In which I get personal about how NaPro TECHNOLOGY's approach cured me of postpartum depression and anxiety
As I sat nursing my 2 week old baby in her perfectly decorated living room, the smells of warm banana bread floated from the kitchen. “Would you like a piece?” she questioned, “I thought I’d do some baking while the baby napped.”
My stomach churned with the anxiety that set in every day by 3:00 and I knew I wouldn’t be able to swallow it if I tried. I declined and mumbled something about baby weight, to which she nodded understandingly and said, “I feel like I can lose all the baby weight with breastfeeding, but this POOCH. It just never goes away, does it?” I looked for a pooch on her roughly 125 lb. frame and wondered what she thought of me in my X-Large t-shirt and yoga pants, having gained more weight in this pregnancy than any other.
Her baby was born just one week earlier than mine, and she had invited me over to let our kids play, she with 3 little ones, and me with 4. It was my first time at her home, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of shame at how my own home looked, compared to hers. Not a dish in the sink, nothing on the kitchen table, save a bowl of fresh fruit. Her baby slept upstairs, while my baby fussed at the breast, having not even yet reached his birth weight due to my low milk supply.
I told myself that maybe she was hiding the same secret that I was. Maybe this was all an act. Maybe she, too, felt constant anxiety and sadness. Maybe every day at about 3:00 she would feel like instead having had a baby, that someone had died. Maybe every night she would lay there while the baby slept, unable to sleep, despite utter exhaustion. Maybe she knew what I was feeling?
“How are you doing since you had the baby?” I asked. “Do you feel like yourself?”
She kind of shrugged and said, “Well, you know, I’m tired, but yeah, I feel fine.”
“Do you ever feel kind of anxious or sad?” I tried again.
She cocked her head a little. “Mmm, no. I don’t feel sad. Things are good, not quite back to normal yet, but good.”
I gave up. I must just be weak. And crazy.
That moment with my friend was not the first time I tried to reach out for help with my postpartum anxiety and depression. There was the time after my first baby that I called to donate some baby clothes to my church and found out that the coordinator had just had a baby. I thought I would try to reach out to her to commiserate about how hard this new motherhood gig was, but she said she was great, the baby was sleeping great, things were great.
There was the time that I had a complete emotional breakdown after my second baby, laying flat on my living room floor screaming and sobbing at my husband that I couldn’t take it any more. I remember the look on his face that said, "She really has lost her mind." That time I actually did manage to call the doctor at my husband’s insistence, but we were dirt poor college students and my Medicaid had run out. I couldn’t pay for the medication. I remember almost nothing from that child’s first year of life. I only get a few highlights when I try to recall it.
This time, I knew what was happening, but I didn’t want to admit it.
During my fourth pregnancy, I had undergone training to become a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner. Through it, I had heard about a new NaPro TECHNOLOGY treatment for postpartum depression using injections of progesterone. During the pregnancy, I had made a plan with my husband that I would try it if I felt like I was struggling after our baby was born. But even then, I was hesitant to follow through. That’s the funnny thing about mental health, isn’t it? Those struggling with a mental illness aren’t exactly known for their ability to make great decisions. It was my husband who urged me to call, took the baby from my arms, corralled the toddler, handed me my phone and said, “Call. Now. Please.”
I remember I had my first injection on a Wednesday, at about 2pm. I found out at that appointment that my baby was failing to thrive. I went home and honestly I remember nothing about the rest of that day, until dinner time. I was outside in our backyard, sitting at our patio table under the pecan tree, and I had the distinct feeling that I had just woken up. My mom said something funny and I laughed. I laughed! For the first time in weeks. Later, my husband said that at that table, he couldn’t stop looking at me and said to himself, “Oh my gosh. She’s back!” That night I slept when the baby slept. I did not have night sweats that forced me to get up and change my t-shirt multiple times. The next day I made arrangements for a lactation consultant to come out, decided on a new feeding strategy, and made an appointment with the pediatrician. I was still tired, but I was tired ME, and not some person that I didn’t recognize.
Two days later I felt the familiar anxiety creeping back, and arranged for another progesterone injection. The next day I was back to feeling like myself. I did not even feel the need to complete the 5 injection series for the entire NaPro TECHNOLOGY PPD protocol.
While it is rarely acknowledged as such, PPD and PPA are the most common pregnancy related health issue. Is is estimated that as many as 15-20% of all postpartum mothers are suffering with PPD or PPA.
The theory behind why progesterone works is that, while a woman is pregnant, she is receiving a steady influx of the progesterone hormone by means of the placenta. When the baby and placenta are delivered, there is a rapid drop in the progesterone hormone. This sudden drop in the progesterone hormone can cause hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes like anxiety and depression. We see similar changes in women experiencing PMS and in pre-menopausal women. Women can experience PPD or PPA for up to a year after giving birth.
I wanted to share my story because I believe every woman should have access and knowledge to all of the available options for PPD and PPA. For this particular PPD situation, progesterone was all I needed to feel mentally healthy again. With my previous children and the severity of the PPD/PPA, I believe I could have benefitted from multiple approaches, such as counseling and medication, particularly with my second child. Progesterone therapy is not meant to replace other treatments for PPD/PPA but can compliment them.
To find a NaPro TECHNOLOGY trained doctor who will use the progesterone protocol, visit: http://www.fertilitycare.org and click “find a medical consultant.” If one is not available in your area, you can work directly with the doctors at the Pope Paul VI Institute, in Omaha, Nebraska. They are able to do long distance treatment for a very reasonable cost.
You can also find a wealth of postpartum depression support resources at www.postpartumprogress.org . If you would like to chat with me about PPD or about any other fertility health related topic, I can be reached at ShirelleEdghill@gmail.com . Thanks for reading!