Getting Postnatal Depression and anxiety as a Health Professional

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When I got pregnant with my first baby, I was already a qualified Midwife. I’d seen countless Mums give birth in lots of different ways. Of course I wondered how it would happen for me. Would I be able to cope with the pain? Would I breastfeed successfully? I had all the information, knowledge and skills, but it’s all different when it’s happening to you. This has turned into a bit of an epic saga, so I’m going to split it into parts. Part one is the birth and background.

I had ideas about my birth, I wrote a detailed birth plan and everything. I was anxious that the baby wouldn’t make it through the birth, that I wouldn’t and more. I remember waiting in those last few weeks, it was a very anxious time. I was also worried about going into my place of work to give birth, which is a vulnerable time in itself, imagine doing it in front of your work colleagues! I had some colleagues that I preferred to be with than others, both for their skills and expertise and their comforting ways. I also had a list (a very short one) of people I didn’t want looking after me. I didn’t specify an exact midwife, I was happy with most of them.

The Birth Story

I went into labour pretty much at the start of one of the world cup football games of 2006, I forget exactly who was playing but Germany was one of the sides. I’d been having Braxton Hicks in the days leading up to it and a show, so I thought it was going to happen. The ‘Braxton Hicks’ didn’t go away, and were coming regularly from 6pm every 2-3 minutes. After an hour or so I decided to get in the bath. It was easier to manage in the bath and relaxed me. After a couple of hours I was able to examine myself internally (somehow) and I was 2cm. This was par for the course. It carried on until late into the evening.

When it got to around 10pm I got out of the bath and put my TENs machine on. It seemed to help, but I was struggling with the pain. I knew it was still very much early labour and I was panicking a bit, knowing it was going to get way worse. My husband was doing his best to support me, but I didn’t want to be touched. The contractions were still close together as they had been with no let up. I called for my best friend who was to be my second birth partner at around midnight.

After that things get a little blurry. I remember throwing up in a pre-prepared bucket (fish supper no less, yuck!) and still in a lot of pain. They kept suggesting the bath again but I was reluctant to remove the TENs machine. My water broke at one point, and I wasn’t sure if it was meconium stained. If I’m honest, I knew it was but I didn’t want to admit it because I knew we’d have to go to hospital and I had planned a home birth. I had a heart rate monitor at home so I could check the heartbeat myself.

My pain was increasing and my friend and husband started getting concerned that the baby was coming. I checked myself internally again and couldn’t feel much difference from the first time – so disheartening! I asked for the Midwife to be called to attend as I really needed the gas and air.

What happened next was shocking, but not totally unexpected. The hospital were so busy that the on call midwives for home births had been called in, and there wasn’t even any room at my local hospital, where I worked! I could either wait it out at home, or go to the next nearest hospital, about 40 minutes away. By now I pretty much knew I had meconium (baby poo) in my waters so I agreed to go to the next hospital. I was also getting desperate for relief.

Looking back, I wish I’d prepared more with hypnobirthing and relaxation, which would have helped. I think my adrenaline was too high which caused my pain to increase and not translate to opening the cervix. I’ll never know for sure, because first labour contractions can be what’s called ‘incoordinate,’ where the top part of the uterus is going hell for leather, but the bottom half is not as strong and doesn’t dilate the cervix as much.

I knew the journey was long (long when you’re in labour), so I asked my husband to call an ambulance, mostly because I knew they carried gas and air. Once the ambulance arrived I was screaming and shouting with every contraction and everyone thought I was about to give birth, but I knew I wasn’t. They kept asking me if I needed to push – I wish! At least I got the gas and air but it provided little relief. I kept asking where abouts we were en route and how much further.

Eventually we arrived and I got to the labour room. I was screaming and shouting, I couldn’t bear anything on my lower half, I was kneeling up on the bed holding the head of the bed. They strapped me to a monitor due to the meconium (can be a sign of baby in distress). Every time someone walked in they tried to cover me up but I didn’t care!

I asked for pethidine, an opiate injection to help ease the pain. I’d been examined and deemed to be 3 or 4cm. By now it was around 4 or 5am the next day. We’d all had no sleep. The pethidine helped a tiny amount, and I felt more relaxed in between contractions, but they still felt just as intense as before, and I knew that the labour could go on all day. That thought made me decide to go for an epidural. Considering I’d wanted a home waterbirth, this was a big step. I’d specified in my birth plan to try and remind me of this and talk it through with me. They wanted to give me syntocinon, not to speed things up but to make the contractions more co-ordinated. I also knew this would make it more intense. The other thing was I was going out of my mind with the pain, there was no getting away from it.

At last, amidst a lot of shouting from me, asking if the drug was in yet, I had some respite. The epidural was in, around 6.30am. I’d had 12 hours of horrific pain and the relief was amazing. I still had some small amounts of breakthrough pain but that was nothing.

After I’d had the epidural, it all slowed down. They continued with the syntocinon and I slooooowwwwllly progressed. At some point in the day, the baby’s heartbeat crept up and they were worried about it’s welfare. I had to have an FBS, where they take blood from the baby’s head whilst still inside to test their oxygen levels. I think I had 2 or 3 done, they were all fine. Eventually, I got to fully dilated at around 8 or 9pm. They wanted to allow an hour for descent, but I was feeling urges to push and couldn’t help myself.

After the whole day of interventions and a looong labour, the birth was actually quite straight forward. I had urges to push, I felt the contractions still but not as bad due to the epidural. I pushed the baby out myself with no assistance. Out she came at 10.10pm, screamed straight away and kept crying. I was in shock, because I had expected and wanted a boy, but she was so cute I was happy. I felt like it was a bit of an anti-climax though. My husband seemed happy, but not crying happy.

I remember them saying there was bleeding, and they gave me a drug intravenously to stop it, and it all seemed to be stopped quickly. I didn’t need any stitches amazingly, something I attribute to drinking raspberry leaf tea in the last trimester. She fed at the breast straight away, although it felt pinchy, it seemed to be ok. She didn’t want to stop feeding, eventually I took her off so she could be weighed. 7lb13oz.

I was wheeled off to the ward late at night looking forward to a rest. I’d had gestational diabetes, so they needed to test her blood sugar. I’d had about an hour’s sleep, then they said her sugar was low so I needed to feed her. 2 hours later, she was cold they said, so I had to do skin to skin. We fell asleep like that.

The next morning, some of the other babies were crying, mine was sleeping or feeding. I thought I had such a nice good baby. My catheter was removed and my legs had come back to life. It’s such a scary feeling when they’re numb. I managed to get to the toilet and shower, but I did feel light headed. She was feeding at regular intervals, it was a bit pinchy but bearable. My parents came to visit, and later in the day, my in laws and other family too.

I’ll wrap this part up and then the next post will be about going home and adjusting to life with a new baby. It felt like another planet!

If you’ve been through or are going through postnatal depression and would like to chat, feel free to get in touch on Facebook or Instagram.

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August 7, 2019
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