Postpartum University® Podcast

EP 141 Breaking the Silence About Prenatal Depression

December 05, 2023 Maranda Bower, Postpartum Nutrition Specialist
EP 141 Breaking the Silence About Prenatal Depression
Postpartum University® Podcast
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Postpartum University® Podcast
EP 141 Breaking the Silence About Prenatal Depression
Dec 05, 2023
Maranda Bower, Postpartum Nutrition Specialist

In a world where women are expected to be elated about pregnancy, prenatal depression is something that most women don’t even realize exists. 

Today’s guest is on a mission to educate and inform, sharing her own experiences and practical guidance for how to overcome prenatal depression.

Laila is the the host of the Learning To Mom Podcast where she informs first time moms on pregnancy and birth without making them feel overwhelmed. After experiencing prenatal depression herself, she uses her story to educate and inspire women who may be struggling in pregnancy themselves.

In this episode, we’re sharing…

  • Resources and strategies for moms who are feeling isolated or overwhelmed during pregnancy. 
  • The role of professional support (therapists, counselors, etc.) in the journey through prenatal depression. 
  • Specific factors that contribute to prenatal depression. 
  • What prenatal depression is and how to recognize it. 

We’re here to shed light on the topics nobody is talking about in maternal health and today’s conversation is no exception. Give this episode a listen and head on over to Laila’s podcast, Learning to Mom, too. You’ll be glad you did! 

Feeling inspired and ready to learn more about how you can actively revolutionize postpartum care?

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In a world where women are expected to be elated about pregnancy, prenatal depression is something that most women don’t even realize exists. 

Today’s guest is on a mission to educate and inform, sharing her own experiences and practical guidance for how to overcome prenatal depression.

Laila is the the host of the Learning To Mom Podcast where she informs first time moms on pregnancy and birth without making them feel overwhelmed. After experiencing prenatal depression herself, she uses her story to educate and inspire women who may be struggling in pregnancy themselves.

In this episode, we’re sharing…

  • Resources and strategies for moms who are feeling isolated or overwhelmed during pregnancy. 
  • The role of professional support (therapists, counselors, etc.) in the journey through prenatal depression. 
  • Specific factors that contribute to prenatal depression. 
  • What prenatal depression is and how to recognize it. 

We’re here to shed light on the topics nobody is talking about in maternal health and today’s conversation is no exception. Give this episode a listen and head on over to Laila’s podcast, Learning to Mom, too. You’ll be glad you did! 

Feeling inspired and ready to learn more about how you can actively revolutionize postpartum care?

Read the transcript of this episode:

Depression, anxiety, and autoimmune symptoms after birth is not how it's supposed to be. There is a much better way, and I'm here to show you how to do just that. Hey, my friend, I'm Maranda Bower, a mother to four kids and a biology student turned scientist obsessed with changing the world through postpartum care. Join us as we talk to mothers and the providers who serve them and getting evidence-based information that actually supports the mind, body, and soul in the years after birth.

Hello everyone, welcome to the Postpartum University podcast. Maranda Bower here, your host, and I have Laila here, who is the host of the Learning to Mom podcast, where she informs first-time moms on pregnancy and birth without making them feel overwhelmed. She's experienced prenatal depression. She uses her story to educate and inspire women who have been struggling in pregnancy themselves.

This is such a huge part of my own personal story.

I not only had postpartum depression and anxiety, but I also experienced prenatal depression. I don't think many people are aware of this. Nobody's talking about this. It is not the same. It's one of those things that we need to have more conversation about. Laila, I am so grateful for you for being here and sharing your journey here with us today. Thank you so much for being here and welcome.

Laila: 1:40

Well, thank you. Thanks so much for having me on. Yes, just totally agree with what you said. I think that's why I've stepped into this space to share that, although postpartum depression still has a lot more that we need to unpack and resources that we need to provide women, we're not at the end goal with postpartum depression yet, where it needs to be, but prenatal depression is even so much farther behind how far we've come with postpartum depression in terms of support and resource and knowledge and all the things.

Maranda: 2:15

So tell us a little bit about what prenatal depression is and your story with this.

Laila: 2:23

Yeah, absolutely so. Diving right into things, essentially, the easy definition of prenatal depression is that it refers to depressive symptoms experienced by expectant mothers during pregnancy.

So it's different than postpartum depression in that it doesn't happen in postpartum, it happens during pregnancy.

I think this is something that just women really, really struggle with when they are experiencing it. One, because it is something that is not talked about.

So a lot of times we may even think like, oh, I'm just like really sad for some reason, or like I don't really know what's going on, like this is really weird.

They kind of like why should I be feeling this way? And it just doesn't make sense because it is not talked about, so we don't know what's a thing.

Then, secondly, we're told that this is supposed to be such a time of joy and you're supposed to be glowing and really happy because your best friend has been trying for five years, and look at you why are you so sad?

Or you've been trying for five years, aren't you grateful? What's wrong with you?

There's just so much shame that like goes into it, which is why, if you're experiencing prenatal depression, it even makes it harder, because it's like why the heck? What's wrong with me? This shouldn't be the case. I'm so embarrassed, I should be glowing, but instead I can't even get up to go to the grocery store. I can't find the energy to brush my teeth. All that.

Maranda: 3:53

Yeah, so, so true. And I remember in my experience here I am having a third, which I very much wanted, but I could not get out of bed, and I share the story all the time with my listeners about how it was my daughter's two-year-old birthday party and I was literally I couldn't get out of bed. My husband carried me out of bed and put me in the shower and washed me and then got me clothes, dried me off, put on my clothes, like it was a whole ordeal, and he had no earthly idea of what was happening. But I couldn't, like I couldn't do anything because the depression was so much in my pregnancy with a child that I wanted and I had no, I had no language for it, like it wasn't a thing.

Laila: 4:45

Right, 100%. Yeah, gosh, that is, that is so hard. I am so sorry that you had to go through that. That is so so hard. And when? Because I, I mean, I listened to your podcast but I have not heard this story, so this is very eye-opening to me. When have you, when did you figure out that this is what I experienced?

Because I think so often we go through our entire pregnancy even experiencing prenatal depression and it's not until you're in post. Maybe it's a month, maybe it's five years down the line and you hear of prenatal depression for the first time in your life and you realize, oh my gosh, that's what I had.

So when did you figure that out?

Maranda: 5:24

I think that event itself was the trigger point, because I had to get up, I had to do the thing and I legit I have master classes and things where I've like I show this picture of myself and I am like over the top, laughing like I'm just having the best time of my life, and that event happened just like two hours prior.

And so we have this like story of what we, what we see people doing, and I was like laughing and pretending like I was having the time of my life, and that happened where I couldn't literally not get out of bed. I didn't want to life, I couldn't, I didn't know how to.

And I think that was the turning point for me where my husband was like after the party, like we have to do something, this is not okay, are you okay? What needs to happen? And I was like, yeah, this is not okay.

And I had depression before in my pregnancies and for me, what the big trigger was was I had been diagnosed and I share the story often with ulcerative colitis after my second baby and I had.

So I was in this journey of healing and I was in the very much the beginning stages of that healing when I got pregnant again, and so there was so much inflammation in my body, there was so much just general pain in my body that I was experiencing, on the regular and top of situational stress.

We had just bought our property. We had bought 40 acres, we were building our home, I was living in a fifth wheel on our land so that we could be there more often because my husband worked like it was.

It was a lot that I was taking on on top of this high inflammation in my in my life. So, yes, there was that, and I think that was the recognition for me of like, this is what I'm going through and I have to do something.

And I would love to hear from you how did you recognize that you were experiencing prenatal depression?

Laila: 7:30

Yes. So I didn't actually even figure out that that's what I had until I was in postpartum and on my podcast I had a pregnancy health coach come on and it was just like off the whim, just like a little teeny, tiny comment, and I made a mental note to myself, was like, oh, that would be a good episode later I can find someone speak on it or whatever.

And then when I was doing the research on the topic, it was this light bulb moment of like, oh my gosh, that is what I had.

So I will say I was never medically diagnosed. By the time that I had figured out that's what I most likely was experiencing, I was beyond it.

I had come out the other side my story and experiencing prenatal depression. Just ripping off the bandaid here and getting as transparent and honest as I can was that my boyfriend and I got pregnant out of wedlock. So we are now married.

Now we got pregnant before we were married and that was so hard for me. I just experienced so much shame, so much guilt. I myself am a practicing devout Catholic. I come from a really great Christian family. Like I lead youth group and like all the things. We weren't actively having sex, like all of these things.

I was like this shouldn't have happened to me. How the heck, like, what are the chances? I was so angry, I was so embarrassed, I was so shameful and that just spiraled me.

One of the heightened risks is of experiencing prenatal depression, is an unplanned pregnancy, so that makes sense.

Another one is if you have history of depression, which I had never had, so that's why I never really realized that's what was going on.

And in the time where I was struggling to brush my teeth, struggling to take a shower, all of those things that we just talked about, I really just kind of chalked it up to like I'm just really down in the dumps because I'm pregnant out of wedlock and this is not a good look to my community.

It wasn't like, oh, something is wrong, because I was experiencing all of these other things. I didn't realize.

Actually, you're experiencing a hormonal imbalance that is then heightened because of your prenatal, because of your situation.

So I just mentioned history of depression. There's also a few have a history of anxiety as well, stressful life events. I think that lines up really well with you and everything you had going on a lack of social support, relationship difficulties, financial strain and unplanned pregnancy, of course.

So I think those are just really good to know of like. Oh, I fall into the camp of one of those. I might have an increased risk of that. That is not to say only the people who have those risk factors are the ones who will experience it. I think we're far beyond.

Hopefully we're all knowledgeable enough and not ignorant to the fact that depression can hit anyone at any time. No one is above it. So just know, if you're listening to that and none of those risk factors line up, that's not something to be ashamed of. Don't worry, nothing is wrong with you. You couldn't control it.

Maranda: 10:54

All the things so true and I was going to ask did you find that your prenatal depression moved into postpartum depression?

Laila: 11:08

I did not experience that. Praise God. However, that is, if you experience prenatal depression, you will more than likely also experience postpartum depression. So I want you all to be aware of that. If you're experiencing prenatal, just know that.

I honestly have no explanation to why I did not experience postpartum depression, because on paper, I should have experienced it and I like to say just as a woman of faith, I like to say just that the Lord covered me in His grace and didn't make me go through that.

He looked on me and was like you know, Laila, you've really you've been through a lot. I'm going to spare you of this other trial. So thank you, lord, for just giving me that grace that I didn't have to experience postpartum depression.

But that is something that most you're at risk. If you have prenatal depression, you could also be experiencing postpartum depression when that time comes.

Maranda: 12:05

Yeah, yeah, for sure. You know your podcast is so amazing and your objective, what you aim to do, is to inform first time moms without making them feel overwhelmed. How do you strike this balance in your content?

Laila: 12:24

Hmm, that's a really good question I think I like to really focus on. You know we've talked about you coming on in season two to share about postpartum, so that would be like a really great example.

So I have specific instead of just like coming, having someone come on who just like shares about their birth story, or like this went on and I gave birth on the side of the road, instead I have actual health experts come on and I interview them so like, oh, you're an expert in postpartum depression, tell me about that.

What are what does that mean, what are the misconceptions about it and what? What are actual helpful advice to give to someone who is.

So we always end on the positive notes. I think something too, that's just can be really overwhelming which ties to prenatal depression, and one of my like I call them my eight tips for someone who is experiencing prenatal depression is that what's overwhelming is social media right now.

If you are experiencing prenatal depression, or even if you're just pregnant, it is so easy to get so overwhelmed with everything that we see on social media. So I always encourage everyone to unfollow anyone who is making you feel less than, and also unfollow any and all relatable mom content creators.

I hate to call them out because I'm not a confrontational person, I'm not an attacker.

But I know in my story like it is not helpful when you are on Instagram and you are pregnant or you're, you can't find the energy to brush your teeth and you're like how the heck am I going to care for a baby? And you see this relatable mom content creator complaining about our kids and being like motherhood sucks and my husband is the worst for the sake of virality.

So I just think there's so many things and that was a little bit of a tangent there, but you could hear how passionate I am about it.

That's what I strive to do on the podcast, and then something in terms of just finding experts to come on, and then also a pro tip is to unfollow any negative social media accounts.

Maranda: 14:42

I am so, so glad that you said this this is like real life right here, as my husband would say hashtag real life because he likes to make fun of social media.

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It's so true, right? We those relatable, quote unquote "relatable posts." I don't find them so relatable.

Yeah, we have moments where we're frustrated and we have moments where we break down or yell at our kid or whatever the case may be.

And, yes, that's, that's relatable. I think it's gone to this extreme and we have accepted these things as a normal part of our every day, like, oh, it's just normal, so I can expect it to happen all the time or every day.

I see it often in the postpartum world. How much we've normalized depression, prenatal, postpartum. How we've normalized anxiety, how we've normalized not you know, crying it out that's a whole thing and it's an episode in and of itself. We've talked about it here.

But like we've normalized the things that are not biologically normal in the least bit, and that is one of the things that we have to be aware of in our journeys into motherhood. Like that is not an acceptable thing.

And one thing that I love about your podcast, too, is the practicality and the tips that come with it, and that's something that I always strive to do in our episodes is like it's not just like here's your information, but here's some like things that you can actually act on.

And that brings me to a question for you is what are your resources? You mentioned eight things that you talk about. What are your coping mechanisms? What are your ways in which you heal, because healing and coping are two different things. How do you get through this?

Laila: 17:12

Yeah Well, I think first and foremost is recognizing the signs. I think that that would have helped me a lot if I could have sat down and looked at the signs of prenatal depression and recognized oh, I have five of these, like this matches up, instead of being like, oh yeah, I'm just really sad.

So here are those symptoms.

So it's pretty similar to depressive symptoms or postpartum, but obviously they're present during your pregnancy.

Persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite and I'm not just talking about like, oh, your first time I started to kick anything down or nothing seems appealing and changes in sleep patterns, irritability, excessive worry or anxiety about the pregnancy, guilt or feelings of inadequacy, difficulty concentrating and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

So I just wanted to rattle off those symptoms because recognizing the signs is so important.

Right, like if I could have just seen all of that in one place, I would have really been able to realize I have almost every single one.

I need to go seek help instead of you don't recognize that you have so many until you see a list. So that's tip number one.

Tip number two is to talk openly with your health care provider about it, as we mentioned at the beginning, right, this doesn't get the press that it deserves if you will so many times.

Like 99% of hospitals, don't screen you for prenatal depression.

The only thing that they might do is your health care provider. You know, they walk into the door and they're just like how are you doing? And typically, I mean, we all have sat on the other side of that.

Typically, that's just them being pleasant, exchanging pleasantries, they're being cordial, right, it's really difficult to like, insert yourself into, like actually I'm struggling really hard this isn't normal into a situation where the traditional response is like I'm good, how are you?

So I just really encourage you to be your biggest advocate and talk openly with your health care provider about it, because more than likely, they're not going to be the ones to bring it up. That's so true.

Maranda: 19:35

And then, yeah, and I want to say on that one, I know that you have more here, but if you don't find a provider that you align with or that you feel so good about, go find another one.

There are so many amazing counselors and therapists who exist out there and I know in my local area the waitlist is six plus months to see anyone.

And if that is, you know that there are online options. Like, there's so many people online who can offer counseling and therapy sessions, and if you can find a person, that's great, that's number one, right, but know that it exists and you might have to get what I call a little creative and finding the right person for you, so that's my soapbox, but continue.

Laila: 20:24

It was a great, that was great.

Tip number three, which is to seek therapy or counseling. Your doctor if you bring it up to them that you're experiencing this, they may have someone that they could refer you to.

But with this being something as we just have pounded over, that, like people just are not aware of this, that more than likely they may unfortunately not have a reference.

So I would just really encourage you to start researching and see what your options are and, to your point, there are virtual options.

If you can't find someone in your city and state, you can find someone that that specializes in prenatal depression. You can find someone even that specialized. Like, if you can't find someone who specializes in prenatal depression, I would say the most applicable would be postpartum depression and then after that this is my personal preference I would find a mom, just as a similar, you know, has at least some experience a little bit there.

But also, you know, maybe you're already going to therapy and you love your therapist and he's a man and you feel confident there. Like, just find someone that you really can talk through, who's going to talk to through this, who's going to support you through this. That's the biggest thing.

Number four seek social support. At the same time, you should also set boundaries, and I'm saying, like, as important as social support is in your beautiful example of your husband helping you there, like, I really just hope and pray that everyone has someone who can do that for them.

So seeking that person out is really important. If your current community cannot provide that for you, if you're getting belittled comments from your mom because she's, like, cannot wrap her head around the fact that you have prayed for five years for this child and now you're not happy to be pregnant, right, then I would really encourage you to set some boundaries. Do not let someone speak to you like that. That's not who should be helping you.

In fact, like, her words are only going to be hurting you, and that might not be your mom. That might be your friend or your cousin or your neighbor, right, like? Boundaries are healthy. Let's start setting them.

Number five, which we talked about already, is to unfollow any and all negative social media accounts.

Number six would be to engage in self-care. This looks different for everyone, right, but I think that this is something that gets so easily neglected when you are experiencing depressive symptoms because you have absolutely no interest.

One of the big signs is that loss in activities and your pleasure in what you used to really enjoy. You have no interest in it. So you almost have to use one of your community members, of the people that you're seeking social support from, to force you off your butt and go take that painting class or go on a walk or whatever you used to enjoy. You almost have to kind of be like hey, I really need you to keep me accountable to this because it's going to help me, but I'm not going to do it myself because I am depressed. And then if they're the right social person for you, they're going to step up and help you with that.

Number seven is to get outside. This one is always talked about in the circles of mental health and it's just really, really important.

If your social person, your social support person, excuse me can drag your little booty and get you to go on a walk, even if it's a walk around the neighborhood or a walk around the block.

I remember my boy now has been at the time, but Matthew would drag me out of the house he would be like, go brush your teeth.

We're going on a walk and that would be the only time that I left the house and I wouldn't feel night and day better.

It's not like, oh, one walk around the apartment complex fixed me of all my depression, but it really did make a difference.

And even if that's 1% better, 2% better, that's just a little bit better and that will help. And then, lastly,

Tip number eight is I just want you to be aware that medication exists and it's not to be ashamed of or afraid of. It exists and if you need it, there is medication out there that can help you.

On the same line of that, as I've mentioned, I'm all about informing women, so I just want you to be aware that you should talk to your healthcare provider about those side effects, not to scare you, but just to make sure that you're making an informed decision.

Because, like, for example, let's say you want to get on medication awesome, that is great, that's going to help you so much. But let's say you have this really amazing ideal of this, like natural birth, and you don't want to be induced.

Well, what if one of the side effects of this specific medication is increased blood pressure and an increased blood pressure. Your doctor will want you to be heavily monitored, will want you to be on an IV. You may even have to be induced at 39 weeks. I just want you to be informed not to not take the medication, but that way you can plan for your birth more realistically and you're not just like blindsided later when you hit 39 weeks and you're like, oh, I have to be induced. I just want you to know. And those are the eight tips.

Maranda: 26:09

Yeah, I love this. This is so, so informative and there's so many additional things that I feel like I want to say like there's there's just so much that we can talk about here and I know that you offer so much of that on your podcast, which we're going to have linked here. So I highly recommend that, if you're listening into this and you want to learn more about this, about Leila and her experiences, definitely go check that out Again. That's linked here and, gosh, I just I appreciate you so much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for for sharing your wisdom and to get this out to everyone who truly we need to talk about this, we need to have these conversations.

Laila: 26:55

Yeah, absolutely Well, thank you so much for having me on. This is just totally something like something that I'm so passionate about because I don't want anyone to have to go through what I went through, and also, I guess the whole podcast exists even in my platform that I'm creating exists to be the resource for pregnant women that I wish I could have had in my pregnancy, so like I really needed to hear someone listing off all the side effects and listing off okay, what do you do when this is what you do, especially when you are depressed and everything seems insurmountable, Everything seems so big like even just having a breakdown of like here are these eight steps, that would just that would have helped me so much.

Maranda: 27:40

Likewise, I wish this was a conversation I had. You know, seven plus years ago, my daughter's seven and a half, like I, didn't have these resources and I'm so grateful that they're coming out and that we're talking about these things, but there's like a million ways that we need to improve.

Laila: 28:00

Yes, you know what I mean, like there's two million this is like the beginning stages.

Maranda: 28:05

So I'm so grateful that you are here and you are in this phase in and let us let us share it with the world, Absolutely Okay. Thank you so much for being here and for everybody listening in. Go listen in to Laila's podcast. You won't regret it. Awesome, Thank you.

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