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Help is at hand for postpartum depression

SONI KANAKE
By SONI KANAKE
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Tuesday December 17 2019

When Lindsey Kenneth found out that she was pregnant, she was so happy she could have done a jig. The pregnancy was easy on her: until she woke up one day with a swollen face and body.

“I was 37 weeks pregnant when I developed oedema, and therefore had to be monitored closely since there was the risk of pre-eclampsia,” Lindsey, 31, explains.

The birth, she says, was traumatic and she had to be induced, only to pass out halfway through the delivery.

“Since I couldn’t push, the doctors had to pull my baby out even as they tried to revive me. The pressure from the pulling not only tore me badly, it also distorted my baby’s shoulder.”

When she came to, Lindsey remembers being in constant pain, physical and psychological. She also felt that no one really cared about her since all the focus was on her newborn. To make matters worse, when she was discharged, the doctors realised that all was not well with her baby – she was convulsing regularly.

“We were referred to a neurosurgeon, who calmed and reassured me first before treating my baby, something that made me feel ‘human’ again. He also assured me that my daughter’s condition, which was due to going without oxygen during birth, would go away with time.”

Her most trying period was when she finally went home with her baby. Besides the convulsions, her daughter had colic, which made her cry most of the time.

“I would realise much later that this was due to my breastfeeding technique, I wasn’t doing it correctly, and therefore my baby ended up swallowing too much air, which made her colicky.”

“The incorrect breastfeeding technique also resulted in cracked painful nipples. It also turned out that the afterbirth stitching was done incorrectly, prompting corrective surgery three months after my daughter’s birth.

'EMOTIONAL TURMOIL'

“I was in emotional turmoil during those first months of motherhood, I felt something inside me was wrong, but could not place a finger on it. The tipping point was when my daughter accidentally fell from the couch and I could not stop crying even after realising that she was fine. I also kept blaming myself. It is at that point when my husband realised something was off and suggested that I see a therapist.”

It turned out to be a bad experience that made her feel even worse.

“Unfortunately, the first one I saw blamed me for how I was feeling, telling me that I was just an ‘ungrateful mum’, pointing out that there were many mothers who had ‘bigger challenges’ than mine.”

Keen to get to the bottom of what was ailing her, she sought the help of a couple of other therapists, but they all did not think her case was really as bad as she put it. And so she returned home no closer to finding a solution to the disconnect she was feeling than she was when she sought help.

Her life was punctuated with sad moments for no apparent reason, moody episodes that left everyone around her walking on eggshells as well as a dip in confidence since her clothes no longer fit her thanks to weight gain. Besides this, she felt that no one understood her, which made her angry and frustrated. She also started to question her spirituality.

She knew that she had gone over the edge when she slapped her daughter when she was only nine months old.

The ABC of postpartum depression

Tuesday December 17 2019

Being a new mum can be overwhelming and can lead to postpartum depression when the mother is unable to cope. Hamida Ahmed, a psychologist and the CEO of Elite Counseling and Wellness Services, sheds more light on the condition.

What is PPD?

Post-partum depression is a form of depression that affects some women after giving birth.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are more than just having the blues and can significantly affect a new mum’s life. They include a depressed mood or sadness most of the day, almost every day, loss of interest in activities she used to enjoy, feeling hopeless, worthless, insomnia or too much sleep, increased or decreased appetite. The memory is also affected. One also experiences fatigue, and has suicidal thoughts or attempts suicide. One is also tempted to hurt the baby.

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“I felt alone even in a crowd — no one tells you that motherhood is a lonely experience"

A series of such unsettling events is what led Lindsey and her husband to start researching on what could have been ailing her.

“One day, my husband came home with an article that had been featured in theNationon post-partum depression — ‘I think you have post-partum depression’, he said.”

It was relieving to finally find out what might have been ailing her, but unfortunately, they had no idea where to seek help since the therapists they had sought help from had not been of any help.

When her daughter was nine months old, Lindsey conceived again. This time around, the pregnancy was difficult from the onset due to her mental condition. She, in fact, almost lost her baby four months into her pregnancy, a scare that escalated her depression.

“I felt alone even in a crowd — no one tells you that motherhood is a lonely experience. Mums are at home all day with the kids, which can be extremely lonely. Looking back, this contributed a lot to my depression since I was working before my pregnancy, opting to leave employment to become a stay-at-home mum, transiting from becoming independent to dependent.”

Through it all, her husband stood by her, though Lindsey confesses her mood swings sometimes left him at a loss on what to do to help her.

“He would return home from work and I would immediately hand him the baby and walk out of the house,” she says.

SEVERE HEADACHES

Her second child was delivered by C-section, which she perceived as her body failing her as it could not birth her second child normally. Five days after the birth, she began to experience severe headaches and back pain. Her right side also became numb, five scary days during which she imagined all sorts of bad outcomes. With all the stress and health scares, she was unable to produce milk, forcing her to resort to infant formula, which made her feel she had totally failed at motherhood.

As she tried to balance her time between a toddler and a newborn and deal with her depressive feelings, she stumbled across a support group on Facebook, Postpartum Depression Kenya, which helped mums suffering from PPD.

“This turned out to be my saving grace. It is here that I met Rhoda Mwende, a psychotherapist who has walked with me in my healing journey for the last three and a half years,” Lindsey says.

The group would meet once every two to three weeks for about six weeks for group therapy, and later individual therapy, which she still attends. The group also has a WhatsApp group in which mums like her are encouraged to share their stories, what they’re going through.

“I still go for check-ups, but I am at a place of healing and often share my story to inform other mums who are going through PPD that help is available. I have learnt what triggers my depression. It is important to accept that this is a mental condition that needs to be addressed to start the healing journey.”

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Samoina Wangui. COURTESY

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By SONI KANAKE
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