Post Traumatic Stress disorder
Today we finish up the series presented by Kathy Morelli, LPC on hormones and mood disorders. Once again I’d like to thank Kathy for such a well written and informative series. I am also very grateful that she allowed me to share the series with Mamas on Bedrest.
The final installment of the series is Post Partum: How Women’s Brain Biology, Hormones and Mood Relate!
“After giving birth, a woman’s hormone levels drastically plummet. The literature says within one to five days after birth, estrogen levels drop to the level of a normal menstrual cycle. A woman’s body needs time to adapt to all of the physical changes. Remember that estrogen precedes serotonin, the mood stabilizer, in the brain. And a steep drop in progesterone has a depressive effect as well. There’s a big chance for dysregulation in the brain-gland feedback loop (Sichel and Driscoll, 1999).”
“Other hormones that come into play postpartum and have an effect on the HPA and mood are prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is produced in the pituitary gland and is the milk-producing hormone. Prolactin levels rise during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Some studies indicate prolactin is protective of postpartum depression, but others indicate prolactin causes vigilance, appropriate to a protective mother, but this feeling can morph into anxiety and irritability. The presence of prolactin varies whether or not a woman chooses to breastfeed (Donaldson-Myers, 2012).”
“Oxytocin is another neuro-hormone with a big effect on mood and happiness. Oxytocin is synthesized in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. Oxytocin is secreted during breastfeeding. Research has shown that oxytocin induces feelings of calm and bonding (Donaldson-Myers, 2012). And the presence of oxytocin varies whether or not a woman chooses to breastfeed (Donaldson-Myers, 2012).”
Women’s hormonal levels go from such highs at the end of pregnancy and then plummet to such lows with labor and delivery it’s a wonder that not all women become depressed. Kathy shares that
“85% of women suffer from the baby blues and 20% suffer from a form of postpartum mood disorders”
so clearly these hormonal fluctuations are indeed significant. And let’s not forget that Mamas on Bedrest are at an even greater risk of perinatal mood disorders because of bed rest, so these numbers may not reflect the full scope of perinatal mood disorders.
So much more research is being done on hormones, mood disorders and the lifestages of women. When considering the mental health of post partum women, we also have to take into account their support system, their ability to take time to rest and recover from pregnancy (and bed rest!) labor and delivery, the family situation and interpersonal relationships. All these factors-along with the “pre-wiring” in a woman’s genetic make up will determine how well a woman fares emotionally after pregnancy. Mamas, Take this information, think it over and use it as a catalyst to take exquisite care of yourselves! A woman’s body is designed to do extraordinary things-not the least of which is create new life-but that feat is not without its consequences. In order to be able to successfully reproduce, mamas must take exceptional care of themselves-eat nurtritious meals, drink plenty of water, rest, regular exercise, safe secure home and financial security. Mamas, self care is not a luxury-IT IS A MUST if you want good health for yourself, your baby and your family!
Hey Mamas, Happy Video Wednesday!
In this video, I’m sharing resources for managing perinatal mood disorders. Following the death of a mama at the US Capitol who was battling post partum depression, this information needs to be in every mama’s arsenal. Those of you who love mamas should also be familiar with these resources, as you may be the one to identify the changed mood of mama. Whatever your role, please don’t let perinatal mood disorders go unchecked. As we saw, the consequences of doing nothing can have permanent, far reaching, very tragic effects.
On October 5, 2012 Jeanne Faulkner, R.N. posted on theFitPregnancy Blog about Tragic Teen Pregnancies. Seems yet another young teen aged girl hid her pregnancy and gave birth alone and scared in the bathroom. She subsequently killed the baby and disposed of it in a garbage bag. The baby was later discovered and the girl arrested.
From time to time we hear of such tragedies. I happen to know of one personally, and saw a few others working as a PA in a teen health clinic. It’s a really difficult situation. Those on the outside looking in are appalled by the young mothers’ actions. The media is crucifying them. And many want them punished to the full extent of the law.
But I like Faulkner’ take on the situation. These are young girls, often as young as 14 or 15, having babies. Babies are having babies. For whatever reason, the girls choose not to tell their parents (a question for a whole other post!), friends or teachers. They hide their pregnancies, childishly hoping they’ll go away. But what can we expect-THEY ARE CHILDREN!!! I could go on and on about the first grievous mistake being that they are sexually active in the first place, why is this happening and where are the parents/guardians? But that is all water under the bridge. The more important question is how do we help young girls who are caught up in such situations get the (mental/emotional and physical) help that they need so that they can recover, grow up, become productive adults and eventually have children of their own?
Jennie Joseph, CPM, was quoted in the article and I think that her words bear repeating. Joseph describes “labor madness”, a trance-like state many women enter into during labor, a sort of primal defense mechanism from the pain and overwhelm of the situation.
“Women from all walks of life disappear into an inner place (during labor). They retreat from the fear and pain and the overwhelming nature of what their body is doing. They don’t really know what’s going on and without help some panic. When a woman is supported by a caring midwife, nurse, doctor, doula and family we can call her back from that place. We can support her, help her and get her through the experience. But when a woman is alone the terror, pain and hormones kick some women into autopilot where they panic and do whatever they have to do to save themselves from this life-threatening situation.”
“And if it’s a young teenage girl, all alone, in pain, not fully understanding what’s going on, terrified of what will happen when her parents find out…that’s a recipe for labor madness right there.”
Labor madness. I like that term and I believe that it is fitting. We all like to believe that pregnancy, labor and childbirth are these ethereal states in which a woman experiences her truest feminine self. This occurs for many women. But for many of us, pregnancy, labor and childbirth can be fraught with hellacious complications, fear, chaos and at their worst, catastrophic if not deadly complications.
As mamas on bed rest, we’re on the front lines of complicated pregnancy. Yet most of us are grown women. Many of us are married or at least with a partner in the picture and if not, we have family, friends and a support system. We’re on the internet, reading websites, chatting with other mamas and gathering information in order to best prepare ourselves for whatever may lay ahead. This is the difference between pregnancy in a woman and a girl. As women, if we don’t have a support system, we know how to find one.
Young girls aren’t necessarily that savvy. Yes, many have grown up women’s bodies, but not the wisdom of age. Think back to your teen years. Were you fully equipped to manage all the feelings and emotions you were experiencing? Now add pregnancy, and all its physiologic (hormonal) changes, and you can readily see that trainwreck poised to happen.
I am not saying that what this young girl did was right. It absolutely wasn’t. But there are so many levels at which things went wrong I would find it difficult to prosecute her for a crime. I highly doubt that her actions were premeditated or that she acted out of malice or guile. She was afraid. It’s that simple. And she’ll be further traumatized by the criminal justice system. Will she ever receive counseling? Will she ever heal? I mean really heal???
I see this story as another reminder that women of all ages need support and compassion during pregnancy. For young girls, they need not only support but also caring and compassionate guidance-preferably before they become pregnant but most certainly after-to help them understand the complex physical changes they’ll experience as well as the myriad of emotional changes. Oh what a different story this would have been if this young girl had been able to talk to someone about what was happening! Oh what a difference it makes forMamas on Bedrest to have this support network!
I don’t know what will be next for this young girl or others like her. What I do know is that rather than crucify her in the media, we all need to show her compassion. She needs help so that she can heal. And we as a culture need to be thinking about what we can do to help end this type of tragedy in teen pregnancies.