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Bitching is good for you.

Loss of interest in hobbies or goals, lack of all positive emotions, and contemplation of death.

That’s how some women describe the experience of postpartum depression. (Also …loneliness…loss of control, guilt, diminished concentration, fear that life would never be normal again...)

I read somewhere that women who have gone through infertility are some-shocking-percent more likely to experience postpartum depression, and I’ve become increasingly curious about that vaguely-remembered claim. So I decided to find out more. ‘Cause Lord knows what I need to be doing with my time is reading about depression.

I didn’t find any evidence of an increased rate of PPD in the previously infertile (or subfecund–don’t you love that one?) relative to the rest of the population, even in a meta-review (i.e., a summary of a whole bunch of studies). I found one study that compares depression scores in an infertile population pre and post baby, and finds no change. However, that study made an interesting suggestion. The researchers found that this population had decreased marital satisfaction post birth (no shit–that presumably applies to all women, not just the subfecund), and also an increase in something called the “divided self”. This is a phenomenon where you act like you’re all happy while actually feeling like shit, resulting in dissonance. The women who scored high on measures of this phenomenon also scored high on depression measures. Here’s how the article puts it:

The researchers can’t claim that a divided self leads to depression, and the study didn’t compare this measure in fertile and infertile women, but here’s what I take from it. I’ve watched many of you struggle with your feelings post-pregnancy (witness Al‘s lovely post about her sister’s pregnancy) and I’ve certainly struggled with mine. I’ve read your many caveats along the lines of my whole body fucking hurts but I’M NOT COMPLAINING BECAUSE I’M SO HAPPY TO BE PREGNANT and I’ve certainly written my own. For what it’s worth, I think this little data point suggests that honesty (though not necessarily at all times or in all places or with all people) is the best policy. And while this particular finding is about the pregnant-after-infertility population, I can’t help but imagine it applies to all of us.

Therefore I direct you one and all: Go forth and vent.

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alright then here we go….. I'm so freakin exhausted, I thought I was an expert on insomnia and functioning despite of it. Wrong!!!! Also I thought breastfeeding was going to be easy (hey that's what my mom told me). Wrong again! I am very, very happy to have a 2 week old son after 3 years of IF and 6 rounds of IVF but I thought it'd be easier maybe it'll get easier. Thanks that felt good.

    March 2, 2011
  2. AHHHH! I need this! Seriously, after 3+years of waiting and a difficult and stressful pregnancy, all I wanted was an easy recovery (and healthy babies, of course). Now that I'm still in pain and breast feeding is HARD, it's getting frustrating. I mean, haven't I paid my dues? I guess infertility doesn't entitle me to anything, but it should!

    March 2, 2011
  3. I love bitching. I'm glad to find out it's scientifically approved, too!I slept like shit last night and I'm bloated to what feels like three times my normal size, which I'm absolutely, positively certain has NOTHING to do with the cake for breakfast, or the early-afternoon cake, or the late-afternoon cake….Icing is good for bambinos, yes? AGREE WITH ME, DAMNIT, OR I WILL CRY ON YOU!

    March 2, 2011
  4. cgd #

    love it!!! My two cents, non-scientific, but in thinking of human emotions transition points are hard. Event the good ones like weddings or new jobs are disruptive b/c your life is just totally different than used to be. I think the birth of a baby is a huge transition, especially the first baby when you go from no babies to being thrown into the world of parenting. I can imagine for an infertile woman, admitting that all is not infact rosey post baby must be so hard. I agree with Bunny, vent away. And, my advice, go find a good therapist, even if you have no time and are not sleeping, good self care is awlays important :)ok, I will get off my soap box now.

    March 2, 2011
  5. I always thought it was women who had gone through infertility treatments that were more prone to PPD? And I thought I read it was because of the hormones, etc.Well, I definitely think infertile women feel obligated to paint a rosy picture to other IF women so that they aren't perceived as being ungrateful…but yeah, probably not the most healthy!

    March 2, 2011
  6. JB #

    Glad my m.o. is scientifically valid. Right on.

    March 2, 2011
  7. AL #

    Yes, yes, yes. Honesty is definitely best. I say this of course, after having the most awkward dodging the giant elephant in the room conversation with my mother tonight about my sister's pregnancy…GAH. I will talk to her ..or write to her perhaps, when I figure out what it is I want or need. And I got a shout out on your blog? Awesome :-)!!

    March 3, 2011
  8. ooh, it's good know have affirmation that bitching is good for you. bc i'm soo very good at it :o) btw this is completely random, but … i'm starting to wonder if i'm a little cuckoo. hubby keeps coming home to find me in the nursery, rocking in the glider with a stuffed animal (pretending it's my baby of course). does this make me weird?

    March 3, 2011
  9. Oh man, I love this post to death.The IF community, while incredibly supportive and needed, DOES tend to make you feel really guilty for feeling anything less than 100% happy after you get pregnant. I think it's mostly self-inflicted guilt. But it's there.That said–I HATE feeling nauseous 18 hours a day. I hate that I haven't left my house except to go to work or the doctor for TWO months now. I hate that I wake up four times a night to pee or to puke. I hate that I feel like a ghost of myself.

    March 3, 2011
  10. Poor sub-fecunds. Not only do we get a name that sounds like an Irish curse, we also get an increased risk of PPD? It's very unfair. Apply Complaining liberally. Doctor's orders!

    March 3, 2011
  11. Sorry, not exactly, technically PPD. You know what I mean.

    March 3, 2011
  12. I love this post and should probably start complaining more than I have been. I find myself holding back and not venting due to fear. "If I complain a lot the universe will punish me and take the baby that I have worked so hard for". As a rational person I know that's bull shit but you can't tell yourself how to feel. I hope that as the pregnancy goes on and after the SCH goes away (fingers crossed), I will feel more comfortable about bitching.

    March 3, 2011
  13. I agree both that honesty is the best policy, AND that one has to be careful about when to use it/vent. That's interesting about the divided self. One thing I seem to read in a lot of places is that becoming pregnant does not immediately confer communion with other pregnant women…we still resent the ones for whom it happened easily and in the blink of an eye. It goes to follow that after giving birth, the formerly sub-fecund or live-birth-challenged (ahem) don't necessarily arrive in Happy Land.

    March 3, 2011
  14. Hi Bunny, I just wanted to pop back in and say hello. I've been awol for such a long time. I have been reading and admiring your ever present wit, but just havent been able to comment. I think venting is a fabulous idea, we all feel better after we let it all out. Love to you. xxx

    March 4, 2011
  15. I love this! And I also love reading these comments! I've never heard of the term divided self, but it makes so much sense. In my infertility struggle, I've tried so hard to be positive with my friends and family, and it's EXHAUSTING lying to people, and I eventually break down. I can imagine that once pregnant, if I can't be completely honest on my blog (sometimes the only place where I am honest), it would be really hard.And I loved reading all the pregos comments complaining about their pregnancy, and so blissfully complaining too! I hate that you ladies feel like you have to hide your complaints. Being pregnant is hard stuff! Be honest! And another thing, if you ladies don't tell me that pregnancy has its own sucky moments, when/if I ever get pregnant again, how am I supposed to know if what I'm feeling is normal?Again – vent away!!!

    March 4, 2011
  16. Cause Lord knows I should be spending my time researching depression. Add that one to The Classics.Born to bitch,Roccie

    March 9, 2011

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