“I had perinatal depression because of my birth control”

Pregnancy depression is relatively unknown, but it affects one in 15 women in Singapore. Here is one mum’s story…

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“Almost three years ago I found out I was pregnant with my second child. It was definitely a joyous occasion and a cause for celebration.

The pregnancy wasn’t tough, but it wasn’t a walk in the park either. I was working full-time, taking care of my then 4-year-old son and had a lot of things going on in between. During my third trimester, my husband even left for a two-month work trip.

I was feeling really overwhelmed to say the least, but shrugged it off thinking it was normal for a second pregnancy. My little girl was born on August 2016. Unlike with my son, this time round, I had breastfeeding issues and my baby also had a tongue tie. All kinds of obstacles popped up and I told myself I just had to power through.  

However, by the time my maternity leave was coming to an end, I was feeling emotionally drained and numb. There were days when I couldn’t even get out of bed. My mood swings were also rather extreme ― when I was angry I was really angry and when I was sad I was really sad. I had all of these intense feelings I couldn’t control but at the same time, I wasn’t sure why I was feeling that way I did.

Finally, it was my husband who raised the red flag and told me I had to do something about my situation. He encouraged me to talk to my GP. When I went to see my doctor, I burst out crying when started telling her what I’ve been going through.  

It was a shocking realisation that something as normal as birth control could wreak havoc with my mental health. I felt like my body had failed me.”

After listening to me, she said it sounded like postpartum depression (PPD) and referred me to a therapist.

During my sessions, my therapist and traced back to when I started feeling the way I did. While working through it, we realised that it started around the time that my IUD was removed.

After the birth of my son, my husband and I decided to use an IUD as a form of birth control. It’s a popular brand, so I didn’t have any reservations about trying it. I used it for about three years, and during that time, I had no side effects.

When it was removed, I anticipated the usual side effects, like a heavier menstruation cycle. However, after talking about it with my therapist, I realised that the symptoms of depression started surfacing around that time as well.

I didn’t notice it because I got pregnant just two months after removing my IUD. So, all the hormones left in my body from the birth control might have clashed with my pregnancy hormones and made me feel the way I did.

Some research online confirmed my suspicion. There were other women out there who had also experienced depression as a side effect after going off their birth control. It wasn’t necessarily only the IUD, but also other forms, like the pill.

It was a shocking realisation that something as normal as birth control could wreak havoc with my mental health. I felt like my body had failed me.

Throughout my second pregnancy and right after, I felt like I was living under a fog. Everything was a blur and I was constantly, and considerably, more tired than with my first pregnancy. I also had trouble concentrating at work and was easily irritated.

I had all the typical symptoms of depression, but because it was masked with the pregnancy, I didn’t pay enough attention to it.  Since it was left untreated, my perinatal depression persisted and evolved into PPD, which is what I’m dealing with today.