Pregnancy and PTSD

Photograph of Me at 23 weeks pregnant

 

Experience has been by far my biggest teacher in this life. Pregnancy is another experience that has changed my perspective on so many things. In this blog post I decided to speak about how what I must do to keep myself and my baby healthy has links to recovering from post traumatic stress disorder. This mental illness affected many of the choices that I have made as a young adult. One of these choices was to wait longer than some women do to have children. I don’t believe that anyone can be a good parent if he or she neglects his or her mental or physical health. Before I became pregnant I was already entering a maintenance phase of my recovery where I can identify what my triggers are, and what I need to do to stay well. I learned these things through therapy, experience of what does and doesn’t work for me, and making self care a priority.

Anyone who has gone through recovery or seen a loved one go through the process will understand that recovery is not linear. This means that at certain points in my life I have been more or less well. The level of wellness would depend on what stressors occur in my life at the period of time, and what positive coping mechanisms I am using to deal with what is happening around me. One of the things I am dealing with at present is my father has been battling cancer since May of last year. Much as I worry about him if I do not nurture myself then I cannot be supportive to those I love. This means knowing how to let go, and accept things as they are rather than how I would wish for them to be. At times it also means being assertive enough to know when to say no to a request from someone.

Pregnancy itself can be a very stressful time for any woman, but having post traumatic stress disorder adds an extra dimension to my experience. Physical examinations, ultrasounds, and the numerous tests that go along with ensuring the baby and myself are both healthy can be stressful. They are also very necessary. My healthcare providers are aware of my past history. Prior to a vaginal examination the nurse went through what would happen as well as any  discomfort I may feel. Knowledge helps me to mentally prepare myself for what may happen, so I do not have to cope with a flashback or possible dissociation. Feeling comfortable with those who provide care to me and my unborn child helps to keep my stress levels down.

For some women who cope with pregnancy and post traumatic stress disorder it can be difficult emotionally, because they are taken off certain psychiatric medications as there is some risk to the fetus. I have not taken psychiatric medication in a few years as I learned other coping strategies to deal with my symptoms. I also monitor my moods, and behaviour on a daily basis to check that I am making healthy choices. If I was at a different level of recovery then this would have been much more difficult for me to do. My experiences with depression and anxiety give me an interesting perspective on when I was feeling hormonal. The difference between the effect of hormones and depression lies in how one would affect my ability to function over time, while hormones very quickly shift how I feel.

I do still have my days where I worry about becoming unwell again. My illness can increase my risk of developing postpartum depression. If I spent too much time worrying though then something can become a self-fulfilling prophecy through the law of attraction. It is a fear that anyone who has known the experience of mental illness will easily be able to relate to. I have worked really hard to get to the point where I feel that I can cope with just about anything that life throws at me. Motherhood will bring many new experiences to my life, and with each passing day I am trusting my intuition more to know what will need to be done. Parenthood is one of the few things in life that you can only learn by trial and error.

Like any other parent, I wish for my child to be born healthy and to be able to provide all the opportunities that I can to raise him or her to reach his full potential. One can read lots of advice on the internet, or in books about how to be a great parent. Knowledge can be wonderful yet I think that each child has different needs that it is only by getting to know him or her as a unique individual that those needs can be best met. I am by no means any expert on how to be a parent. I only know that I am going to try my best.

 

Amanda

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2 thoughts on “Pregnancy and PTSD

  1. Me & PTSD

    Congratulations on your pregnancy! It’s wonderful to see that you’ve taken care of yourself, because, you’re right, that is most important. My PTSD came to the surface after I had kids. They don’t quite understand what is going on, but they try. 😉

    1. Thank you for the congratulations on my pregnancy! If I didn’t take good care of myself then I would be struggling a lot more through my pregnancy. I have a friend who experienced PTSD after her first child was born as she left a very abusive relationship. It is very difficult to care for someone else when you are in the early stages of recovery. I took a peek at your blog and it sounds like you have a really good support network, which makes a big difference. It is good that your kids try to understand. Many adults struggle with trying to understand what is happening and there is a lot of ignorance out there. I wish you the best in your own recovery. 🙂

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