My doctor wants to take away my estrogen.
OK, so I normally don't get into health issues -- let alone my plumbing issues -- here. Fear not; we're not going into the TMI zone. At least, not about my plumbing.
But holy heck! My estrogen??? C'mon, man! Clearly, she hates me.
But here's the thing: I'm having some issues relating to the plumbing that may be foreshadowing Big Changes to Come. But it's tough to tell, because I've been on the Pill for nearly my entire adult life. But in the last year, my blood pressure has crept up a bit, likely due to multiple factors we need not review here. Add to that the other, more delicate issues and it says only one thing: Get off the estrogen, Sister!
This sucks for me on multiple levels. Mostly, it scares me beyond reason. Not because I'm an addict or anything; I mean, estrogen is not like crack. But it's been my friend for a long time and in a lot of important ways.
Which gets to the "TMI" portion of the program.
This is about postpartum depression, which is one of the most under-reported, misunderstood and stigmatized forms of mental illness.
According to a number of studies that I will not cite properly here, about 15% of all pregnancies result in portpartum depression, ranging from garden-variety "baby blues" to full-blown postpartum psychosis. That's about 950,000 women a year in the US. Which is a lot. Like, 2% of all women in the country have this disorder at any given time. That's more than sprain their ankles each year. That's more than are diagnosed with breast cancer in a given year.
Are you surprised? I'm not. I was one of those women.
After the Bug was born, I struggled tremendously with feeling like I wanted to be a mother. On any given day, my thoughts would range from "Woe is me" to, "Hey, I'm gonna jump off the roof, mkay?" to "Hey, how about I take the baby and the two of us go drive off a bridge somewhere" to"I have a parasite and it's sucking out my life through my breasts." I cried constantly. I didn't sleep. Ever. When I had the knife in my hand, with the thought of removing the offending breasts from my body, my husband took the step of keeping someone in the house with me 24/7 while he went to work. Hoo, yeah. It was bumpy ride.
Enter my therapist and ethinyl estradiol. About a month after the Bug was born, she put me back on birth control pills.
36 hours later, it was like someone flicked a switch. I suddenly realized I had this incredibly cool little baby, and she was beautiful, and her little fingers and toes were adorable, and breast-feeding was totally awesome, and lookit how cute she is with her little face all squooshed up like that and...well you get the picture. I went from complete basket-case to absolutely loving being a mother. Literally overnight. So simple. But what if I hadn't had the presence of mind to ask for it?
This leads me to wonder about young women who don't have proper support from their families and friends. Who give birth alone, frightened, and with those demons circulating around. How do they get the help they need? Who keeps them from acting on those horrible thoughts? I am amazed and grateful to know that we have safe haven laws in this state and others, but I wonder how many of those abandoned children would have been able to stay with their mothers, if only their mothers had extra support and perhaps some hormone replacement.
I don't know why PPD is so much more prevalent in this country than others -- researchers cite, BPA, other environmental factors, the breakdown of the extended family, and a host of other potentially-contributing factors. I do know that as a society, we need to stop sweeping this condition under the rug and start giving these women the support they need.
I've been off the pill a few times in the intervening years, when we were trying to get pregnant. The world didn't come to an end. But the thought that it's time to bid them adieu, perhaps for a long haul, is fairly frightening. I sure hope I don't have to unpack that case of crazy again. Time will tell. In the meantime, I hope she gives me back my estrogen soon.