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8 Most Common Signs of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

8 Most Common Signs of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Dr. Kristin Lasseter writes about common signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety.

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When To Stop An Antidepressant after Postpartum Depression

When To Stop An Antidepressant after Postpartum Depression

Dr. Kristin Lasseter discusses stopping an antidepressant after postpartum depression

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The Truth About Breastfeeding

The Truth About Breastfeeding

Dr. Nichelle Haynes tells you the truth about breastfeeding.

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Mental Wellness in a Pandemic

Mental Wellness in a Pandemic

Learn what normal stress looks like during a pandemic versus mental illness, and a guide for the best way to make it through this time mentally well.

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All About Caffeine

All About Caffeine

Dr. Nichelle Haynes provides you with information about caffeine.

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BIPOC Mental Health

BIPOC Mental Health

Ayisha Mahama, Dell Medical School, Class of 2023 writes about BIPOC Mental Health.

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Happiness is Contagious

Happiness is Contagious

Dr. Haynes writes a post about happiness in her home.

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The Truth About Antidepressants

The Truth About Antidepressants

In the era of Google, there is a massive amount of information available about antidepressants. Even for a medical professional, it can be daunting to know what’s real and what’s not. Considering this decision can impact the lifelong health of a baby though, it’s important to be informed.

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7 Tips for Online Therapy

7 Tips for Online Therapy

7 tips for online therapy

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Infertility and Mental Health; 3 Common Challenges and How to Cope

Infertility and Mental Health; 3 Common Challenges and How to Cope

1 out of 8 couples will experience infertility on their family planning journey1. If you find yourself here, I’m sorry for the painful and probably unexpected turn life has taken. Whether you’re a weathered traveler or just getting started on this path, you’ve likely encountered feelings of grief, anxiety, or isolation. There’s no way around it, infertility is hard and can impact mental health in significant ways. As a reproductive therapist who works with individuals experiencing infertility, I hope to describe 3 particular challenges I hear repeated in my work as well as a few strategies that can be helpful in coping and caring for your mental wellness.

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How do you know if it’s postpartum depression or regular depression?

How do you know if it’s postpartum depression or regular depression?

How do you know if it’s postpartum depression or regular depression? This is a common question I get from my patients, and it’s a great opportunity to talk about postpartum depression. By Kristin Lasseter, MD

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The Cloaked Depression of Fatherhood

The Cloaked Depression of Fatherhood

The Cloaked Depression of Fatherhood Helping Fathers Overcome Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPD) Fatherhood is an incredible gift! Some fathers or birth partners can experience something called Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPD). By Simon Niblock, MA, LMFT

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When Mother's Day Hurts

When Mother's Day Hurts

When Mother's Day HurtsWhen Mother’s Day Hurts“There is, I am convinced, no picture that conveys in all itsdreadfulness, a vision of sorrow, despairing, remediless, supreme.If I could paint such a picture, the canvas would show onlya woman looking down at her empty arms.”-Charlotte BronteAs Mother’s Day approaches, I’ve been speaking with several of my clients who’ve struggled to become mothers and/or have lost a child in utero about what this day means to them and how they feel. I’d like to share some of the themes that have emerged through our discussions. Unfair. For many women, the veneration of mothers on this day is deeply painful. Feelings of anger, irritation, envy, and confusion arise. Why me? Why haven’t I become a mother after so much effort? Why did I lose this much sought-after pregnancy? The women I see in my practice have typically spent months, sometimes years, trying to birth a healthy baby. They may have sacrificed tremendous time, energy, and spent the reserves of their emotional and financial resources to try to conceive. They may have given birth and held a dead baby in their arms. The legacy of their losses becomes their new reality, and they must learn to navigate the world with the constant presence of someone’s absence. This, my friends, is unfair. Isolation. Infertility and/or pregnancy loss is often a silent struggle. Research reports that women who are struggling to become mothers experience increased feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, shame, guilt, and loss of control. Depression levels in people with infertility have even been compared with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, and couples tend to report that infertility or pregnancy loss have been the “most difficult” events in their lives thus far. This silent sorority of women is estimated to affect 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married) who struggle to get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy (Rooney & Domar, 2018). That’s roughly the size California, folks! And yet, we don’t talk about it enough, and that’s especially true for men. Sadly, when these discussions do come up, well intended yet uninformed family, friends, or coworkers can say thoughtless, hurtful comments. This can further the cycle of silence. Grief/Loss. If you wonder what that constant tension is in your body, that heavy feeling that sits on your chest – it’s grief. Feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, fear – all different colors of grief expressed. Loss is ever present in the stories of those struggling to create their families, and it doesn’t just disappear when a baby arrives. For some of my clients, the losses can be layered, so let’s take a look at some of them:What’s been lost?Loss of the experience of pregnancy and birth – you feel you are missing out on one of the most miraculous events of lifeLoss of sense of belonging – you don’t quite fit amongst your friends, family, or society at largeLoss of being in control – of your body – of your life. This wasn’t how it was supposed to beLoss of feeling healthy and normal – your identity shifts from “healthy person” to “infertility patient”Loss of feeling competent – you feel you can no longer achieve what you set out to doLoss of sexual intimacy, identity, and privacy – what had been the most private and intimate acts is now publicThe Eagles band has a song titled “Hole in the World” and I think it certainly applies here - -There's a hole in the world tonightThere's a cloud of fear and sorrowThere's a hole in the world tonightDon't let there be a hole in the world tomorrowIdentity Disruption. Talking with a client who had experienced three recurrent pregnancy losses in the recent past, she noted how her relationship to mother’s day had not transitioned the way she expected, from honoring your mother figure to honoring yourself as a mother. She further described feeling excluded from parenthood and being relegated to still sit at the “kid’s table.” For so many women, they had constructed (whether conscious or unconscious) a reproductive narrative, a story of the family they would have one day and the role they would play in that family. And this story can be largely influenced by the dominant cultural narrative regarding becoming an adult – separating from your parents, establishing your own residence, taking responsibility for your life, and creating your own family. Being denied these important rites of passage and roles can be experienced as an existential crisis. Who am I? Where do I belong?Heroism. The people that I’ve had the privilege to work with during their parenting journey are nothing short of courageous as they attempt to create life against the odds. Some of those people came home with a baby, while others made the heartbreaking decision to be childless due to financial constraints and/or unwillingness to undergo fertility treatments. Some of them only have pictures of the child that never breathed air. As Dr. Ilona Laszlo Higgins expressed in her book “Creating Life Against the Odds,”The struggle of these individuals to create and nurture children goes well beyond the desire to produce a new generation in one’s own image, or to have a living repository for one’s inheritance. It is about the sense of completion that comes from the conscious commitment to be responsible for the well being of another. It is the wisdom that comes from the ashes of loss, translated into new life. (Intended) parents such as these set an example for all of us about the hard work of love. I couldn’t agree more. Society often pathologizes and judges the lengths these folks go to in order to become parents. I’ve had several clients exclaim, “I would never do that,” and then when faced with no other alternative, start down the path they said they would never go. To me, these individuals aren’t crazy, they’re heroes. They are willing to recreate their story and consider what could be versus what should have been. They grieve their losses and nurture their wounds, then carry on. On this day, it is my hope you can do the following for yourself:Practice being with grief, in whatever form it takes, unconditionally and nonjudgmentally. Be with your deeply wounded self.Acknowledge that there’s a missing piece to your life puzzle. A hole in your world.Take good care of yourself. Far from being selfish, self-care in grief is courageous.Forgive yourself. You did nothing wrong. Create a ritual to acknowledge what or who is missing. Write a letter, bury an object, say a prayer, light a candle, carry flowers, whatever honors the void. Ritual acts, whether private or public, are ways in which we give way to the feelings of love, pain, and connection. References/Recommended further readings:Cacciatore, J. (2017). Bearing the unbearable: love, loss, and the heartbreaking path of grief. Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA. Fast Facts About Infertility. Available at: http://www.resolve.org/about/fast-facts-about-fertility.html. Resolve: The National Fertility Association. Higgins, I. L. (2006). Creating life against the odds: the journey from infertility to parenthood. Xlibris Corporation. Jaffe, J., Diamond, M., & Diamond, D. (2005). Unsung lullabies: understanding and coping with infertility. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY. Rooney, K. & Domar, A. (2018). Dialogues Clin Neurosci. Mar; 20(1): 41–47.‍

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Black Maternal Health Week

Black Maternal Health Week

Written by Nichelle Haynes, DO, this blog post intends to amplify the voices of Black people in our community and provide you with resources for ways to support Black people around you.

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Planning Ahead for Postpartum Wellness

Planning Ahead for Postpartum Wellness

Written by: Emily Obront, LMSW, Certified Doula Caring for ourselves during the fourth trimester and beyond should not be an afterthought. In order to cope with the intense hormonal shifts and stressors of postpartum, we must provide our bodies with the necessary foundation from which to function.

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Making Sense of the Storm

Making Sense of the Storm

Written by Grace Rao, LMSW Many of us experienced a once-in-a-generation snow and ice storm last week. Like a slow moving train derailment, the storm caused a domino effect of consequences.

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Pelvic Pain

Pelvic Pain

Written by: Michael Balat, MD Suffering from pelvic pain is more common than most believe, or want to admit. Nearly 25% of reproductive-aged women are affected by chronic pelvic pain.

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Breaking Down the Stigma of Electroconvulsive Therapy

Breaking Down the Stigma of Electroconvulsive Therapy

Written By Kristin Lasseter MD I recall the first time that I saw a patient get electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. It is so vivid in my memory not because it was anything to remember, but because it was so uneventful.

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Connection over Perfection in the Parent-Child Relationship

Connection over Perfection in the Parent-Child Relationship

Written By: Grace Rao, LMSW If you carry the burden of perfectionism in parenting, know that you are not alone, but in the company of caregivers trying their best all over the world. Fortunately, science shows that parenting mistakes are not only inevitable, but actually helpful and necessary in building a strong parent-child connection and resilient kids!

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Womb to Tomb: Accepting Yourself Through Infertility and Pregnancy Loss

Womb to Tomb: Accepting Yourself Through Infertility and Pregnancy Loss

By Sarah Rivers Deal, PhD, LPC With Perinatal Loss month in October, I wanted to introduce myself through this blog as well as cast a light in the often dark places that hold this kind of silent, disenfranchised grief. As a psychotherapist that specializes and has been trained in infertility counseling, I too experienced my own reproductive trauma. Five years of fertility and alternative medicine treatments yielded a roller coaster of emotions, existential crises, and ultimately, two small graves in our back yard. Allow me to share something I wrote after my first miscarriage. We read to know that we are not alone – and – you are not alone. If you’re like me, the struggle to create life took over my life. It was all I thought out, dreamt about, planned for, spoke about, made exceptions for, ate for, stopped drinking my favorite red wine for – you name it. Life became hinged on hypotheticals – What if we get pregnant after I accept this new position? What if I accept this invitation then can’t travel in a few months because I’m pregnant? Should we buy the house in the better school district or wait until little one is here? What if little one never gets here? As much as I tried to balance my life, infertility crept in at every turn. In her insightful memoir, The Art of Waiting, Belle Boggs describes this all-consuming experience, calling it the Take Over – “…the problem with infertility is that it is not a patient, serene kind of waiting, not a simple delay in your plans; it happens for many of us in the context of consuming struggle, staggering expense, devastating loss.” Deciding to pursue fertility treatments put my barrenness on the front burner, making it difficult to escape. After five years in fertility clinics, more people had seen my vagina than the inside of my home. What was supposed to be private and magical between my partner and I was now public and scientific. All around me, women were “blessed” with babies, flaunting them as little “miracles.” These terms are especially painful for those struggling to conceive, as it implies that certain people are chosen while others are not. As much as I tried to participate in the world, being around pregnant women or infants was hazardous to my mental health. I remember attending my first baby shower in several years, believing I was safe now because my partner and I were months away from our daughter (by way of adoption) being born. Hope had begun to blossom again in my heart, as I believed that soon I would be a mom too. While I was emotionally prepared for my friend Serena to be eight months pregnant (after years of trying and two miscarriages), I wasn’t informed that the shower host was visibly pregnant too, and to boot – after only one round of I.V.F. with the same doctor I used. As we munched on our blue painted cookies shaped like pacifiers, I learned that the champagne drinking host had a 9-year-old son already, and became recently engaged after finding out about the pregnancy. I wish I could say I genuinely celebrated her happy news, but on the inside, I was fuming. On the drive home, with no other car in sight, I blasted the radio and screamed bloody murder. Despite various challenging life experiences up to this point, I still somehow believed in the concept of justice – a philosophy of how fairness is administered. To put it simply, it seemed unfair to me that this host woman was pregnant and going to be a mom – for the second time – and all I had to show were memorial stones in my yard commemorating two pregnancy losses. Unfair that I had earned high marks for effort and still wasn’t getting to graduate. Unfair that I wasn’t stroking my own belly, marveling at the miracle of science and creation itself. Infertility or perinatal loss may be experienced as an existential crisis, planting seeds of doubt in life questions you thought you had basically addressed, figured out, or had plenty of time to answer. What legacy will I leave behind? Who will carry on my values? Who will remember me after I’m gone? Am I broken? Dr. Anne Malavé, mental health expert in the field of infertility, wrote – “Infertility is like trying to find your children. The child, the imagined and expected child whose presence is palpable yet missing, feels near. It feels like searching for a lost child–you keep looking and searching around every corner. To stop trying can feel like an abandonment of an actual baby, of “my/our own baby.” Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos in her raw, genuine book Silent Sorority, poignantly captures this existential crisis – “One instant you are like everyone else. The next, you’re not. Your DNA now ends with you. You are infertile. Your branch of the family tree will forever be just a truncated twig. You’ve been denied a rite of passage, a biological imperative. You had no say in the matter. It wasn’t a conscious choice. The comfortable sense of continuity and legacy others take for granted disappears in an instant.” After experiencing perinatal loss in 1999, Amy Douglas poetically wrote: “A life inside me, a love so strong. She died inside me, but the love lives on. It broke my heart for her to go. I love her, I need her like she’ll never know.” If infertility and/or pregnancy loss have ever been downplayed as a less significant human loss, Tsigdinos, Malavé, and Douglas legitimize the profound aftershocks of devastation experienced by those affected. From my personal and professional experience, I want you to know that the takeover is part of the journey. Well- meaning partners and friends might advise you to find a hobby to try to get your mind off of it, to relax, but that probably won’t help. It IS where you are right now, and that’s okay. Most people will be uncomfortable with your discomfort, and you’ll likely receive your fair share of unsolicited and unhelpful advice. Being the recipient of said advice, I tried to remind myself to listen to their intentions, not words. Week after week, clients that struggled with infertility would say something like – “These next few weeks I want to focus on my work and getting back into exercise” or “I want to start hanging out with my friends again and expanding my social circle.” We would set vague or concrete goals, depending on the client, and vow to focus on balance and self-care. And then, week after week, these same clients would come in ashamed, embarrassingly admitting that even if they did go to the gym or see an old friend, the ghost of infertility haunted them. They wanted to be more present in the here-and-now, they really did. Although I truly believe the takeover must run its course, there may be some coping skills and strategies to help it along. And I’m certain that whatever I tell you won’t always work. Some days the takeover will allow some wiggle room to remember the other aspects of your life; other days – it won’t. If you’ve felt quite low more days than not, and for an extended period of time, please check it out with a doctor. I will share with you the most salient professional (and personal) guidance here, and hope that on a few days, it might help. But please, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t. Honor the takeover, but also look for windows where you can see the larger picture. 1. Do something that has direct, observable results. You likely have felt powerless for a while. I want to you to do something, no matter how simple, where you can see results. Start with something easy. Make your bed. If you feel relatively competent cooking, use a recipe to create something, then share it with someone. Plant something that you can watch grow. Start with a plant that’s native and more likely to survive; you do not need a failure right now. Rearrange furniture in your space; a new look often evokes new feelings. 2. Practice Self-Compassion Breaks. I adopted this idea from the lovely Dr. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher and professor from my town in Austin, Texas. Here’s the step-by-step process: a) When you notice that the Take Over has happened, say to yourself: “This is a moment of suffering” or “This hurts.” (It may help to place one hand over your heart = self-soothing gesture) b) Then say, “Suffering is a part of life.” c) Then, “May I give myself the compassion or understanding that I need right now.” Then breathe in and out, consciously and with intention. 3. Mindfulness (paying attention on purpose) is an Eastern practice, but its application has hit Western shores, and I’m a firm believer that it’s a necessary healing tool in your toolbox. You can become a conscious consumer of your mind, observing with a curious and gentle sense what’s going on in there. None of us would believe that a face cream could make us look a certain way after a few applications. However, we often experience our thoughts as facts, then experience powerful emotions as a result. It’s important to get some space from our thoughts, and see them for what they are – potentially unhelpful narratives. Use the letters N-N-R to remember the steps: a) Notice. Your mind is an active, interesting narrator that tries to piece information together but often falls short. Become a neutral, curious observer of your mind. Think of it as a radio, always playing music (some songs on repeat). b) Name (thoughts, feelings, body sensations, urges). For example, you may be ruminating (circular thinking that goes nowhere except down) something like “It’s not fair Tamara is pregnant. She didn’t even want another baby” and so on. As soon as you notice you’re stuck on a loop, say to yourself – “That’s a thought” You may notice tightness in your chest. Ask yourself what your feeling. Then say, “I’m having a feeling of sadness.” Noticing and naming gives you critical space to honor what’s going on with you without letting it suck you in automatically. c) Re-engage: Get back to what you were doing before you got caught in the loop. Re-engage in the moment. 4. Make a playlist or soundtrack for various themes throughout your fertility/infertility journey. For example, weeks before my 2nd I.V.F. transfer, I made a compilation of uplifting songs, burned them on a CD that I titled “Hope,” and played it every chance I got. A week after my first miscarriage, I made another playlist, calling it “Coping.” These songs were instrumental in helping me process the often contradictory emotions I experienced. Your body’s limitations don’t define you. Focus on what your body CAN do for you right now. Can you walk, jog, skip, hop, swim, or hug someone? It’s easy and completely understandable to get caught on a failure-loop narrative. But you’re not a failure. This is your roadblock, your life challenge, your grief and sorrow, your call to action. Answer the call, my friends. Above all, be patient with yourself. You are not alone. (Originally written September 2017; Revised September 2020) Dr. Sarah Rivers Deal is an Austin-based licensed professional counselor that specializes in infertility and reproductive trauma. She’s a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and has participated in numerous trainings on infertility counseling and perinatal loss.

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