Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Did your birth story affect the development of your Postpartum Mood Disorder?

When I saw my very first positive pregnancy test, I wasn’t thinking about labor. I wasn’t thinking about birth. I certainly wasn’t thinking about the major depressive episode awaiting me at the end of the journey. I was just thinking about the awesome little life growing inside of me. The second time around though, after a tough delivery and a life lesson in what the birds and bees really do talk about, I cringed. My first thought? Oh crap. There’s a baby in there. And it’s got to come out somehow. I ended up with another spontaneous vaginal delivery with our second daughter. This delivery, although labor was nearly tripled, went much smoother. The trauma came 30 minutes after birth when she was diagnosed with a cleft palate. I ended up with a nasty nasty episode of postpartum depression. The third time around I also had a vaginal delivery but it was induced because I was measuring 2wks ahead of schedule. Amnio showed lung maturity and my pelvis (god bless it) had become so loose I could barely walk without wincing in pain every time I took a step. We were ready. This delivery was short, sweet, and outcome was much better. I also didn’t experience postpartum after my third birth.

With my first birth, I did not take a childbirth class. I didn’t with my second or third either but by then, I had been through it, done research, explored a few options, knew my body was capable of birth, and learned to trust myself and not rely on medical intervention. I was also much more capable of advocating for myself in the delivery room. I went in with what I call a flexible birth plan because I knew how fluid birth could be and did not want to be unprepared for any possibility after my first delivery at which I was pumped full of Pitocin and stuck in a hospital bed for the entire labor. I opted for an epidural with all three births. My first birth was the toughest – Pitocin contractions on top of one another for nearly 8 hours straight with a one-sided epidural the anesthesiologist tried to place 7X during transitional labor. Ever tried to sit still during transitional labor? Yeh. I’m SO not one of those women who can do that. So the second time around, I had my birth plan. The biggest thing was not to be offered any kind of pain medication. I’d ask if I needed it. And I asked at just over 24 hours of labor. Tired, exhausted, no end in sight (my water hadn’t even broken yet), I needed rest. But I did it on my terms. The third time around I got a little irked at the midwife nurse at my birth. I went in with the same birth plan. I asked for pain meds and she attempted to talk me out of it. I understand the desire to have an unmedicated birth. A woman has a right to the kind of birth she wants even if we don’t agree with it. As long as she’s making those decisions in an educated manner, let the woman have what she wants.  A woman absolutely should not be judged for her choices at birth. Instead, we should try to understand the choices and enable her to make educated decisions in the future. I advocated for myself and ended up having a great birth experience even if she was disappointed in my ability not to go au natural. Looking back, I probably should have asked for another nurse. But hey, it is what it is and my third birth ended up being my best experience overall.

For today’s Just Talkin’ Tuesday, I would really like to explore your birth story. Was your birth what you expected? Did you have a birth plan? What kind of birth did you have? Research has shown repeatedly that c-section mamas are more likely to develop a postpartum mood disorder. And with the soaring c/s rates here in the US, I have to wonder if perhaps that is why there are more mamas struggling with emotional adjustment after birth. Although there are plenty of mamas out there who gave birth at home with no medical intervention who also struggle with postpartum mood disorders so maybe that’s a non-issue altogether. Overall though, do you feel your birth experience impacted your development of a postpartum mood disorder? Or did the Postpartum Mood Disorder just happen? And if your birth experience negatively impacted your development of a postpartum mood disorder and you went on to have more children, did you opt for a different type of birth? Do you feel changing your birth choice have an impact on whether or not you developed a Postpartum Mood Disorder? If you haven’t had any subsequent pregnancies, will you change your approach toward birthing as a result of your experience with Postpartum Depression if any more children are planned?

I know those are tough questions but it’s what I’m wondering today. So let’s get to Just Talkin’, shall we?

13 thoughts on “Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Did your birth story affect the development of your Postpartum Mood Disorder?

  1. I’m coming in on this a little late…! But I absolutely think that my birth experience had something to do with it, even though my PPD didn’t really develop until four months postpartum. I was overdue, went into labor naturally but was given Pitocin to speed up the process. I got an epidural and it wasn’t until 10 hours later that I was able to start pushing. After two hours of pushing, the doctor called it a “failure to descend” and ordered an emergency c-section. They capped my epidural to prepare for transport to the OR…but the medication completely wore off well before they took me to the OR. The pain was literally blinding – I don’t know how I even managed to sign the surgery consent forms because I couldn’t see them. The surgery was a success, but C had meconium in his lungs so he was rushed off to the NICU. My husband was able to go with him, but I didn’t get a chance to see my baby for an hour.

    I didn’t have a birth plan, but the one thing that I DIDN’T want was a c-section. So much for that! I think the most difficult part of a c is not being able to hold your baby right away. :(

  2. I actually don’t think my birth experience had anything to do with my PPD. Other than having to be induced, it really was okay. I did feel GREAT joy at first seeing my baby, and did pretty well for the first couple of weeks. It was when my husband went back to work, my mom stopped dropping in, and friends stopped visiting that I lost it. I was so anxious about being alone with my son all day and overwhelmed with being a mother, and once the panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, and insomnia set in, I was a wreck. It just goes to show that PPD doesn’t start the same way with everyone–a traumatic or disappointing birth story is one risk factor, but not a “required” one.

    I read so much about how breastfeeding enters in to PPD and feelings of inadequacy for so many people. I SO wish it wasn’t such a divisive, “all or nothing” issue. It makes me so angry, and I just want to shake some of the lactation police who make you feel like you’re dooming your baby if you don’t exclusively breastfeed. Women with PPD go through enough without that pressure.

    I did (and still do) breastfeed, but when my PPD was at its worst I simply couldn’t keep up with it. I needed my mom, dad, and husband to do some of the feeding, and the constant pumping was just too much. My mom (an OB nurse) and my doc supported me in breastfeeding, but gave me “permission” that formula really was okay. We introduced formula for when other people fed him, and I still breastfed when I could. He got used to it, and my milk never suffered. It gave me enough of a break to keep going.

    Today, at almost 9 months, I still breastfeed him most of the time (80%?) and only pump when I’m away from him for a whole day. If we have pumped milk in the fridge for family or daycare, great. If not, he gets formula. I call it the “combo platter,” and I honestly believe that this approach is a big reason I still breastfeed. If breastfeeding was all or nothing, I would have quit 7 months ago, no question. For me, the pressure that it ALL had to come from me had to be removed. And I needed REST. But I wasn’t ready to give it up completely. I think we need to give more women permission to make the “in between” choice, without scaring them about nipple confusion, the evils of formula, etc., etc.

  3. Lauren, I love these questions!! I hope you don’t mind but I answered it on my blog as well but linked back to you as my story is quite long. Here’s a part of it…

    Everything that I had planned out AFTER the pregnancy was going horribly wrong. Instead of filling our lives with joy, it filled it with nightmare. He soon developed colic when we switched him to formula (not blaming the formula) and I became an insomniac. He screamed, I screamed. He cried, I cried. When he slept, I ran around the house cleaning obsessively. My head whirred with so many thoughts that I could not stop and I convinced myself that I was going crazy. I had extreme guilt for giving up breastfeeding, I felt like a horrible mother, I felt saddened with extreme disappointment in the postpartum experience, and I hated the fact that I had even gotten pregnant in the first place.

    …. For the longest time I was so angry that I was screwed and that I had to endure something so horrible but lately I’ve come to accept that it happened and that I cannot change it. Will it affect future pregnancies? Absolutely. I would like to have more children, but right now, I’m just beginning to really enjoy my son and to actually just enjoy myself and I am ok with that. At least now, for future pregnancies, I will be better prepared…

    The rest of it is here…


    Thanks again for asking these wonderful questions. You rock!!

    • I am so glad you’re enjoying these questions! And I love that you’re answering them at your blog too! That’s awesome!

      I totally relate to your formula story. I cried when I first bought formula for my daughter. After exclusively pumping for 7 months, something had to give in order to allow my mental health and family life to recover. The pumping made a grand exit to the right (and yes, I cried when the rental company picked up my hospital grade pump. I had gotten attached, no pun intended) and formula slid in from the left like an unwanted understudy. I felt guilty. But I kept reminding myself I had met my pumping goal and eventually I grew to be okay with it. We had more time to bond and I stopped resenting her for all the issues we had gone through relating to feeding.

      I also cleaned like a maniac when she would sleep. Cleaning was my solace. In fact, when I clean now, my husband will ask me if I’m okay. I have to reassure him that I am doing it because it needs to be done, not because I’m having issues. But it’s nice to know that he’s aware of my patterns.

      Thanks so much for sharing!


      • I may write more later… but just have to say that I pumped exclusively too… and I think it is one of those things that if you haven’t been there you don’t understand how tough it is. I still today (4 years later) struggle with answering questions of whether or not I breast-fed because, darn it, I want credit for not “just” using formula! That isn’t at all meant to criticize moms who had to or chose to use formula. I’m not even sure I dealt with PPD… there were so many issues going on in my life at the time that I can’t say depression was just due to the hormonal uproar of having a baby… and I never felt disconnected from him as I hear so often happens with PPD. I definitely think my birth experience (including a c-section with an epidural that didn’t work quite as well as it should, the inability to breast-feed and ep’ing) affected how I felt about myself as a mother post-partum… no other pregnancies since then but I do wonder on what to change next time. I wonder if by trying for VBAC and trying AGAIN to breast feed I am setting myself up for too much pressure… or if by deciding not to try one or either of those I am just giving up. Hoping you don’t mind me stepping in…

        • A disconnect from baby can be a symptom for some women – other women go the opposite direction and become hypervigilant. But if you have an infant with special needs or a special set of circumstances, it’s hard to separate hypervigilance from necessary vigilance.

          EP’ing is TOUGH, isn’t it? My pediatrician with my son suggested I pump for a bit to get my supply up after he was diagnosed as failure to thrive at 6months old. Within 24 hours I had him on formula. There was no way I could go back to that place. NO WAY. I knew where it had led before and frankly, I wasn’t up for a return trip. He thrived and so did I. And really, that’s all that mattered to me at that point.

          I think you need to make decisions that are a fit for your lifestyle, your philosophy, and your situation. You should definitely consult with physicians (2nd and 3rd opinions are great here) about the VBAC thing too. As far as trying to breastfeed again, that’s a question best to be answered by an IBCLC. If you don’t mind me asking, what were the breastfeeding issues you faced the first time around that make you think it might be an issue the next time? There really are very few reasons as to why breastfeeding isn’t successful so I’m curious.

          Of course I don’t mind you stepping in. All conversation is welcome here! Glad you stopped by!


  4. Pingback: My Birth Story « All Work & No Play Make Mommy Go Something Something

  5. I had a birth plan that was similar to yours, as in unmedicated until I asked for the epidural. I thought I could do it naturally, but I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it if I couldn’t.

    The first few hours were ok and I tried laboring at home. Then I started having horrible back labor. I still remember the pain. We went to the hospital and I got an epidural. I was at 6 cm. A few hours labor I had actually regressed to 4 cm because the baby wasn’t moving down and my labor was stalling. The doctor decided to break my water to move things along. When he did this he saw blood in the waters and I started hemorrhaging. I had a partial placental abruption.

    Within 15 minutes my son was born via c-section. They managed to get my husband in the room, but they pumped me so full of drugs I was vomiting and convulsing. And afterward I was so out of it I still have a hard time remembering the first moments with my son.

    I am so grateful for my son’s birth in that I’m glad it was ultimately a happy outcome. In my case the c-section was necessary and it could have ended very badly. But my problem is that I don’t feel like I actually gave birth. While I love my son so much, I still sometimes feel like I didn’t give birth to him. And for a long time he didn’t feel like he was mine.

    The experience has left me traumatized and the recovery was horrible. I don’t think we will be having anymore children because I can’t go through that again.

    Thanks for a place to share my story!

    • I’m glad you shared your story here. You had quite an ordeal at delivery!

      It’s tough to cope with an unexpected turn in delivery and it’s so important to let moms talk about how that affects their mindset after baby arrives.

      I sincerely hope you are working with someone as you process through the feelings you’ve been left with after surviving such a harrowing experience. Anyone in your situation would have been traumatized.

      Take care of you as you journey through the first year of your son’s life. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at ppdacceptance(@)gmail.com if you have any questions or need additional support.


  6. I definitely feel like having a c-section affected me! I don’t feel like I was able to bond with my baby right away; in fact, the spinal made my blood pressure drop so low that I had difficulty putting together coherent thoughts and at one point I wondered who’s baby was screaming in my operating room! I don’t feel guilty or anything, because I had no other choice (my baby was breech and had been for so long it would’ve dislocated his hips to turn him) but I am still somewhat angry and bitter. Even though the nursery nurse brought the baby to me as soon as I got to the recovery room and basically held him to my breast (I still couldn’t sit up or move my arms very well), I feel like have a c-section interfered with establishing a good breastfeeding relationship. It’s tough- on one hand I’m thankful for the medical advances we have that helped me have such a smooth c-section. On the other hand I’m pissed that I had to have a c-section! I didn’t even get to try to labor. It feels so unfair.

    • Hope –

      As you know, I can certainly relate to not being able to bond with your infant right away. Even though I had a vaginal birth with Charlotte, all of the bonding that’s supposed to come along with that was whisked away as soon as the LC diagnosed her cleft palate. The grieving over loss of bonding alone is intense. The hardest thing I had to overcome after all of that was not blaming her for what had happened. After all, she was the one with the cleft, right? How dare she ruin my expectations. It was SO hard to not be disappointed and not blame her. Once I stopped blaming her (and myself) for the way birth and the first few postpartum months went, we began to bond and I began to heal. Realizing I had been blaming her was a hard pill to swallow as well.

      I think giving yourself permission to grieve over the loss of your expectations is something we have lost as a society. It’s ok to be angry and upset when things don’t go our way. It’s simply not healthy to expect a mom to move forward as if everything is hunky dory if her birth experience isn’t what she hoped it would be regardless of the circumstances that led her to that experience. There’s so much more to the birth experience than the hope that baby will be “healthy.” Mom needs to be healthy and well too – both mentally and physically. Today’s environment just isn’t set up for that to happen the way it used to be, despite all the medical advances. It’s almost as if because of the medical advances we’ve discarded the most important factor of all – the HUMAN factor.

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