Wayne UNC Health Care Sponsors Climb Out of the Darkness® Event to Support Families Affected by Perinatal Mood Disorders
Wayne UNC Health Care is proud to sponsor this year’s Climb Out of the Darkness® event, providing support for North Carolina families affected by Perinatal Mood Disorders.
Climb Out of the Darkness is a community walk and international fundraiser for survivors, providers and members of the community to come together, raising awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
The Goldsboro event will be held Sat., June 23 at Stoney Creek Park, located at 2200 Ash Street. To join Team Goldsboro or make a donation, visit the team’s site. All proceeds support the Postpartum Support International (PSI) North Carolina chapter.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, such as Postpartum Depression, affect women of every culture, age, income level and race. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth, but there are effective and well-researched options available to help women recover.
Here to talk to us today about their own journeys with PMD and to share their messages of hope are Wayne UNC Physician Assistant Regina Gurley and PSI-NC Military Relations Chair and organizer of the Goldsboro Climb Out of the Darkness walk Shelby Roberts.
Wayne UNC: Tell us about your experience with Perinatal Mood Disorders (PMD).
Regina Gurley: My first pregnancy was unexpected and occurred right in the middle of PA school. While my husband and I were very excited and grateful for the pregnancy, I was also very overwhelmed. I was terrified that I wouldn’t finish school or that I’d be a terrible mother because I was in school. All of this was magnified ten-fold after my baby was born. The irony of the situation is that while I was actively involved in medical training, and I knew all the screening tools for recognizing Postpartum Depression by heart, I failed to recognize my own symptoms.
I thought it was normal to feel exhausted beyond belief with a newborn, because everyone had said this would be the case. I thought it was normal to cry on a daily basis for weeks on end due to hormonal changes. I convinced myself it was normal to feel wholly inadequate to care for an infant, because I’m “Type A.” I thought it was normal to have nightmares that exacerbated my already disrupted sleep pattern, because I was just sleep-deprived in general. . . or to compulsively feel as though I needed to check on my infant multiple times a night. It wasn’t until my daughter was nearly 15 months old that I realized I had actually experienced postpartum depression. While my PPD was considerably more manageable with our second child, I attribute this entirely to the fact that I was more aware of my illness.
Shelby Roberts: I first experienced a PMD after the birth of our first child in 2012. Four weeks after I had my daughter, my husband got orders, and we moved. Moves are common in the military, but they’re a big life change, and when you go to a new location, you have to essentially start over. Looking back, there were many clues that I was suffering with more than just the “baby blues.” But with this being our first child, I didn’t feel adequately prepared by my prenatal doctors to recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. It wasn’t until I started putting all my symptoms together that I realized that I needed to talk to my doctor.
There were other issues at play, as well. I was in a new place and didn’t have any family close by. Finding that extra support was difficult without knowing the lay of the land. My husband also deployed when our first child was 11 months old and was gone for seven months. Out of the first three and a half years of our first child’s life, he was gone a total of two years through various deployments, remotes and temporary duty assignments.
A few years later, I got pregnant with our second child and sought help with prenatal anxiety during my pregnancy. I was terrified of experiencing a PMD again. We welcomed a second healthy baby into the mix. By day four, I could tell I was going right down the same path. I couldn’t eat, and my anxiety was at its worst. The sound of our baby crying made my heart race and made me feel panicked, especially while I was driving. Intrusive and unwanted thoughts would cloud my brain. I could get to sleep, but I couldn’t stay asleep. After I nursed our baby, I would watch her chest rise and fall for hours to make sure she was ok. If I wasn’t nursing my daughter, I didn’t have the desire to hold her. I felt “touched out.” Thankfully, my doctor was a big advocate for PMDs and helped me figure out a treatment plan right away.
WUNC: What were some strategies you used to cope with your PMD symptoms?
RG: When I realized I was struggling with a PMD, I reached out to my primary care provider to discuss different treatment options, including therapy and/or medication to help me manage these overwhelming symptoms. And, I got better.
Following my second pregnancy, my husband and I communicated frequently about my emotional state. We minimized my exposure to specific stressors. I practiced mindfulness techniques and continue to do so even now. The beauty of identifying your illness is knowing how to manage it.
SR: Thankfully, my doctor was a big advocate for PMDs and helped me figure out a treatment plan right away. I knew my chances of experiencing a PMD with my second baby were significantly higher since I experienced Postpartum Anxiety and Postpartum Depression with my first baby. For military spouses it can be especially difficult. You need to be extra prepared when your spouse is away and have a plan in place.
WUNC: What guidance can you offer for mothers who are undergoing treatment for a PMD?
RG: No woman or family should have to suffer through a PMD alone. This illness is incredibly common – the most common complication of childbirth. As a culture, we don’t talk about the hard stuff enough. We don’t talk about the transition to parenting being difficult, especially during the newborn stages and across the family dynamic – pregnancy, child birth, adoption, fostering and in loss.
But, by sharing our stories – the good, the bad and the ugly – we actually provide therapeutic intervention for ourselves and for other parents that are struggling. We can create a culture of understanding that, while not everyone transitions to becoming a parent with the ease we all hope for, that doesn’t mean the rest of us are hopeless. Knowing the signs of PMDs and being willing to start the hard conversations may help save a new mom’s life. At the very least, you’re showing another person how much you care, just by checking in on them. And, we could all use a little more of that!
SR: Speak up for yourself! We speak up for our children, but when it comes to caring for ourselves, we don’t take it quite as seriously. If a doctor isn’t taking you seriously, and you know there is something wrong, seek the help of another physician. When you are in the midst of a PMD, you feel like you are trapped in a long, dark tunnel — but you don’t have to stay that way. I promise, there is hope. It will get better! Remember that you can’t fill from an empty cup, so self-care is important. Healing from a PMD isn’t linear, so expect bad days, but don’t let that trip you up. Good days are right around the corner.