Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: Understanding Your Moods When You're Expecting

I'm a big reader and enjoy sharing books with friends, and I was thinking I'd write here about a few of the books that I've read about pregnancy and parenting. I've signed up to be an Amazon Associate, which means that if you use the link provided to the book reviewed, I will make a tiny commission. I was setting this up just as the delisting of queer content shitstorm happened. I went back and forth on whether I'd go ahead with putting up the Amazon links along with the book reviews, and decided I would, though I'm quite unhappy with them these days. Wow, that makes me sound like I'm a total mercenary, or something, eh?

At any rate, my doula loaned me a pile of books which I should really return to her, so I'm going to go through those first. The first is Understanding Your Moods When You're Expecting by Dr Lucy Puryear

When I found this in the pile of books, I was skeptical of its value. I wondered how you fill up a whole book with you're pregnant, so you're going to be cranky and weepy, have fun! I decided I'd give it a try anyway.

Dr Puryear is a psychiatrist specializing in female reproductive mental health - a field it hadn't occurred to me exists until I read her book! Like so many pregnancy books, this one is largely divided into temporal phases: first, second, third trimester and post-partum. Throughout, Puryear presents how a lot of the emotions pregnant women experience are hormone related, and she also touches on how women already in psychiatric care for depression or other issues and taking medication, may experience pregnancy.

The first trimester section has some invaluable bits, including a nice section called The Conspiracy of Silence, which addresses in a very sensitive way, how problematic it is that we are so ashamed to hide miscarriages, and not talk about being pregnant until later in the pregnancy. (There is an article I really like on by Christine Chitnis that looks at this issue as well.) Puryear talks a lot about trusting your instincts and your trust of information sources, because of the boundless quantity of conflicting information out there on pregnancy. 

I found that for me personally, the second trimester chapters didn't really capture my experience. I think this is because Puryear talks a lot about husbands feeling disconnected and nervous about the coming baby, whereas in my case, it's me that's the nervous newbie and he's more confident about parenthood than me; and anxiety about weight gain is another big topic, and for me my main weight gain worry was the week I lost five pounds. I think that it's probably really good content for a lot of women though. 

The third trimester section is great, covering what I imagine are common anxieties and concerns with the impending birth. Something I really like is that throughout, she presents examples of clients and their family situations (Western traditional nuclear or not), and the complexities of their dynamics, like the woman who didn't want to ask her mother for help after the baby comes, because the new grandmother would take it as a confirmation of her daughter's incompetence. Stuff like that is so real! Puryear gives some good ideas about how to handle the family craziness and also get the support you need.

For me, the real value in this book is the last few sections looking at the emotional impact  of birth and post-partum. I've not yet blogged about this and I'm not sure I will, but I'm pretty sure my mother had pretty bad undiagnosed post-partum depression after the birth of my little sister and probably after me too. 

PPD is so common - according to Puryear, up to 1 in 10 women experience it after giving birth. Puryear presents examples of clients with varying degrees of PPD and how she or other practitioners helped them through it. She also advocates breastfeeding newborns as much as possible, though for some women, she allows that it's more stress and pressure than it is worth. Puryear provides some useful warning signs of PPD which are also available on her website so I won't reproduce them here, but I encourage anyone who is pregnant or knows someone who is pregnant to go check them out.

I was surprised at how valuable I found this book to be and I'm glad it came my way. If what I've written interests you, I encourage you to get your hands on a copy. It's a quick read (199 pages in the edition I have)  and written in a very accessible style.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carolyn, CONGRATULATIONS. My little girl was born in 2006 and my wife an I have enjoyed every minute of it. Hopefully someday you'll visit BIM again. If you do, don't be a stranger.

Corey Rogers