by Cara Koster
If you need immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a free and confidential network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide. It is available 24/7 to contact in a crisis at 1-800-273-8255. You can call for yourself or someone you care about.
For additional help, call the Postpartum Support International (PSI) warmline at 800-944-4773. You’ll get a return call within several hours. You can also visit their website www.postpartum.net. Click here to connect with your closest coordinator to get info, support, resources, and referrals to trained providers in your area. PSI also has a free support group on Facebook for parents who are struggling postpartum.
Healthcare coverage varies depending on where you live. You can search for low-cost or free community healthcare centers through healthcare.gov or look up options from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Depression during pregnancy
“If you think you’re going to harm yourself or someone else you should go to the emergency room. Other than that, there’s nothing I can do for you.”
My heart sank. These are not the words a five months pregnant, depressed, stressed out woman ever wants to hear from her midwife. I told her I wasn’t having suicidal thoughts and I wasn’t going to harm myself but that I felt hopeless and worthless. She told me to contact a psychologist and changed the subject. I went home defeated. I had finally gained the courage to actually say something to my midwife despite my shame and fear; but nothing came of it.
For the duration of my pregnancy, I continued to feel the same or worse. At some appointments my midwife asked me if I was feeling better, but most of the time she stuck to her routine during each check up. I understood why–I was on Medicaid. Routinely I waited for over 45 minutes in the waiting room only to wait for up to 60 more minutes in an exam room. Healthcare providers who take mostly Medicaid patients are always overbooked to compensate for the fact that Medicaid pays much less than what a private insurance company would pay.
Advocating for myself postpartum
After my daughter was born, I went to a 6 week check up with a different doctor at a totally different practice. I waited an hour and half before being seen. I decided I would bring up my mental health to him, in hopes he could give me a referral or some kind of guidance. After I shared about my depression, he said, “That’s too bad; you should see your primary.”
I was defeated again. The wait to see my primary care physician to get a referral was at least 6 weeks. Again I was told, “If you think you’re going to hurt yourself or someone else you should go to the ER.”
I wanted to scream. I did all the “right” things, spoke up and asked for help, but my healthcare providers were either incapable or uninterested. It was so frustrating to hear that my depression would have to get to a dangerous point before I could get the help I needed and deserved.
I decided to search for mental health professionals in my area and start making phone calls. I made about 20 calls before I gave up. All of them said they didn’t take my insurance but said I could self pay at a rate of $100-200 an hour. I couldn’t afford that, so I decided to go back to the basics and reinforce the healthy habits I had when I felt my best, prior to pregnancy.
Back to the basics of self care
I started with a Whole30 reset, my first since I found out about my pregnancy with my daughter. During my pregnancy, I was in survival mode; most days I was just trying to peel myself off the couch to be a mother to my young son. After a week or so into my postpartum Whole30, slowly the fog lifted a little, my energy levels started to improve, and I began to have the energy to engage in other forms of self care. I did eventually get some medical help as well and started taking prescription for my depression. That coupled with Whole30-inspired eating, and asking my support system for help when I needed it helped me get through the worst of it.
Advice if you’re struggling
If you are struggling with depression at any point during pregnancy or postpartum, please tell someone close to you how you are feeling, whether that’s your partner, sister, mom, or best friend. Ask them to check in on you. Ask that person to come with you to a doctor’s appointment to be your advocate. When healthcare providers shut me down, I didn’t tell my husband because I didn’t think he would understand. I am lucky that my best friend is a midwife. I told her everything, and she encouraged me to keep trying different avenues until I was heard.
Please note: This is Cara’s experience, in her own words. The Whole30 is not a medical diagnostic tool, nor a replacement for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. Speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program. Your results may vary.
Cara is a wife and mom to two picky and creative kids as well as a lifelong Jersey girl. She loves Law and Order and her Instant Pot. Her first Whole30 in May 2014 helped her rediscover her love of the Paleo diet and regain the energy she needed to keep up with a toddler. Since then, she has managed to complete and help others complete their own Whole30s while being on public assistance (SNAP and WIC). She uses her love of coupons and finding a great deal to stick to her family’s monthly food budget while still providing the best food possible for her family. Connect with Cara on Instagram.