One thing that I have learned since becoming a mother is the importance of taking care of my own mental health. About four years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I wasn’t focused on what to expect after having my baby. Instead, I was very much focused on a safe and healthy pregnancy, and worried about going through labor.
As a type A person, I thought I was totally prepared for the journey into motherhood. But until I had my baby girl in my arms, I didn’t realize how unprepared I was. I wasn’t prepared for all of the physical and emotional changes I would go through. I had sleepless nights like most parents of infants. I struggled with breastfeeding like many mothers do. I looked at myself in the mirror and generally did not like how I looked, but I didn’t have time to do anything about it. I was overwhelmed, stressed out, and exhausted.
My husband was and is always supportive of me, and helped me the best that he could. Same for my family. But I wanted to hear from other mothers, and know their experiences because I felt like I was failing as one.
After three months, it was time for me to go back to work as a full-time family medicine physician. I cried so much and was terribly anxious because I didn’t want to leave my baby. I felt again that I was a huge disappointment as a mother because I was leaving my child. At work, I tried to come up with a plan to pump between patient appointments throughout the day in order to keep up my breast milk supply. I met with my work administration to ensure I had a plan in place. But I was told that if I took breaks to pump, I would have to stay longer hours to make up for the “lost time.” This meant more time away from my baby. What was I supposed to do?
Despite being a physician, and having many patients with depression and anxiety, it took me time to realize that I had postpartum depression and anxiety.
So, to all the mamas out there, I want to say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. These struggles are real. Postpartum depression is the #1 most common complication that occurs after giving birth. As many as 1 in 5 women suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), and approximately 1 in 10 women experience postpartum anxiety (PPA). PPD and PPA are more common than we may think. It makes me wonder; how many cases are never reported? How many of us don’t recognize the signs?
If you are suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety please do not keep what you are going through to yourself. Share those feelings with your family and friends. Share those feelings with your doctor. Get the help and support that you need. Remember, you are not weak for sharing those feelings, you are STRONG for asking for help.
Check out Postpartum Support International for more information https://www.postpartum.net/ or 1-800-944-4773.
Written By: Avi Varma, MD. Avi Varma is a family medicine physician practicing in Atlanta, Georgia. Outside of caring for patients in the underserved communities of Atlanta with HIV/AIDS, she spends her time with her three-year-old daughter and a five-year-old husky. Avi uses her social media platform to talk about various topics including medicine, motherhood and mental health. Her goal is to share her personal stories, in hopes that others can gain the strength to share their own personal struggles and triumphs. Follow her @dr.avivarma on Instagram.
(Please also reach out to us at Chai Mommas if you want to share your feelings or need support getting support. We are here for you.)