Mental health after pregnancy – my first month on Sertraline

Mental health after pregnancy – my first month on Sertraline

Since having Alex back in October 2016, I have learnt quite a bit about mental health. I have learnt that just because you haven’t experienced mental health problems in the past, that doesn’t mean you never will. I have discovered someone can outwardly seem like they are coping just fine but on the inside they are feeling unbearable pain they feel they must keep as a secret. One of my most recent learnings is that we can relapse and recovery is never as straight forward as we would hope.

In January, after months of feeling like my old self, I started to feel really low again. That familiar weight of sadness had crept back in and was resting, heavy and unwelcome on my shoulders. I had started to feel like I was loosing control of my thoughts again, anxiety was seeping through my mind and drowning my normal train of thought with terrifying ‘what ifs’ and worse case scenarios. Unlike when Alex was a newborn, I recognised something wasn’t right really quickly and after a week of daily crying sessions, I knew I needed to get to the doctors as soon as possible, suffering with post natal depression was without a doubt the hardest period in my life and I was not prepared to get dragged back down into the dark again.

Mental health after pregnancy – my first  month on Sertraline

After speaking with my husband Oli and spending a whole evening in tears, I phoned up the doctors the next day and made an appointment. When I was struggling with PND last year, I saw a couple of different GP’s and my health visitor but none of them were able to reassure me and make me feel better like the lovely lady I saw last month did. I always find it hard to talk to my doctor about mental health issues but I decided to focus on an empty chair across her office, just past her shoulder, and I opened up and pretended no one was listening.

I told the doctor how I was struggling with intrusive thoughts again, how the thoughts about something awful happening to the kids were still there but now I was also getting flashes of something else that was scaring me and making me fear I couldn’t trust myself. For weeks on end, whenever I was just happily going about my day, I kept having images pop into my mind of me killing myself: jumping in front of cars, cutting my wrists or overdosing. It is hard to explain what this experience was like; I don’t want to die, I love my kids, my husband, my friends and family and I do love my life – that is why I found these thoughts so terrifying. I was scared somewhere dark in my subconscious, I didn’t want to live anymore. What if these thoughts kept coming and one day I just stopped fighting them and accepted what they were showing me? What was the matter with me? Intrusive thoughts are a by product of anxiety but also do a fantastic job at making you feel incredibly anxious. I explained all this to the doctor, finishing by telling her I just want my normal happy brain back.

mum-and-son-sertraline

Genuine smiles with my beautiful boy

My amazing doctor listened, told me that being a mum is incredibly difficult and so many of us suffer from heightened anxiety when we become parents. She even went as far as to tell me that every single person will think about killing themselves at some point, even if it is just one fleeting moment and then the thought is forgotten about, life can feel too overwhelming for all of us at times. I was prescribed Sertraline, a common SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) anti depressant. My dosage is one 50mg tablet a day and the doctor was confident they would help in reducing my anxiety (therefore hopefully stopping it becoming so overwhelming I become depressed again) and that after 4 weeks I should start to notice a positive difference.

First few days on Sertraline

I take my tablet every night before I go to bed. You can take it any time during the day but I was worried about it making me feel sick and decided that if I took it just before going to sleep, I wouldn’t notice any of the potential nausea. The first morning after taking it I woke up with a killer headache. I had a piercing pain above my left eye and it lasted for most of the day. I immediately put this down to the tablets but it could just have easily been a coincidence as it hasn’t happened since. That first day I also just felt a bit off, I wouldn’t go as far as to say I felt ‘high’ but I just didn’t feel right, a bit dizzy and off balance at times. Again, this hasn’t happened since so I can’t be sure if it was the Sertraline or if I was just a bit unwell that day.

The second night, I got into bed, grabbed my glass of water and my tablet and had a bit of a wobble. I felt scared, these pills I was going to be taking for the next few months were doing stuff to my mind, they were going to change how I think and alter actual chemicals in my brain. Although all the changes were going to be for the better, I couldn’t help but freak out and I considered just stopping them before I had even really begun. Oli had a word with me though and, as always, managed to calm me down and help me see things clearly. He pointed out that I have not been opposed to putting things into my body in the past that have mind altering abilities. I mean, how many times did I used to go out drinking when I was younger and loose pretty much all control of my mind? We’ve all done it and not given it a second thought, well, until the next morning when we wake up with a horrendous hangover that is. I quickly pushed my fear of the anti depressants aside and started to see them as the helping hand that they are, instead of something to fear.

Sertraline side effects

I can’t tell you what they side effects of Sertraline are as I have been advised by my doctor not to read them. I am actually really grateful she told me not to look as I know what I am like, I would have read them all and then been overanalysing every little change in my body, blaming all the negatives on the tablets and maybe even convincing myself to stop taking them ‘just in case’ I suffered any of the bad side effects. Despite not actually knowing what the common side effects of Sertraline are, here is a list of some of the things I have experienced since I started taking the tablets

  • Increased appetite
  • Difficulty falling back to sleep if I wake in the night
  • Jaw clenching
  • Exhaustion
  • Nausea

If I don’t put on about a stone by the time I finish taking these anti depressants then I will be very surprised, I seriously can’t stop eating. I never feel full anymore and could easily snack the whole day away if I allowed myself. I have normally been really good with my diet, 3 healthy meals a day and maybe a couple of snacks but that’s it. Now I am hungry again half an hour after a meal and could probably eat two lots of tea each night if I allowed myself. I am trying to keep an eye on what I am eating though as I don’t want to end up feeling miserable because I’ve put on too much weight.

If one of the kids wakes me up in the night I really struggle to get back to sleep once I have settled them. This never used to be a problem, I have always been able to switch off the second my head hits the pillow. Now, if I am woken in the night then my brain goes into overdrive and sometimes I feel as though if Oli was awake he would be able to hear all my thoughts whizzing around. I am very lucky that both my boys, for the most part, sleep through the night and I don’t have to deal with this problem too often.

A couple days into taking Sertraline I noticed I was clenching my jaw quite a lot and it was aching most of the time. I did turn to doctor Google for this and apparently jaw clenching and joint pain is common when taking anti depressants. I am not really sure why this side effect occurs but it has settled down now and I am not finding myself unconsciously clenching my jaw as often. As for the exhaustion and nausea, this was so bad in the first couple of weeks that I actually took a pregnancy test as the last time I felt that tired and sick was when I was pregnant with Alex. For the record, I am not pregnant, I think the tiredness and sicky feeling must have been due to the tablets and I am pleased than this has passed now, falling asleep on the sofa in the afternoon is not ideal when you have two little boys to look after.

How I feel after a month on Sertraline 

I have just finished my first month on Sertraline and according to my doctor I should be starting to feel some of the benefits by now. Apart from one awful night where every time I tried to go back to sleep all I could see was me taking a knife to my wrists, like something from a horror film, my intrusive thoughts have rapidly diminished. For over a year, not a day would go by that I didn’t have a disturbing thought about something awful happening to the boys, myself or my family and over the last few weeks, there haven’t been any. Alex had a meningitis scare and for the whole 4 days he was in hospital, my mind didn’t once start conjuring up all the worst case scenarios and I surprised myself at how well I managed to keep my anxiety about his wellbeing at bay and just focus on getting him better.

I have even purposefully been trying to think of all the things that would usually trigger my anxiety, as an experiment to see if my brain is starting to change how it works. When I allow myself to think of the things that would normally scare me, now I just sort of feel nothing, numb I guess would be the best way to describe it. I am finding it all really strange if I am honest, how just a month a go just thinking about driving over a bridge was enough to get my heart racing and make me feel hot and sick because I was terrified the car was going to somehow go veering over the edge and the kids were going to drown. But now, when I think about driving over a bridge, it just feels like nothing, my body doesn’t start freaking out and my mind doesn’t start catastrophizing and immediately assuming the worst is going to happen. To not have to deal with the physical and mental effects of anxiety every single day is such a welcome relief and makes me wish I hadn’t waited so long to get the help I so obviously needed.

The first couple of weeks taking anti depressants weren’t exactly fun. The side effects, while not completely debilitating, were an uncomfortable inconvenience but definitely worth persevering through as now I am in a place where I am beginning to feel the benefits from taking the anti depressants. I had a review appointment with my doctor, she is pleased with how things are going, has prescribed me another 6 weeks worth of Sertraline and encouraged me to read some self help books about overcoming anxiety using CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) methods. I have two books I loaned from the library that are pretty heavy going to read but are really helping me to understand more about what anxiety actually is and how to change the way I think to help me overcome it. I don’t want to be taking anti depressants forever and I think it is really important for me to learn some coping strategies in case I start to feel overly anxious again in the future.

me and alex 2

I am looking forward to more happy, care free days like this one.

Did you suffer with any mental health issues after pregnancy? Have you ever taken anti depressants, what was your experience like? I think it is really important to have open and honest conversations about mental health, we can only raise awareness and break the stigma if more of us share our experiences. If you are comfortable to do so, I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments.

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If you feel like you may be suffering with post natal depression here is a list of resources and charities that can help and support you.

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If you enjoyed reading this post you may also like to read..

Social media made my anxiety and post natal depression worse

14 things you can do to become a happier and more positive mum 

The day I asked for help

Mental health after pregnancy – it’s time I came clean

Reflecting on the darkest days

Post natal depression, it’s not how I imagined

When you have post natal depression at Christmas

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mental health after pregnancy my first month on anti depressants

 

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33 Comments

  1. March 6, 2018 / 8:03 am

    Oh Wendy. You poor thing. This is a truly inspirational post because it is so truthful. You will be helping so many other mums (and dads) by writing this so well done you for being so honest. I can’t imagine how difficult the last few months have been with everything and I’m sending you ((hugs)) and best wishes. Hopefully after the cold and snow you shall have sunshine. Xxx #triumphanttales
    Sophie recently posted…Why does my child tip-toe? Understanding sensory needs in young children.My Profile

  2. March 7, 2018 / 9:19 am

    Well done for writing and for sharing this. And just know that I totally know what you’re going through and things will get better. Citalopram – the anti-depressant I first took after my breakdown changed my life beyond belief. If you ever want to talk then just get in touch. #BloggersBest

  3. March 7, 2018 / 8:49 pm

    Amazing post, well done for being so open and honest and there is no shame asking for support nor is there shame taking meds to help. I think it is best to be honest and open. Lovely post and hope the meds are helping now, thanks for linking up to the #bloggersbests

  4. March 7, 2018 / 10:49 pm

    This was a great post lovely! 🙂 Thank you for being so brave and honest about your experience. This is the kind of post that makes a difference to somebody going through this but who hasn’t had the courage to do anything about it! I went through the same thing after my little boy was born. He was very premature and spent many months in hospital before coming home with all sorts of equipment and medication. It was terrifying and completely overwhelming for me – an already super emotional person. I had to eventually go to my doctor and ask for help, and I’m happy to say it’s made such a difference. Well done to you for getting help and for spreading awareness of this issue! 🙂 You’ve got a new follower! x

  5. March 8, 2018 / 4:02 pm

    Good on you for sharing. I take sertraline too. I struggled with my mental health during my second pregnancy and I’m still taking the meds now, 7 years later. They keep me going, alongside talking and sharing my anxieties. Hang in there and always be willing to talk. #Coolmumclub

  6. March 8, 2018 / 8:09 pm

    Oh Wendy, I salute your openness and honesty – and this is exactly the kind of thing society needs to undo the stigma attached to mental health.
    I have had a rough couple of weeks with the kids, hubby working away or late, generally feeling pretty bogged down with life as a stay at home mum. Reading this has made me worry a little – what if I am depressed? At this point I think I’m probably just a bit fed up, having a touch of S.A.D and in need of a break, but I will definitely keep an eye on my mood. Thank you. xx
    And thank you for linking to #coolmumclub
    MMT recently posted…#CoolMumClub Linky week 94My Profile

  7. March 9, 2018 / 4:21 pm

    Thanks for posting this Wendy! I had PPD after my son was born (Feb 2016) and experienced pretty much the same thing. The intrusive thoughts about death and suicide were absolutely horrible. It was all horrible, and so hard to explain to other people. I started Effexor shortly after his birth but it really started working after I hit the right dose the following August. I’m now finally feeling like it’s gone, but completely terrified of it coming back. I’m so glad you talked about the super ugly side of this – I was very ashamed of my thoughts and felt no one really even wanted me to talk about it. I think it’s good for people to hear other moms talking about it so they know that these thoughts are NOT who you are. And it’s not something you want or can control. It’s just part of the illness and there is help and recovery. Sending you many hugs!

  8. March 10, 2018 / 8:46 am

    You are so strong Wendy, and write so honestly. I’m glad the medication is working for you – my family has a history of depression on both sides so I’m no stranger to anti-depressants. We happily take painkillers for physical pain, and sometimes we’ve got to take pills for mental pain too. So much love <3 #TheSatSesh

  9. March 10, 2018 / 9:44 am

    What a really honest and brave post. Thanks for sharing how you feel. And hope you start to feel better soon x
    #thesatsesh

  10. March 10, 2018 / 5:27 pm

    Wendy I’m so sorry to read about how you’ve been struggling and I can completely relate. Post natal mental health is something that we need to be open and honest about as so many people are suffering in silence. I really respect you for sharing your experience as it does help to know that we aren’t on our own with this. Thank you for sharing with #DreamTeam xx
    Rhyming with Wine recently posted…#DreamTeam Linky – Week 96My Profile

  11. March 10, 2018 / 10:04 pm

    I am really sorry that you are going through this.

    My sister was diagnosed with severe post-natal depression and anxiety after the birth of my niece. She ended up in a mum and baby unit (a hospital ward for mothers with severe PND and their babies) and was there for 10 weeks. She was not allowed to leave unaccompanied because she was a threat to herself.

    She was on sertraline and another drug (I forget the name) which was an anti-psychotic drug. A year has passed now and she is out of hospital and off both of the drugs. She gets a lot of exercise and she is studying for a PHD at University. She has a new focus and it’s great, but God it was hard, for all of us.

    I really hope that you get better soon. Depression is such a b***h.

    Pen x #thesatsesh
    Pen recently posted…What can you do for International Women’s Day ? #IWD2018My Profile

  12. March 11, 2018 / 8:07 am

    This is truly heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. I’m so sad that you are struggling but so glad you have taken the steps to get help. And how brave you are to share your story, I hope others who are struggling with depression can find some help from this blog. #DreamTeam

  13. March 12, 2018 / 1:40 pm

    This is such an informative post and I’m sure it will help someone else in need. I’m so sorry that you’ve been experiencing these thoughts, but its inspiring that you seeked help and are now starting to feel a bit better 🙂
    Helen recently posted…PARENTHOOD: Taking Charge of your own HappinessMy Profile

  14. March 12, 2018 / 8:56 pm

    Wendy this is a fabulous post for anyone who is contemplating going on Sertraline or anti-depressants in general. We definitely need to talk more about this stuff! I’m so pleased you’re feeling better. I remember the nausea for the first few weeks but that did pass. The increased appetite never passed for me I’m afraid and I did put on over a stone but do you know what – it was worth it as I felt soooo much better and I did start to have more healthier snacks ready rather than just grabbing sugary treats! I really hope the low mood continues to lift and am pleased the intrusive thoughts have started to lessen already. Sending lots of love xx #thesatsesh xx
    Hayley @ Mission: Mindfulness recently posted…The Saturday Sesh #26My Profile

  15. March 12, 2018 / 9:18 pm

    Oh, Wendy, I am so pleased this has worked out for you. Our minds are funny things and it sounds like you have really been through it. I think there has been such a stigma in the past about taking anti-depressants but having seen my husband suffer from depression and my Mum struggle after Cancer, there is nothing wrong with giving yourself a little helping hand. We would take a paracetamol for a headache, after all. Good for you for raising the awareness and I hope you continue to feel much better. Thanks for sharing at #TriumphantTales.

  16. March 13, 2018 / 1:06 am

    Such a beautifully written and honest post. I have so much admiration for you for being so open and honest and talking about everything you have been through. So many people will relate to what you are going through but not everyone has the courage to talk about it. xx

  17. March 13, 2018 / 11:02 am

    I used to be in an abusive relationship and never really understood that. My mental health got so bad and my anxiety attacks stopped me from leaving the house and sometimes even going to work. I took Sertaline and it was a god send to me. I understand what you say when you purposefully try to trick your mind into getting triggered and instead you just feel a numb sort of indifference. I had PND after my son was born and I know I should have started up again, but I was still with the same man and it was all awful. I regret not doing what would have been best for me and my son, but we all lived to tell the tale…just about. Now I still get episodes, it never really leaves you. #CoolMumClub

  18. March 13, 2018 / 12:26 pm

    I’ve been seeing a counselor for anxiety for the past few months as I really struggle with the ‘worst case scenario’ thinking and working myself up over things which may never happen. I also put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect and beat myself up a lot when I get things wrong. It is helping a lot and I am openly telling people about my experience in the hope it may help someone reach our for support.

  19. March 13, 2018 / 2:46 pm

    I had PND with my first which was treated & I’ve just had my baby boy a few weeks ago & so far, so good. I dread having to go back on the tablets as they made me feel so ill for a while – I’m glad you’re starting to feel the benefits of them now 🙂 X

  20. March 13, 2018 / 3:42 pm

    I have never been pregnant but nevertheless I can definitely relate to this post a lot as I am also someone who has depression and anxiety and it can definitely be difficult to deal with the intrusive thoughts that you can get on a daily basis . I am very proud of you for being so open and honest about your struggles as I can imagine that PND is so difficult to deal with but I know that you will be able to help so many others who have been in your shoes as well.

  21. March 13, 2018 / 8:04 pm

    I’m in my fourth month of Sertraline and oh the jaw clenching! For the first 3 weeks I felt like I spent the whole day with a clenched jaw. I couldn’t control it! I’m glad the tablets are helping you. xx

  22. March 13, 2018 / 11:19 pm

    I’m no doctor so take this with a pinch of salt but it sounds like the tablets are working for you, which is great news. You’re very brave to both share how you really feel with the doctor and then with your readers, this will without a doubt help others who feel the same.
    Laura Haley recently posted…Empowered Women And The Rise Of The Self-Love Ring  My Profile

  23. March 14, 2018 / 9:22 pm

    #thesatsesh okay, i had admiration for you (as you know) when you were in hospital with your little dude, but juggling this as well – you’re my new hero! You are totally rocking at life and I love your honest and open post. Keep writing about your progress and I hope you find something that can drive you further forward in the long run…totes proud of you huni…another reason to celebrate perhaps?
    fridgesays recently posted…Ssshhh I’m hiding from negative peopleMy Profile

  24. March 16, 2018 / 10:29 am

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling. So brave of you to share your story. I struggled after my first baby was born, and wish there had been more openness about maternal mental health issues back then.

  25. April 21, 2018 / 10:47 pm

    Awww girl, I support you in your mental health journey! I can’t relate to the PND (as I have yet to be pregnant), but I’ve suffered with chronic anxiety and depression my whole life. Something I highly recommend is yoga and meditation/deep breathing (search “Yoga with Adriene” on Youtube, she’s amazing!). It literally changed my life and the more you do it the better you get at it. It really helps teach you to observe your thoughts non-judgementally (kind of like watching TV), and even get control of them. It’s definitely worth a try. I strongly believe mental health challenges are opportunities to make ourselves stronger. Take time to love yourself girl. I wish you the best. xx

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