More than the 'baby blues' | November 16, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - November 16, 2018

More than the 'baby blues'

Local mothers seek to help others suffering from postpartum mood disorders

by Elena Kadvany

In the weeks after giving birth at Stanford Hospital, Laura Keller filled out periodic developmental forms about her newborn son at the pediatrician's office. Does your child lift the head? Does your child smile? Does your baby drink breast milk or formula?

This story contains 4012 words.

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Staff Writer Elena Kadvany can be emailed at ekadvany@paweekly.com.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Charlie
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2018 at 10:10 am

So proud of you for sharing your story, sis, and for everything else you are doing to help those around you!


5 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 16, 2018 at 10:15 am

Sarah1000 is a registered user.

Thanks, Elena for this amazing article. There will be a postpartum unit in the gorgeous mental health building being built on El Camino Hospital’s Mountain View campus. It should be opening next summer. If you are at all interested in mental health, you should go take a look at the construction. It’s so heartwarming to see commitment becoming reality.


4 people like this
Posted by A small related note
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Thank you for this wonderful article, and for the moms who were willing to open up about their experiences to help others. What incredible strength that took to be that vulnerable in order to spare others the pain you experienced.

Thank you for mentioning that men can get depression, too; they seem even less supported to talk about it and get help. My own spouse had to take on so much during that time, he was the one who experienced the depression from sleep loss.

I just wanted to share another thing to be aware of as a possible contributor to an already difficult situation. When someone is already experiencing something that changes their mood so much, it can be easy to miss other contributing factors. Like the moms interviewed here, I am bringing this up because I experienced this in my life and wish someone had helped me.

Caffeine can cause many of the same symptoms, especially flash-point irritability and anger, and not just immediately following ingesting the caffeine. I’m not suggesting caffeine is the *cause* of anyone’s postpartum depression, rather, that it can amplify existing symptoms or add a similar symptom such as flash-point anger that everyone then attributes to the postpartum depression rather than recognizing the additive effect of another influence.

Caffeine can amplify existing mood problems, or make it seem as if treatments for the mood problems are less or not effective, a concern for someone with postpartum mood disorders.

Caffeine can have major impacts, even in very small amounts, like a cup or two of even green tea in a sensitive person, and most people who are sensitive don’t realize it because of myths about who is and isn’t affected by it. Not everyone is affected the same by caffeine, but even more important to realize is that the same person’s reaction can change for physiological reasons, such as medications. The flash-point anger and irritability I experience from caffeine didn’t begin until I was well into middle age. My DNA analysis does not predict this, but then, it can’t know my health history and relevant medications.

People tend to develop strong ideas about how they react to caffeine, but they don’t take into account how things change because of other biological or medication changes, so a person who thinks they don’t have problems with caffeine or that they react one way may suddenly be affected in ways they just don’t recognize. Even if they do recognize that things have changed, a failure to understand can lead people to cut back and see an improvement, so they think they’ve done enough, even if it’s not enough to avoid still major contributions to their mood problems. The most common thing I hear from people who have even recognized that they have a problem with caffeine is that they cut back to one cup a day or to decaf, and they just don’t want to see what everyone else can see, that it’s still not enough caffeine avoidance to solve the problem enough.

People don’t want to believe caffeine can be such a problem, especially since caffeine is viewed as a way to help through the sleep deprivation of new parenthood. And since coffee (and chocolate, and green tea, and kombucha, etc) are seen to have positive impacts in other ways. They taste good, and give momentary respite under stressful times. So it’s easy to end up in denial. If someone does anything impulsive out of sleep deprivation, it’s very hard to see how much caffeine may have contributed, most people are just going to believe the problem was them or their poorly controlled depression.

My point is, as nice as they are, caffeine is really not worth it if other mood disorders or conditions mean that irritability or similar symptoms are a problem for leading a safe and normal life. If you have mood or sleep problems postpartum, especially out-of-control flashpoint anger or irritability, and would do anything to get better, consider stopping caffeine completely for a few months and then reintroduce it very slowly, watching for effects over a few days after ingesting it. (In my experience, the effects can be cumulative over a few days, like having a cup of green tea, then a few pieces of dark chocolate, a cup of decaf, etc, and the irritability can manifest over that time rather than just right after ingesting the caffeine.). There are also low-caffeine products that can take the place of the high caffeine ones. It doesn’t have to mean sensory deprivation, and the improvements in one’s sense of control and relationships are worth it regardless.

The problems I had with caffeine had to happen to me for way too long before it was recognized, and because other stressors contributed (or, the caffeine contributed to a poor response to those stressors), I thought those stressors and other health reasons were the reason for the episodes, which were ruining my life. It wasn’t until I cut out the caffeine entirely and experimented with reintroducing it that I and my family realized just how much caffeine, even in very small amounts (albeit proportionately to the amounts), was contributing to the problems.

I just wanted to share since caffeine and sleep deprivation so often go hand in hand, and people who never thought they had problems with caffeine before are the last ones to realize how big an issue this can be.


Like this comment
Posted by Japanese Acupuncture Can Help
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 16, 2018 at 9:22 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Bottle Blues
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 17, 2018 at 6:39 pm

My wife had PRE-partum depression prior to giving birth. I suspect it was because she couldn't enjoy a beer or glass of wine (actually two at dinner) while carrying our child.

She got over it following childbirth and since our baby was being bottle-fed, there were no side-effects or detriments along the way.

Now everything is back to normal and we have decided to only have one child.


6 people like this
Posted by Excuse
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 17, 2018 at 7:56 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Couvade
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 18, 2018 at 10:15 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


1 person likes this
Posted by Daychin Campbell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2018 at 10:04 am

Glad to have seen this article in the Palo Alto Weekly that came to my house but disheartened that the Weekly didn't even list our very Blossom Birth Services (on California Ave in Palo Alto) as having a great resource, their long-standing "Pregnancy and Postpartum Moods and Challenges" support group led by the wonderful Eva Roodman, LCSW, therapist and doula. This should have been in the Resources section. It's local, the groups meet weekly, and Eva is on-site at Blossom three days a week.


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