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  • A Pregnant Mom Kept Being Told 'You're Just Pregnant' When She Shared She Was Depressed

    She was pregnant and miserable, but no one listened. How this mom found her safe space.
    by Kitty Elicay .
A Pregnant Mom Kept Being Told 'You're Just Pregnant' When She Shared She Was Depressed
PHOTO BY iStock
  • For most Filipinos, bearing a child is a blessing, so it can be hard to wrap our heads around the idea of being overwhelmed with sadness while pregnant. But perinatal depression, defined as depression during pregnancy, around childbirth or within the first year postpartum, is real just like postpartum depression. It is a battle fought by many pregnant women including Filipino actress Kylie Padilla with her second pregnancy and Lauren Tanabe, a freelance writer living and working in Detroit, Michigan.

    Lauren has a Ph.D. in Pharmacology & Molecular Signaling from Columbia University and a BA in Biological Sciences. She is a smart, accomplished woman and a mom to a 3-year-old. But one night, while pregnant with her second child, Lauren Googled this: “Is there a way to kill yourself without hurting the baby?”

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    “At my first prenatal visit, brimming with morning sickness, I met a peppy midwife. She congratulated me on being pregnant. I wanted to punch her in the head,” Lauren writes in The Washington Post. After telling the midwife that she’d never been more miserable in her entire life, the midwife just smiled and told her, “You’re just pregnant.”

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    “I told her it was beyond pregnancy. It was depression unlike I’d ever known. She shrugged and said that I was pregnant, and there wasn’t much they could do,” Lauren wrote.

    Throughout her pregnancy, Lauren sought the help of four different obstetric practices, from midwives to doctors, only to be told some version of “You’re just pregnant.” She was an educated woman with a Ph.D. with a steady income and a car. And yet, she still felt powerless.

    “I could not even imagine what women without my means experienced. The guilt, it seemed, never abated.”

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    As much as she tried to explain what she felt to friends and family, no one could quite get what Lauren was going through. They were confused, uncomfortable, and made her feel like she was committing a grave sin.

    “When I whispered that maybe I didn’t want to be a mom again, I was told how grateful I should be,” Lauren shares. “I was pregnant, after a miscarriage no less.”

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    Lauren soon experienced “crippling panic attacks.” A doctor prescribed a low dose of an antidepressant, but it did nothing for her. Lauren steadily got worse until she decided to self-medicate and go on her old anti-anxiety medicine.

    Her panic abated, but she was soon sent to the ER after confessing to her obstetrician that she had taken medicine without a prescription. She consulted with a psychiatrist who told her the medication was safe, but her obstetrician still dumped her for “withholding information.”

    Again, Lauren spiraled into sadness. “I would scroll through social media comparing myself with other expectant women, beaming and cradling with their babies,” Lauren wrote. “I wondered if they ever felt like me, ever seethed with resentment that their body was no longer their own and then felt guilty about it. I wondered if they ever looked through a window and then thought about jumping.”

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    Finally, help came through a Facebook mom group. Someone referred her to a therapist near their area, and Lauren finally got the chance to share her thoughts in a safe space where she felt validated.

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    Soon after, Lauren sought help from midwives and consult with a team of psychiatrists who told her there was only a minimal risk if she continued taking her anti-anxiety medication.

    Lauren is thankful that she considered herself a “bad patient” and did not listen to her doctors because that was the only way she could get the help she needed. But she was still angry. “Why did I have to beg for care? What happens to women who take the doctor’s word as sacrosanct and continue to suffer?”

    She adds, “It was only because I was educated enough and angry enough to advocate for myself that I survived my pregnancy. It was only because I fought that I was finally seen — the woman surrounding the womb.”

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    Perinatal depression is not only something that affects the mom — it can affect the child’s health. Growth of the fetus has also been found to be at risk when mothers suffer from depressive symptoms.

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    If, at any point, you feel hopeless and overwhelmed, do not hesitate to reach out and seek help. If consulting a professional intimidates you, join an online community where you feel safe and ask a fellow mom for referrals (try our Smart Parenting Village. Love, practical, and emotional support from family, friends, and a community can be vital in helping you cope, according to Mind UK.

    Most of all, don’t forget to be kind to yourself and that you deserve it. Lauren shares it had taken her nearly the entirety of her pregnancy before she found the help she needed (and wanted).

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    Don't be afraid to reach out if you are feeling anxious, helpless, or depressed. If you need someone to talk to: 
    1. Crisis Line +633 893-7603 / +63 917 800-1123 / + 63 922 893-8944 
    2. Manila Lifeline Center at +632 896-9191 or +63 917 854-9191
    3. Department of Health's 24-hour suicide prevention hotline Hopeline +632 804-4637 / +63 917 558-4673 and 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers 
    4. You can also join SOS Philippines on Facebook, a support group founded for survivors of suicide loss and Filipinos undergoing mental health ailments like depression and bipolar disorder.
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