Lizeth Martinez loved her life. She was happily married to her high school sweetheart and had never experienced depression of any kind, that is until after the birth of her son when she was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA). This is her story in her own words.
I feel as if I can exhale now that I’m telling my story about struggling with PPD and PPA.
We struggled for almost two years to get pregnant. I had infertility issues that stemmed from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a health condition that affected my hormone levels, menstrual cycle and ovulation. My husband and I were undergoing fertility treatments when we received the exciting and life-changing news that we were pregnant. When my son was born, we were so happy and overwhelmed with joy. I would stare at him all day as I envisioned a family full of beautiful children. Unfortunately, what seemed to be the happiest time in my life soon became the worst.
I began to feel sudden and extreme sadness, and I became excessively anxious about everything. Initially, I thought I was like every other mom. I would obsess over every detail of my son, especially wanting to ensure his safety. My thoughts were disturbing and extremely negative, even to the point where I couldn’t live in the moment and enjoy my baby.
I experienced intense sweating and nausea daily when he was out of my sight or in the care of someone else. I suffered from headaches and even developed an intense fear of leaving the house. My husband knew something was wrong, but for the most part, I stayed quiet and didn’t tell anyone how I felt.
Mother’s Day Gift
A few days before Mother’s Day I found out I was pregnant again. This was a complete surprise that we conceived on our own without treatment.
Our baby girl was born on Dec. 29, 2016, and I couldn’t have been happier. I daydreamed about all the “girlie” things we would do together. Everything was just perfect, until three days after her birth when I noticed my anxiety and sadness returned. This time, it was 10 times worse. I tried to ignore the feeling, thinking it would go away on its own but I was wrong. Suddenly, I was constantly crying and couldn’t concentrate. I was inconsolable. I felt like I was never going to be my “normal” self again, and I often wondered if this was the new me?
I slowly started to acknowledge that something was wrong. I didn’t know how to explain it, but I just knew the way I was feeling was not right. I would wake up with an intense feeling of dread and anxiety. At times, I felt like my body was trembling fiercely inside.
Every day I was highly agitated and I didn’t want my family to know. I wanted to feel better for them, but I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I became completely depressed and the internal fear I developed was overpowering.
I remember being at the mall play area one afternoon with my husband and children when, like a whirlwind, the activity that should have made me happy suddenly made me very anxious and nauseous, and I began to panic. I could see the worry and sadness on my husband’s face.
It was at that point I decided to seek help. I scheduled an appointment with my physician at Memorial Hermann, and I was screened and then referred to a therapist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Behavioral Health Services. The therapist diagnosed me with PPD and PPA.
Being diagnosed with PPD/PPA gave me freedom and a voice. After meeting with the therapist, we felt it was best that I take prescribed medication to aid with the anxiety. Once I began my medication, I noticed a big difference. I felt a sense of normalcy and was able to function again.
Today, I am delighted to be able to enjoy motherhood. I take my babies to the playground – an activity that should be easy, but can be overwhelming and hard for someone suffering from PPD and PPA. Now, I look forward to it.
My Advice to Others
If I could offer other mothers advice, it would be this: don’t be silent about how you’re feeling after giving birth, and do not be afraid to seek help.
What surprised me most was that, once I started talking about my feelings, I discovered that I had several family members and friends who went through the same emotions. They never told anyone, not even a doctor.
I have learned there are a lot of mothers who suffer from PPD/PPA and if we stay quiet, we can’t get the help we need and we risk not being able to return to the normal life we knew prior to having a baby. I know it might feel like you’re alone, but – trust me – you are not.
Did You Know…
Nearly 15 percent of women who give birth develop postpartum depression, a serious condition that’s often referred to as “baby blues,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Postpartum depression (PPD) can affect anyone, as evident in the emergence of celebrity moms like model and talk show host Chrissy Teigen, and actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Hayden Panettiere who are all speaking out publicly about this silent mental health issue that does not discriminate.
To learn more about the risks of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, please schedule an appointment with a Memorial Hermann physician or attend a free childbirth class at Memorial Hermann to receive information about postpartum care and other valuable topics pertaining to support during and after childbirth.
Memorial Hermann is piloting a new program to treat both physical and behavioral health issues onsite. These integrated health services are available at these Memorial Hermann locations: