught myself CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and through using the tools I learned, managed to find my way out of a deep, dark hole and become ‘happy Jenna’ again.

In February, I found out I was expecting another baby (after having a second miscarriage back in November 2015) and was cautiously excited to be growing a new member of our family. I had a much easier first trimester than I did with my daughter, only being sick a handful of times in the first 3 months, as opposed to every single day. Other being tired – I felt well, both in body and mind.

Unfortunately, shortly after reaching my second trimester things started to go downhill and I knew from past experience that I was almost certainly suffering with depression. I was crying every day and had stopped enjoying life. I was no longer looking forward to having another baby, and instead, dreading it. I felt like a terrible mum to my two-year-old because I, quite honestly, was hating spending all day, every day with her.

The cause of my depression is very much situational. I live hours away from my friends and family and I miss them all terribly. The isolation and loneliness of being a stay-at-home mum, in a town so far away from my loved ones, for over two years had finally taken it’s toll on me. Add to that, all the raging hormones and emotions that come along with pregnancy and I was broken.

At my 25 week midwife appointment, I broke down in tears and explained that I thought I was suffering with antenatal depression. I instantly felt better for having it ‘out there’ and that conversation has lead to me being where I am today. I booked an appointment to see a GP – who was wonderfully supportive and offered to help me in which ever way I saw fit. I asked for medication.

Type of medication and dosage:

My doctor prescribed me Sertraline as it is safe to use during pregnancy (and breastfeeding).

Sertraline is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Sertraline affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.” – Source.

The standard daily dose of this medication is 50mg, which is the amount I’ve been prescribed. However, my doctor explained to me that because I’m pregnant, my body will break down the drug a lot faster, meaning I’m only really having half the dose. I was told that if I felt it wasn’t enough then I should let her know and she would up the amount. At this moment in time, I don’t feel the need to do so.

The side effects: 

My doctor warned me that for the first couple of weeks of taking this medication, it may make my anxiety worse. She told me that if this did happen, to continue taking antidepressants and plough on through it because it wouldn’t last. Fortunately, I didn’t experience heightened anxiety but I thought it might be worth mentioning it in this post as I got the impression that not everybody gets this warning from their GP when they start taking Sertraline.

For me, it’s been hard to tell if some of my ‘side effects’ are a direct result of Sertraline or whether they are normal pregnancy symptoms – or a mix of both.

In the first week or so of taking the drugs I experienced dizziness and heart palpitations (at the same time). As you can imagine, this was quite unpleasant, and I remember being sat in a restaurant with my husband, my heart racing and the room spinning, but feeling unable to talk. But, it passed quickly and I’ve haven’t experienced anything like that again for several weeks now.

I also had (and still get) hot flushes several times a day. I can safely say I am not looking forward to the menopause!

The side-effect that I’ve suffered with the most, and still continue to do so 6 weeks into my treatment, is the night sweats. These are very much like the night sweats I experienced in the weeks after giving birth to my daughter, when my body was expelling all the excess fluid I had left over from pregnancy.

Every night I wake up absolutely drenched in sweat – my duvet and sheets are sopping wet. It’s pretty grim and makes me feel disgusting. My bedsheets had never the inside of a washing machine quite so much as they have over the last month or so.

How is my mood now?

Better, so much better. I haven’t cried since I first walked into the doctor’s office 6 weeks ago. I haven’t become an ’emotionless robot’. I have days when I feel grumpy and fed up, just like anyone else would but the difference is that my moods are now on a much more even kilter. I’m finally starting to embrace pregnancy and look forward to having another baby. I feel like I’m a much better mummy to my daughter because we play and laugh together. I’m more inclined to take her out to the park or playgroups whereas before my depression and anxiety would stop me from doing so.

I still wonder how on earth I’m going to cope with two children but I think that’s normal, isn’t it? I know it’s going to be a big adjustment but I will cope.

I should also mention that since I’ve started taking antidepressants we’ve had some quite big news which will have also affected my outlook on life. My husband’s job role will be changing in the next few months which means we will be able to relocate back to Bristol in the New Year. It still seems like a long way off but it’s given me a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. In all honesty, I don’t think the antidepressants are 100% responsible for my change in mental attitude but they’ve certainly helped. I do not regret starting medication and I will continue to use it for as long as I feel I need to. I suspect once we’ve moved house and I have my support network of family and friends back, I will feel ready to stop my prescription.

If anybody reading this wants to talk about this topic further then do feel free to send me an e-mail or tweet me @_tinyfootsteps. 

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This post was originally published on the 29th September 2016.

pregnant and not coping
Antenatal depression, Baby Button Nose, Pregnancy

Pregnant and not coping… {Antenatal Depression}

I know that pregnancy can be hard, even at the best of times. Your mind and body become a whirlwind of hormones and emotions. But what I’m feeling is more than just pregnancy hormones. Deep down, I know it’s not right that I’m crying, almost constantly, every single day. I know it’s not right that at 25 weeks pregnant I am still desperately trying to cover up, what is now, a very visible baby bump. Why? Because I do not want to talk about my pregnancy. I don’t want to make small talk with strangers about whether it’s a boy or a girl. I don’t want to discuss baby names. I just want to forget about it. Pretend it’s not happening.

I wake up each morning and dread being alone with my two-year-old all day. I have no idea how to occupy her for 10 hours… especially when all I want to do is crawl back into bed and hide away from her. Not just from her but from everyone and everything. I can’t bear to feign another smile as we play together – my eyes glaze over whilst I wish I was anywhere else but there. Still, I chug down my 28th imaginary cup of tea that she’s ‘made’ for me and hope she doesn’t notice that, mentally, I’m someplace else.

Sometimes she’ll notice I’m crying. She puts her face up to mine and says “Ouchie, mummy?”. “Yes, Baba – Mummy has an ouchie.”  She leans in to hug me and pats me on the back. I sob even more because I don’t deserve her. And she deserves so much better from her mum.

I’m exhausted all of the time. I have no motivation or energy to leave the house. I do manage it occasionally, we’ll venture out to our local park which makes me feel a little better. The fresh air helps and it also eases the mum guilt. But as I stand there pushing the swing I wonder “Is this it? Is this all there is?” I just feel… numb.

I’m terrified of how I’ll cope with a newborn and toddler throughout the winter, when it’ll be even harder to find the motivation to get outside. It feels as if this winter is going to be an endurance test that I’m just not ready for. Still, time keeps ticking on…

I had my 25 week midwife appointment this morning and I knew I needed to tell her that I wasn’t coping. I knew that if I was going to get any help to make this better, I needed to be honest. I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to walk into that room and admit that I am struggling. To admit to somebody I barely know that I am not enjoying this pregnancy or being a mummy all that much.

I needn’t have worried about keeping it bottled up. I had already started crying in the waiting room. By the time I’d sat down in front of her I was falling apart.

“What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

“I’m just really, really sad.”

And that was it – five words. Five words which I hope will be the start of things getting better.

We talked about how hard it is for me, living here, with no support network. I told her that my husband works such long hours and I don’t want to be a burden on him when he gets home. I told her how I never do anything for myself anymore. I explained how my anxiety stops me from taking my toddler out each day.

She listened to me and promised me she would do everything she could to help. I have to see a GP and I’m already dreading having to have this whole conversation again but I know it will be worth it.

I don’t want to be depressed when my baby is born. I don’t want Jasmine to see her mum suffering with an ‘ouchie’ anymore. I want help. I need help. And after suffering in silence for weeks and weeks, I think I’m finally on the right path to getting it…

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