Patient Story: Understanding Postpartum Depression

In the fall of 2012, Lindsay-Blair Simmons gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl at Lexington Medical Center.

“I looked the part of the brand new, glowing mom,” she said.

But deep down, something wasn’t right. In the months after her daughter’s birth, Lindsay-Blair was crippled with anxiety and felt disconnected from her baby and her life.

Lindsay-Blair Simmons with her daughters Lawson and Tess at the West Columbia Riverwalk in October of 2017.

“One day, someone at church asked me, ‘Aren’t these the most glorious days of your life? Did you ever imagine you could feel so connected and so much love for this tiny little being?’ Dread just came over me,” Lindsay-Blair said. “That was the moment I knew I needed help because it had actually been the hardest time of my life.”

Like many new moms, Lindsay-Blair was suffering from postpartum depression.

“It occurs in more than 40 percent of women who’ve had a baby,” said Samantha S. Morton, MS, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN at Carolina Women’s Physicians, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. Dr. Morton is Lindsay-Blair’s physician.

“Most women with postpartum depression don’t have any prior history of depression or anxiety,” Dr. Morton said. “Postpartum depression is tied to the hormone drop women experience soon after childbirth. It can start any time during the baby’s first year, but most often begins during the first three weeks after delivery.”

Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression vary widely, and can often be overlooked because of the life changes that coincide with becoming a parent.

It’s common for new mothers to feel sad for a week or two, which is often called the baby blues. They may have difficulty sleeping or doubt their ability to care for the baby. But postpartum depression is different.

Patients experience sadness or hopelessness and often feel guilty because they don’t feel as if they want to bond with or care for the newborn. They may cry frequently, have strange dreams or frightening mental images, and feel panic and overwhelming anxiety.

“A mom thinking of harming herself or the baby is also a symptom,” Dr. Morton said. “Postpartum psychosis is an extreme form of postpartum depression. We want to intervene long before we come to that point.”

Ironically, Lindsay-Blair is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has treated patients with postpartum depression.

“Postpartum depression is really a misnomer,” she said. “For many people, it shows up as intense anxiety rather than depression. It can also include severe mood swings, anger, irritability, and a general sense of not being enough.”

Lindsay-Blair felt ashamed of her symptoms and didn’t seek help from a fellow therapist for five months.

“I had clients with postpartum depression in my office every week who I was successfully helping. So I kept thinking I should be able to help myself.”

She also hid her feelings from her husband and family for a while.

“I was on a walk with my husband and started to cry. I told him what I was feeling. He gave me comforting answers and told me things I could do to feel better. But I turned to him, put my hands on his shoulders and said, ‘You’re not hearing me. I am not okay.’ His eyes got wide and he said, ‘I had no idea.’”

Dr. Morton prescribed Lindsay-Blair medication to help ease her anxiety, eventually increasing the dosage. Lindsay-Blair also began seeing a fellow therapist who specialized in postpartum depression.

“The therapist kept me accountable, sent me articles and reminded me of things I knew, but had forgotten,” Lindsay-Blair said. “It was really helpful.”

A few months later, Lindsay-Blair realized she was happier and truly enjoying her baby. And she learned she was pregnant again.

Lindsay-Blair continued a safe, low-dose anti-anxiety medication through her second pregnancy. She did not have postpartum depression again. She and her family are now expecting a third child.

“It’s become one of my missions to help women understand there’s nothing wrong with them when postpartum depression happens,” Lindsay-Blair said. “Even if I appear that I have it all together, I’ve also been a victim of postpartum depression. It’s treatable, but you’ve got to get the help you need.” 

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