Photo attribution: Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH
On this week’s MD for Mom’s on the BBM Global Network and TuneIN Radio, Dr. Carly Snyder will speak with perinatal psychiatrist and researcher Dr Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Director of the UNC Chapel Hill Perinatal Psychiatry Program, about her ground-breaking research and the future of women’s mental health.
Photo attribution: Treatment options for depression and anxiety in pregnancy
Part 3 of 3 of the Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby Series on my HuffPost blog, MD for Moms explores ten effective ways to minimize symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy.
Photo attribution: postpartum bipolar disorder, the mood disorder I was diagnosed with, is virtually unheard of. Postpartum bipolar is also known as bipolar, peripartum onset, and it’s arguably the least known of the six postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.
It might seem unimportant to publicize an obscure mood disorder, but every mom’s postpartum experience counts. Many medical professionals are unaware that postpartum bipolar exists. Some postpartum and bipolar organizations are unfamiliar with postpartum bipolar or they’re unclear about its definition.
When I was pregnant, my obstetrician didn’t question me about my mental health or my family’s mental health history. My father had bipolar disorder, but before and during my pregnancy I didn’t show any signs of mental illness.
When I went into labor, my life changed overnight.
We went to the hospital and I stayed up all night in pain. When my daughter Marilla was born the next day, I became hypomanic. I was exuberant and talkative (both signs of hypomania), but I appeared relatively normal. My baby attracted most of the attention, and no one noticed that I was in trouble. Exhausted, I sensed something was off, but I kept my fearful feelings inside. Within forty-eight hours I had hypergraphia, a rare condition in which one compulsively writes. I wrote at every opportunity, even during breastfeeding, when I should’ve been resting and focusing on my baby. I could barely sleep as my mania escalated, and poor Marilla didn’t gain enough weight because I didn’t breastfeed her sufficiently.
A month postpartum, I knew I was manic; after all, I had witnessed mania in my Dad. I frantically searched the internet about postpartum mania, but my search only yielded postpartum psychosis statistics. During Marilla’s six-week checkup, her observant pediatrician heard my racing voice and pressurized speech (symptoms of bipolar) and blurted out “Dyane, I think you’re manic!”
I burst into tears. While I felt ashamed, I was relieved that he realized what was happening. It was clear I needed hospitalization, but leaving my newborn was agonizing. I admitted myself into a hospital’s psychiatric unit where I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder.
After years of hospitalizations, medication trials, and electroconvulsive (ECT) therapy, I’m stable and doing well. While bipolar disorder ravages many relationships, my husband and I have stayed together, in part, thanks to the guidance of counselors and psychiatrists. Life will always be a challenge, but my two daughters inspire me to take care of myself.
While chances of postpartum bipolar are low, it can affect any mother. Obstetrician and Perinatal Mental Health Lead Dr. Raja Gangopadhyay of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, UK, explains,
“The risk of developing new-onset severe mental illness is higher in early post-childbirth period than any other time in women’s life. Family history, pre-existing mental health conditions, traumatic birth experience and sleep deprivation could be potential risk factors. Bipolar illness can present for the first time during this period. Accurate diagnosis is the key to the recovery.”
Confusion abounds regarding postpartum bipolar and postpartum psychosis. While the two conditions can present together, postpartum bipolar isn’t always accompanied by postpartum psychosis. Perinatal psychologist Shoshana Bennett Ph.D., co-author of the bestselling classic Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression and Anxiety says,
“Many women I’ve worked with had been previously misdiagnosed with postpartum depression. I always make a point of discussing this during my presentations. In addition, postpartum bipolar disorder deserves its own category separate from postpartum psychosis.”
Mental health screening during pregnancy would be of immense value to every mom. Women with a family history of bipolar disorder could be observed postpartum, and if symptoms manifested they’d be treated immediately. It’s imperative that doctors and other caregivers assess women not only for postpartum depression but also bipolar symptoms.
Everyone who lives with a stigmatized illness deserves a chance to find support and empathy from others who understand her experience. Through connecting with those who can relate to our mood disorder, we may not find a magic cure, but virtual support can be profoundly helpful. Postpartum Support International recently created online support groups in English and Spanish led by trained facilitators, while the Postpartum Progress website offers moms a private forum to interact with one another. I’ve never personally met another mom who has postpartum bipolar and I yearn to do so. If you or someone you know is or might be suffering with postpartum bipolar disorder please reach out — I’d love to hear from you!
[caption id="attachment_1009" align="alignleft" width="300"] My daughters Avonlea, Marilla and husband Craig stood by me through the roughest times.[/caption]
Dyane Leshin-Harwood holds a B.A. in English and American Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz. A freelance writer for over two decades, she has interviewed luminaries including Madeleine L'Engle, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison and SARK. Dyane was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder (bipolar, peripartum onset) in 2007. Dyane was selected as an International Bipolar Foundation Story of Hope and Recovery, and a PsychCentral Mental Health Hero. She’s raising her daughters Avonlea and Marilla with her husband Craig and serves as women’s postpartum mental health advocate. Dyane founded the Santa Cruz, California chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and facilitates free support groups for moms with mood disorders. She’s a member of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders and Postpartum Support International. Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017. Dyane is a Huffington Post blogger. Visit Dyane’s blog Birth of a New Brain and find her on Twitter: @birthofnewbrain
Thank you, Dyane, for sharing your amazing story and using your experience to help countless women. You are awesome!">Dyane Leshin-Harwood shares her incredible story of suffering from postpartum bipolar disorder, detailing her progression into hypomania and then mania after the birth of her daughter, and her return back to health in order to educate on the importance of awareness, identification and treatment of this rare but serious postpartum illness.
Dyane Leshin-Harwood shares her incredible story of suffering from postpartum bipolar disorder, detailing her progression into hypomania and then mania after the birth of her daughter, and her return back to health in order to educate on the importance of awareness, identification and treatment of this rare but serious postpartum illness.
I am excited to announce that I have joined Family Health Associates as the Director of Women’s Health.
Welcome to the Carly Snyder, MD Health and Wellness Blog. This post will serve as an introduction to the blog, with a brief review of the various topics found throughout my blog.
Many women with depression express concern that the use of antidepressants in pregnancy will increase the risk of miscarriage. A new study finds no increased risk of miscarriage for women on antidepressants as compared to women with untreated depression.
Photo attribution: "Dictionary" by greeblie
Every field has its own lingo and frequently used terms, and medicine is no different. Often words can have multiple meanings, and various definitions. It can be helpful to have a consistent definition when reading my website and blog, so as to minimize uncertainty and to allow you to read with assurance everyone is on the same page.