My journey with postnatal depression after IVF

This week we have the brave Robyn Soley from @soleytwinsandme, telling us her story of PND after years of IVF resulting in her beautiful twin boys.
Although things are getting better this is often something that isn’t talked about openly and I would really like to thank Robyn for sharing her story and helping to raise awareness.

NO LOVE HERE

Being wheeled into NICU on my hospital bed following an emergency c section, I had all these smiling faces looking at me. Nurses, doctors, my husband. All expectant, wanting to share the excitement in introducing me to my new babies, my twin boys. 

I peered into their cribs, their squishy red faces, skin smooth as silk.. and I felt nothing. No rush of love I’d been told to expect, no immediate want to hold them tight with their skin on mine. I looked at them and thought ‘oh they’re cute… but they could be anybody’s’. 

I plastered a smile on my face, tears forming but not from joy or elation. From a sense of dread. What had I done? 

••••••••••••

ME, MYSELF & IVF

For years my husband and I had been trying for a baby. I had experienced an ectopic several years earlier, loosing my right tube. We put our lack of conceiving down to that and sort fertility treatment. 

After various tests, operations and investigations I was given the heartbreaking & gut wrenching news that I was classed as ‘infertile’. My world collapsed. 

From then on, it became my mission to become a mother. It was all I thought about, talked about. It consumed my life. 

When I was younger, I dreamed of becoming a mum. I didn’t want the high flying career. I wanted a family. This made my determination stronger but it came with a lot of hiccups and set backs. 

On our first round of IVF, I suffered extreme OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome). I was in hospital for just over a week, in extreme pain. That was the first and only  time I gave up. 

My husband and I spoke a lot about it and decided we couldn’t go through another round. Not just because of my health but because of the strain it was putting on our marriage. 

I had our follow up appointment 6 weeks later and our consultant said 6 words. Those 6 words have changed my life forever. ‘I think you should try again’. 

That’s all I needed to hear for the overwhelming need to become a parent to come back.  

Our second round of IVF couldn’t have been more different from the first. It was plain sailing, everything went to plan. 

On transfer day, I was all set with my full, about to burst bladder when they explained to us that they had one top grade embryo to transfer and a lower grade one that would be destroyed as it wasn’t good enough to freeze. 

Erm, hang on a minute. I haven’t gone through all this for a potential life to be flushed down the toilet. I said, without consulting my husband I wanted both embryos transferred. 

Cue my husband stepping in, quite rightly so (although at the time I was seething). We got told to go outside and have a chat. 

So there I was, steam coming out my ears and a bladder about to burst, standing on the streets of Chelsea, London arguing with my husband about the possibility of multiples. 

 As you can tell, we eventually agreed to have both transferred which resulted in my beautiful fraternal twins. 

………………………………………………

ISOLATED, ALONE & GUILTY 

The days that followed the boys being born, I was a numb zombie. I played the dutiful new mum but inside I was freaking out about why I didn’t feel anything for my babies. 

I didn’t dislike them, I cared for them because they were tiny humans but there was no connection. 

When we got home after 11 days in hospital, I fell to pieces. I regretted having IVF, I regretted having the twins, I had an overwhelming urge to run away. 

 I’d wander around washing bottles, feeding, changing nappies, rocking these colicky babies feeling empty. 

Everybody was crowding me, turning up at the house to get a glimpse of these miracle babies, texting, calling. I felt suffocated. The worst thing someone said to me was ‘you must be so happy’. No, no I wasn’t happy. 

Thoughts began to enter my head about suicide. 

I never used to walk alone in the dark, my husband would take our dogs out of an evening because I’d feel too nervy but now I was snatching the lead out of his hand to get out the house. 

I’d walk our usual route, wondering if someone was going to jump out of the bushes or follow me waiting to attack (these would be my normal anxious thoughts walking in the dark) but I found I didn’t care. 

If someone attacked me, it didn’t matter. I felt no fear about not being here anymore. 

That’s when I knew I needed help. I was reluctant to seek support before as my career background is mental health. I spoke to my health visitor and GP who diagnosed me with postnatal depression. 

Me? A woman who had fought so hard to be a mother? Someone who had gone through fertility treatment and IVF had postnatal depression? I couldn’t get my head round it. The sense of guilt I felt about not loving my babies was overwhelming but learning that what I was feeling wasn’t my fault helped lessen the guilt ever so slightly. 

I started taking medication and opened up to my family. This was a sense of relief. My family were amazing. They listened, they wiped my tears, they understood and they supported me. No questions, no judgement. 

•••••••••• 

9 MONTHS ON

Waking up, going into the nursery, two little heads look up at me. Our eyes lock and I feel such a strong, unconditional love for my two boys. Their smiles make my days brighter and the heavy black cloud is now a light shade of grey. 

I wouldn’t say I’m 100%, I have good and bad days but the joy I get from my children makes those bad days easier to cope with.

•••••••••••••••••••

PND FACTS & SUPPORT  

Post natal depression can affect anyone. 

• 10-15 in every 100 women become depressed after having a baby.

• men can also suffer postnatal depression. 

• you will not be judged by professionals and you most certainly will not loose your children. 

The 3 main types of treatment are:

  • self-help strategies
  • therapy
  • medication

Talk to your GP about the pros and cons of different treatments so you can decide together what’s best for you.

Your GP might also want to check your physical health to see if there are any problems that may need to be addressed as well. For instance, you may be anaemic after giving birth and that could add to any feelings of depression you might have.

Self-help

Looking after a baby can be stressful and challenging for anyone, and it can be even tougher if you’re dealing with postnatal depression as well.

There are a number of things you can try yourself to improve your symptoms and help you cope. These include:

  • talk to your partner, friends and family – try to help them understand how you’re feeling and what they can do to support you 
  • don’t try to be a “supermum” – accept help from others when it’s offered and ask your loved ones if they can help look after the baby and do tasks such as housework, cooking and shopping 
  • make time for yourself – try to do activities that you find relaxing and enjoyable, such as going for a walk, listening to music, reading a book or having a warm bath 
  • rest when you can – although it can be difficult when you’re looking after a baby, try to sleep whenever you get the chance, follow good sleeping habits and ask your partner to help with the night-time work 
  • exercise regularly – this has been shown to help boost mood in people with mild depression (read more about exercise for depression
  • eat regular, healthy meals and don’t go for long periods without eating 
  • don’t drink alcohol or take drugs, as this can make you feel worse 

Ask your health visitor about support services in your area. They may be able to put you in touch with a social worker, counsellor or local support group. It can be reassuring to meet other women who are going through something similar.

Psychological treatments

Psychological therapies are usually the first treatment recommended for women with postnatal depression.

Guided self-help

Guided self-help involves working through a book or online course on your own or with some help from a therapist.

The course materials focus on the issues you might be facing, with practical advice on how to deal with them.

The courses typically last 9 to 12 weeks.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy based on the idea that unhelpful and unrealistic thinking leads to negative behaviour. CBT aims to break this cycle and find new ways of thinking that can help you behave in a more positive way.

For example, some women have unrealistic expectations about what being a mum is like and feel they should never make mistakes. As part of CBT, you’ll be encouraged to see that these thoughts are unhelpful and discuss ways to think more positively. CBT can be carried out either one-to-one with a therapist or in a group. Treatment will often last 3 to 4 months. 

Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) involves talking to a therapist about the problems you’re experiencing. It aims to identify problems in your relationships with family, friends or partners and how they might relate to your feelings of depression. Treatment also usually lasts 3 to 4 months.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants may be recommended if you have moderate or severe depression and you don’t want to try psychological treatment or psychological treatment doesn’t help. 

They may also be used if you have mild postnatal depression and a history of depression. Antidepressants work by balancing mood-altering chemicals in your brain. They can help ease symptoms such as low mood, irritability, lack of concentration and sleeplessness, allowing you to function normally and helping you cope better with your new baby.

Antidepressants usually need to be taken for at least a week before the benefit starts to be felt, so it’s important to keep taking them even if you don’t notice an improvement straight away. You’ll usually need to take them for around 6 months after you start to feel better. If you stop too early, your depression may return.

Antidepressants and breastfeeding

If you’re breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about suitable medicines, as not all anti-depressants are safe to take while breastfeeding. Your doctor should explain any risks of taking antidepressants and you should be offered the type with the least risk for you and your baby. 

NHS.CO.UK

♥️ If you feel this way or anything similar, my inbox is always open. Please don’t be afraid. What you’re feeling is common but unfortunately not spoke about enough. ♥️ @soleytwinsandme

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