“Xanax makes me a better parent”

After I had my son I was a wreck.  I’m not going to sugar coat this and say I wasn’t a bit neurotic before he was born, because I was. But after he was born the anxiety I felt reached a whole new high.  He was sick, really sick and spent two months in hospital on every piece of life saving machinery possible. I told myself that it would be better when I knew that he was going to survive. Then I told my husband I’d be better when I knew that he was going to come home. Still later I told my family I’d be better when he was stronger, when he put on weight. I told my friends they didn’t understand when they were worried I didn’t want to go out without my son.  Eventually I told a therapist that I couldn’t go in the car with my husband because I was scared we would crash and die and my son would have no parents.

I don’t think diagnosing anxiety was the hardest call she’s ever had to make.

But it appears that I am not alone. A new study suggests anxiety is far more common in the days after childbirth than depression, with nearly one in five new mothers reporting acute mental stress surrounding delivery and the transition to a larger family.

"Postpartum depression has gotten a lot more attention than anxiety … but it's anxiety that's an acute concern and affects so many aspects of the hospital stay and postpartum course," said study author Dr. Ian Paul, a professor of paediatrics and public health sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine, in Hershey, Penn. "Childbirth tends not to be a depressing situation for a majority of women, but it is anxiety-provoking, especially for first-time moms."

The researchers found that 17 percent of the women suffered from anxiety — acute emotions in response to a perceived stressful, dangerous or threatening situation — while in the hospital after childbirth. Meanwhile, 6 percent reported postpartum depression during the same time frame.

Anxiety rates later dropped markedly, hovering between 6 and 7 percent from two weeks to six months post-delivery. Anxiety was still reported at higher rates than depression six months after delivery, Paul said, but for most women the issue resolves on its own within weeks and doesn't require any treatment. Clearly I am an exception to the rule….

Or am I?

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In Australia around one million kids are living with a parent with depression and/or anxiety.

Shawn Bean, executive editor of “Parenting” writes for Katie Couric about his feature story on parents who take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. He writes:

"I posted this message on Facebook: “I’m working on a story about parents who take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. If you’re willing to speak on the topic, I’d appreciate the opportunity to interview you.”

“I suffer from chronic depression. I have days when I’ve wanted to plow my car into a brick wall, or step off a pier into deep waters below. Happiness is something I gave up on long ago. So I decided to simply embrace this life war, and never ever let it get the best of me.”

This is just one of the online comments from “Xanax Makes Me a Better Mom,” … It took 72 hours for the story to accumulate approximately 1,000 comments. I was a little stunned. I thought to myself, “Who reads a story, sees that there are 1,000 comments, and says, ‘I’m going to be the 1,001st person to say something.’” But it underscores what I learned while researching and writing the piece: Depression and anxiety touch more lives that we can imagine.

What I discovered was a litany of parents who deal with depression and anxiety, but live in the shadows. Many of them suffer quietly, not even telling their own family they take medication for mental health issues.

…From our  children’s health to their development to their performance at school, there's always something for moms and dads to be happy—or anxious—about. The common definition of depression states that a multitude of the following symptoms be present for a two-week period: fatigue and decreased energy, feelings of pessimism, overeating or appetite loss, insomnia or early-morning wakefulness, loss of interest in hobbies and activities once found pleasurable, and irritability and restlessness. That describes half the parents I know.”

The Daily Mail reports

“Anne-Marie Lindsey, told Good Morning America that her daily pill regime has helped cure the panic attacks she suffered after her son was born.

'If I weren't on the meds, my mind would race,' said the mother, who hails from New Haven, Connecticut. 'I might need to be in a bathroom with the door locked, hyperventilating, [thinking] "what if he gets sick?"'

New mother Melissa Sanchez says she had trouble functioning for weeks after her son was born.

At her lowest point, the New York native recalls she could not get out of bed for a whole weekend.

Ms Sanchez reluctantly began taking Celexa, an anti-anxiety drug recommended to her by a therapist, and 'after about six weeks, I was back to myself,' she says.

But while women like Ms Sanchez and Ms Lindsey claim that the calming pills 'absolutely' make them better mothers, others disagree.

One critic commented: 'It's one thing if you suffer from anxiety and depression… It's a totally different thing if you are just taking medicine to deal with normal reactions to your kid's behaviour”

It’s astonishing how common the anxiety is. Awful that it’s not readily spoken about. 

Have you taken medication to deal with anxiety or depression as a mother? How did it affect you?

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