Sarah Short Circuit

Heal, Nourish, Nurture

Tag: Psychosis (page 1 of 5)

Nina’s Story

Having had no previous mental health issues she was diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis 8 days after Heidi’s birth and was sectioned under the mental health act. Nina agreed to be interviewed for this blog to tell her story of Postpartum Psychosis illness and recovery, and to raise awareness.

I was tired and in pain. I was feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable and wrecked. I was looking at the other new Mums they looked so happy, they had their little angels whereas I felt on edge, permanently. I was so upset but nobody asked me how I was feeling or coping.

The postnatal Midwife was less able to detect how ill I was because she didn’t know me.

I listened to music and made myself go out of the house. My memory was still poor though, I couldn’t remember what I had done the previous day so I started to take photographs.

If my mental health had been discussed more in general and if I had been told of the warning signs of postpartum psychosis in the antenatal or early postnatal period we may have been able to notice the signs earlier.

Source: Postpartum Psychosis -Nina’s Story – Birthing Mamas Blog

Know the signs and seek help early. PANDA National Helpline 1300 729 360 panda.org.au

A Mom’s Story : Postpartum Psychosis Amanda Taylor’s Story

For my fourth episode I sat down with my friend Amanda Taylor to discuss her journey through postpartum psychosis, depression and anxiety. Amanda shares her vulnerable story with such bravery and authenticity. Her goal in sharing her story is to bring awareness to postpartum illnesses and help other moms know that they aren’t alone if they are dealing with any of these illnesses. We also talk about how you can help someone you know who might be experiencing a postpartum illness. I hope you have a better understanding of these illnesses after this episode.

Pregnant with my fourth baby…felt like another routine pregnancy, my health was great, everything was good, there no reason for anything to go off track

All seemed normal, things just got progressively with worse just mentally with me. From my perspective everything was great, I thought life as so great, I was overly joyful, everything was amazing. My husband took me to the emergency room 12 days after birth because he knew things were just not right… I left with the diagnosis of postpartum psychosis.

Dealing with all of the postpartum, I was 100% not myself

Remember thinking everything made perfect sense. It’s a bizarre state of mind, it’s not healthy, rational or real.

It was the most painful moment as the police officer escorted me and then my husband walked the opposite direction to go home and I was all by myself.

I think of hard it was but how much good was in that

I was at the lowest point in my life when I could do nothing…we can’t do any of our struggles, it may not be postpartum psychosis but whatever the struggle is, we can’t do it alone and we got to have people around us, fighting with us and for us and alongside us

Coming up on the one year anniversary and I still didn’t feel like Amanda at all, I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t feel normal…I needed more help in where I was at the time

There’s a lot of times our counsellor said this is the perfect grounds for divorce, it’s too hard for anyone to walk through so its easy to say I’m done… and my husband never took that approach, what an opportunity I get to fight for my wife and kids

Source: A Mom’s Story : Postpartum Psychosis Amanda Taylor’s Story [Ep 004]

Know the signs and seek help early. PANDA National Helpline 1300 729 360 panda.org.au

Unsure

I have been unsure how to write down my feelings of being unsure. This unsure-ness has been building within me for a while. Unsure of making a choice…

I always had thought that I would have many children, at least 2. I have always been very maternal and nurturing since I was a teenager. I have to forewarn any mums whose baby I hold that I will put them sleep, not matter the temperament of the child. Any where I go I catch the gaze of a baby and it’s like we connect with an unspoken language. I looked forward to becoming a mum myself, though terrified of the process, the snuggles at the end would be worth it.

I had no idea the journey I would go to become a mother, the overwhelm, the struggles and the postpartum psychosis. I now savour each moment with my son after the shaky start we went through.  As the first few months went by I focused on healing myself, recovering day by day. The doctors had cautioned my family that if I were to fall pregnant too soon after my psychosis that there would be a chance I may not come out of it.

As my son approached the age of 2, the questions began to start ‘When are you going to have another baby?’. I would quickly mutter ‘I had health problems so we are not sure yet’ and quickly change the story. I knew from my own research that there is up to a 50% chance of postpartum psychosis recurring in subsequent pregnancies. So I did what I did best and sought out more information.

I had heard that for mums in my situation it would be best to have a mental health care plan in place which included being able to access a Mother Baby Unit (MBU) to be able to receive the appropriate care. There is only 1 MBU in NSW and to have the best chance to access this care I knew I would need a Perinatal Psychiatrist as part of my care plan. One of the mums from my son’s play group opened up to me one day about her experience and I asked for her recommendation of a perinatal psychiatrist at St John of God Hospital, Burwood, where the MBU is based.

My husband and I went together to the first couple of appointments at St John of God, reliving our experiences of my postpartum psychosis and emphasising to the psychiatrist that were some details I do not remember and choose not discuss any further. It was the first time since being discharged from the mental health ward that I was able to talk about what I had been through, the distress, the trauma and the impact on me and my family. By the third appointment I felt comfortable to attend on my own, as I opened up more the psychiatrist thought that I was no coping and starting to write something down asking me ‘Do you want it on or off label?’ I was flabbergasted, what did that mean? The psychiatrist thought I was hypo-manic and was wanting to write Bipolar Disorder on the medication script to make the prescription cheaper. All I wanted was someone to listen to what I had been through! I quickly ended the session and have never been back. I was totally distraught, in tears to my husband on the phone and thought to myself ‘I’ve burnt that bridge’.

I strengthened my resolve and began to work more on myself, starting with Awaken the Change Within 2014 retreat only a month after my distressing appointment with the psychiatrist. Focusing on self-development was almost like a distraction, not having to make that choice, that it is ok to wait as I am working on healing myself more. I discovered a passion for wellness as learnt about self-care, essential oils, nutrition and food. The choice was always lingering in the back of my mind.

The Marcé Society Conference 2016 was the first time I met other women who had experience postpartum psychosis like I had, who truly knew the turmoil I was going through in making my choice. Brenda spoke with me about discovering my ‘maternal number’, that perhaps my maternal number is 1 and that is ok. Connecting with other mums who had gone on to have another child or two, and being apart of an online group of other pp mums sharing conversations of weighing up whether or not to risk having another child, it was reassuring to feeI I was not alone in my making my choice.

I drew a line in the sand to make a choice by February 2017 and be at peace with this choice. As February drew closer, my health started to take a dive with headaches. Seeing my Chiro, he indicated that the headaches had an emotional element, ‘was there something I was unsure about?’.

Why February? The choice was not just about emotions and feelings, it also came down to finances. February was went my son started 3 days of preschool and we need to update (and stretch) the budget. Our family was fortunate that we had top hospital cover when I experienced postpartum psychosis, and this cover was my only chance of gaining access to the MBU provided I am voluntarily admitted. We kept our top hospital cover as this was the only level of cover that included psychiatric hospital care. Mental health has a major impact on one’s income due to reduced capacity to work, higher unemployment rates and less savings. Money for us was tight even though I was back working part-time, our savings is virtually non-existent. Fortunately at the time I read Barefoot Investor whose advice around health care cover was to drop Extras and keep Hospital cover. We were had just changed our cover to lower hospital cover with extras and were still in the cooling off period. With a quick phone call I put back in place my safety net of top hospital cover with no extras, so if any thing with my health changes in the future I know we will be ok!

As I was coming to a place of peace with my choice, I was chatting before a yin yoga class with my former yoga teacher Iknew from before I was married. She always seems to know when to ask the right question and I opened up to her my thoughts in making my choice. Thinking I how much my health has improved for the better, the impact on the relationship with my husband and my son, she reassured it was was a choice made with wisdom not out of selfishness. On my yoga mat tears trickled down my cheek as I surrendered, I am enough just as I am.

Today I shed some more tears even though a few months have passed. From the wardrobe I pulled out the piles and boxes of my son’s clothing that I have been hanging onto to pass onto another baby, another toddler, another child of mine. As I folded up the little jumpsuits, singlets, tshirts and shorts I knew in my heart I was passing onto another little one, another family in need who will be so grateful and appreciative of these little clothes of love. Next week local charity Dandelion Support Network is having a Donation Day on Sunday 18 June 2017. Dandelion is a volunteer run charity who accept, sort and safety check nursery items, clothing, toys and linen to pass onto families in need free of charge. Recently Dandelion put a call out for newborn clothing and boys size 2 and 3 so I knew now is the right time for me to donate as my son is now almost 5.

At the end of the day I am at peace with the choice I make that is best for me. Taking into account many factors including my health, sleep triggers, finance, my husband and more I have made my choice. First and last!

Resources

 

Your Loved One’s Life May Depend on You Watching This Film

When the Bough Breaks, a documentary film on postpartum depression tells some stories we ALL need to hear—and share.

When The Bough Breaks is available to stream NOW on Netflix as well as Itunes!

The reason I think we ALL need to sit down and watch this documentary is that we ALL need to be aware of the RISK factors for postpartum depression and psychosis, so that we can look for these in ourselves as we continue to grow our families, and in any loved ones who are new moms.

Ensure you watch this documentary when you are feeling mentally strong and better to watch with someone by your side.

Source: Your Loved One’s Life May Depend on You Watching This Film On Postpartum Depression

 Know the signs and seek help early. PANDA National Helpline 1300 729 360 panda.org.au

Full recovery is possible

My story of postpartum psychosis has been published in The Guardian today alongside some great new research! I am so proud of the mother I have become and proud to be a PANDA Community Champion raising awareness of postpartum psychosis in our community.

“People can mistakenly describe what women like me go through as ‘baby blues’ or ‘depression’, but I was definitely not depressed,” West says.

West received treatment after a friend told her she was not behaving like her usual self and called the National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline [Panda]. They advised that West should be taken to hospital immediately for psychiatric care, and West is now a strong advocate for the helpline.

“I have to speak up because I don’t like the thought of other families going through what we did. This has to change and to do that we need better recognition of the condition.”

Source: Postpartum psychosis: research reveals full recovery possible within weeks | Life and style | The Guardian

 

Know the signs and seek help early. PANDA National Helpline 1300 729 360 panda.org.au

Shaky start

Becoming a mum was shaky start for me, not at all how I had imagined it to be. I had prepared myself in the months and weeks leading up to my due date. I read books, attended antenatal classes, participated in an Australian Breastfeeding Australia workshop, everything and anything to get ready to bring my baby into the world. However on my due date is when things started to unravel for me.

The night of my due date my waters broke and I thought to myself that everything is happening just as it should. The next day I went up to the hospital to get checked out and I was in the early stages of labour so sent home to progress the labour. This cycle continued for the next four days however my labour was not progressing. To be safe my doctor kept me in hospital, I was becoming tired and my baby was starting to show signs of distress. Within the space of 10 minutes I was prepped and being wheeled down the corridor to the operating theatre. My son was brought into this world in the nick of time with a cesarean section.

After the operation, I waited in the recovery ward for my son to be brought into me. And I waited, watching the time tick by, minute by minute waiting. Waiting for someone, anyone to come and tell me what was going on. I could hear commotion beside me with nurses rushing in and out, talking in hushed tones. Not quiet enough to be overhead by me as I understood the whispers of medical lingo to know that the patient beside me had passed away.

Paralysed, both physically from the analgesia and emotionally from being separated my baby, I laid there waiting. In a hospital that allows mothers to connect with their newborn during recovery after surgery, I did not get this precious time with my new baby. It was a long 45 minutes later my midwife came to take me back to the maternity ward where my son had been sharing his first skin to skin cuddles with his father.

On the ward I soaked up the snuggles and inhaled the scent of my baby boy with the biggest, exhausted smile on my face. I was elated to be with my family however no one spoke of what had happened on the recovery ward. Our parents came in to visit their new grandson and my dad noticed that I had the shakes. Little body tremors like my body had gone into shock. These shakes would come and go during the first few days after the birth. I felt quite lightheaded which I put down to having just gone through an operation. I remember sitting up nursing my son when this wave of nausea came crashing over me as I quickly asked my husband to take our baby before I vomited everywhere. The nurses came to our aid and helped me back to bed where they tilted the bed back to get some blood flow back to my head. And I slept, more sleep than I had had in the past 4 days, I rested till my baby needed his next feed.

Breast feeding with a cold cloth on my head

As new parents we muddled our way through the first few days, a blur of feed, sleep, change nappy, repeat. I strongly wanted to breastfeed my son, doing everything by the books and what I had been taught. My body didn’t get the same memo. Each time my son would latch on and start to feed I would get this feeling of starting to warm up to the point of being unbearable, my feet would start to swell and I would start to tremor. I would sit there and clutch my baby as I watched my feet swell up. It was like I was trapped in my body not able to say much as I either got the shakes or passed out. There was a number of times where we would either call my dad or our friends down the street to come and hold the baby whilst my husband supported me to land back on earth. I continued to experience these episodes of tremors and passing out till one episode I felt my chest was going to explode and the ambulance was called.

My feet swelling up

Hours later spent in the emergency department, with tests and a chest x-ray, it was a week to the day since giving birth to my baby. I was in a lot of stress during breast feeding and I had been calling the midwives regularly as I was emotionally upset that my baby was not breast feeding. I was very distressed about the health of my baby as I thought he had not been putting on weight. I had not had decent sleep in days and I had difficulty concentrating. The doctors described my episode as ‘went blank and then floppy followed by nodding of head, trembling of hands and feet’.

Diagnosis: Vasovagal Syncope

On my discharge papers an Acute Community Treatment Team (ACTT) referral was made re postpartum depression/blues with the ACTT social worker stating ‘Not an ACTT issue’.  Over the following days this all changed as I unravelled further…

What is vasovagal syncope? I will let you know in the next blog post!

Global Stress Summit

Mum ‘intentionally’ drowns baby

The mother of a baby girl who drowned in a bathtub has pleaded not guilty to murder, on the grounds she was suffering a mental illness at the time, but guilty to manslaughter.

Source: Mother of baby girl who drowned in bathtub pleads guilty to manslaughter

Additional source:  Mum ‘intentionally’ drowns baby over mistaken fears she had dwarfism

Another mother who did not receive the support she needed, though the article does not specifically refer to the mental illness as postpartum psychosis. It highlights the importance of having support around you as a new mum, with no mention of a husband or family only friends who were ‘fed up’ with her obsessions.

Soon after the girl was born in April 2010, the mother had begun worrying obsessively that her daughter had genetic abnormalities.

This mum was in North Strathfield, only about 10 minutes away from NSW’s only Mother Baby Unit, though it’s private. It highlights the lack of support in the NSW health system yet in the same week Queensland Health announce the first public Mother Baby Unit and the week before Bendigo, Victoria announced its new public Mother Baby Unit. How many other mothers have to reach this stage and how many more deaths have to occur before the NSW government recognises perinatal mental health and the importance of early intervention. #ActNowNSWPublicMBU

“This is an important step forward because we know that intervention during the perinatal period is critical to improving the health of mothers and their ability to care for their baby.

– Queensland Health

Every year, PANDA helps thousands of Australian families affected by perinatal anxiety and depression. We believe it’s a journey no one should go through alone. Know the signs and seek help early. PANDA National Helpline 1300 729 360 panda.org.au

Postpartum and the Thyroid

Listening to Dr Kelly Brogan on the Thyroid Sessions back in 2014 was the first realisation that my thyroid may be a piece of my postpartum psychosis puzzle. Dr Kelly discussed the triangle of psychiatric symptoms, gluten intolerance and thyroid dysfunction and this was the first time I heard a medical doctor discuss postpartum psychosis directly. Women with first episode postpartum psychosis were 19% positive for thyroid antibodies and within 9 months 67% had a higher risk to develop autoimmune hypothyroidism (1). Dr Kelly discussed how postpartum thyroid symptoms can be easily attributed to being a new mum, such as lead limbs, feeling fatigued, super forgetful, mentally disorganised which at 9 months postpartum could be symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease or postpartum thyroiditis. Postpartum issues lead straight to psychiatry, no acknowledgement of the female hormones, not even a test for thyroid function. Dr Kelly says that psychiatric symptoms are usually endocrine related: thyroid or adrenal or blood sugar regulation with insulin or leptin or your sex hormones progesterone or oestrogen. Also, zinc, selenium, magnesium and iodine are key nutrients in thyroid function. To find out more about these psychiatric pretenders I recommend reading A Mind of Your Own.

Typically when you go to your General Practitioner, the thyroid test is limited to blood test TSH, which is a pituitary hormone measure, an indirect measure of thyroid function. To get the full picture of your thyroid free thyroid levels T3 and T4, reverse T3 and thyroid autoantibodies. My GP was reluctant to do further tests as my TSH came back ‘normal’ until I showed him a copy of the research paper (1). Remember there is not one size fits all, you may have symptoms even being in the ‘normal’ range.

The Thyroid Secret is on now and I am looking forward to tuning in to Episode 7: Motherhood Interrupted to discover more about the role of thyroid in the postpartum period (starts on Wednesday 8 March 10am Sydney time).

PS: My test results including my thyroid antibodies came back all good and my GP has noted on my file to check and monitor my thyroid function  if and when I fall pregnant.

References

1. Prevalence of autoimmune thyroid dysfunction in postpartum psychosis. The British Journal of Psychiatry Mar 2011, 198 (4) 264-268

Further Reading

 

Pharmacological Lactation Suppression

Contemporary models of severe psychotic forms of mental illness assume it is triggered by dysregulation of dopamine, i.e. chemical imbalance, arising from adverse interaction of predisposing risk genes and environmental factors. All successful antipsychotic agents have the ability to act as a D2 receptor antagonist (dopamine inhibitor), raising the question as to whether those with have or at risk of psychosis are susceptible to onset or exacerbation of psychosis when prescribed D2 agonists (dopamine activator).

Early postnatal period is a time of high risk for psychosis. The underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of postpartum psychosis are poor understood.

FDA recommends against the practice of prescribing D2 agonists (activator) due to longstanding evidence about cardiovascular disease and neurological risks.

Pharmacological Lactation Suppression with D2 Receptor Agonists and Risk of Postpartum Psychosis – Dr Josephine Power, International Marce Society Conference 2016.

Reference

Snellen et al. 2016. Pharmacological lactation suppression with D2 receptor agonists and risk of postpartum psychosis: A systematic review.

Shifting the perinatal paradigm

Conference breakfast with Dr Vijay Roach from the Gidget Foundation was sensational! It was so enlightening to listen to a doctor share their personal story of his family experience of perinatal mental illness from both a husbands and a doctors point of view. Dr Vijay reminded me of my own obestrician, who I still can recall visiting me in the mental health ward in his jeans and a tshirt, visiting me to see how I was going even though as doctor his duties were completed. This presentation by Dr Vijay was like an apology speech to me from the health professionals for what I have been through during my pregnancy, my traumatic birth expereince and my episode of postpartum psychosis. In tears, I gave Dr Vijay a huge hug of gratitude as a thank you on behalf of all consumers.


Different people have different perspectives including those in the birth industry. The birth industry is all about the things we ‘must’ do; natural birth, not drink alcohol, breast feed or demand feed and it goes on. Consumers are in the best position to understand what they experience. The Gidget Foundation is run by consumers and the Marce Society should be overrun by consumers (certainly not the case from what I saw at the 2016 conference). Illness works for health professionals, as an authority, understanding big words, knowing what is best for you even though they have never listened to your story, they disempower us with the words they speak.

Doctors will interpret the patient in the first 18 seconds of an appointment. Do women have a choice? Can women decline an exam? Refuse a test? Which woman wants to be the difficult patient? Doctors fail to recognise our feelings, beliefs, values, history, stories. What if the doctors don’t know all the information?

A male gynaecologist is no more disadvantaged, not limited by gender, as they too have the lens to make decisions, to listen actively in planning, pregnancy, trauma, birth to see the world through the woman’s lens. At no point in time did someone ask how we felt. We forget that women are people too, expect to do everything right, the pressure on pregnancy and mothers is huge.

We need to acknowledge what women give to us all. What doctors see as reality as correct is not right. Doctors communicate the fear yet missed the point. What happened to me? I need to understand why? We felt disempowered, no choice, had to do what the doctor said. Doctors hadn’t deliberately tried to harm but by participating in her trauma as health professionals we need to examine ourselves.

Think about the words we use, the posters of motherhood bliss in hospital wards. The gutless implications of the words we use. We do medicalise pregnancy and birth yet no one talks about the wonder of becoming parents and the human inside the womb. We forget the joy of existence. If we miss that, what else is existing? Consumers are people. If we are going to shift the paradigm we don’t need to disempower the consumer, we need their input. The true gift of the health professional is to empower those who seek their help. Its powerful to do no harm and to care; maybe we can make a difference. If we are going to change the paradigm we need to make the shift.

Gidget Breakfast Session – From Illness to Wellness; shifting the paradigm in perinatal mental health care, Dr Vijay Roach, International Marce Society Conference 2016.

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