I just had my baby and thankfully, all is going well. He’s thriving and I am having a much better post-partum experience this time than with my daughter. Despite lingering blood-pressure issues, carpal tunnel syndrome in my dominant hand and the stress of all the baby weight I want to lose, I am happy. I didn’t think it possible to feel this way, having struggled with my mood after my first pregnancy.
I used to tell my female patients that for my practice, one of the most common classes of drugs I prescribed was anti-depressants, many of which also work to treat anxiety. I shared this to help normalize their feelings and to let them know they are not alone. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. And after giving birth, post-partum depression is not uncommon; with such dramatic hormonal changes and caring for a newborn, it can be an incredibly isolating time.
Depression and, more specifically, post-partum depression, are treatable illnesses, not be limited to just medication. Talking about one's feelings is paramount. I applaud any woman who reaches out for help or voices her experiences. I believe this only empowers others to consider their symptoms and seek the help they need. Personally experiencing these overwhelming feelings has created a level of empathy and understanding that goes beyond medications. Being a reflective practitioner has made me a better doctor. Being a reflective mom has proven even more invaluable—it’s going to be different with this baby I’ve told myself, and it is.
This determination comes from a supportive husband and being surrounded by strong, successful, highly motivated women who share in my happiness, offer support and also work daily to achieve a life balance that does not compromise their mental health. So they "get it": keeping it together in this day in age is tough as a working mom and wife—tough, but achievable. The challenges of achieving balance will never change, but how we approach this challenge and with what attitude can be within a woman’s control, with the right team cheering her on.
Bindu Kumar, M.D., is a Philadelphia-area physician with expertise in primary care and occupational medicine. She maintains her family medicine board certification in both the United States and Canada.
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