Out of the Blue - Brooke Shields (cont.)
Exactly which mothers will develop postpartum depression is not fully understood, but risk factors do exist. In Shields' case, these risk factors may have been red flags. They can include a complicated or difficult labor. Rowan was delivered via an emergency C-section with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. In addition, Shields' uterus herniated during the surgery, and she lost a lot of blood. Her doctors even considered performing a hysterectomy (the removal of a woman's uterus) if the bleeding did not stop. Fortunately, it did and her uterus was successfully repaired.
Another risk factor for postpartum depression is a temporary upheaval, such as the death of a loved one. For Shields, this was her father, who lost his fight with prostate cancer just three weeks before his namesake was born. She was also still mourning the death of her best friend and Suddenly Susan co-star David Strickland, who committed suicide in 1999.
In addition, women who undergo other stressors, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), may also be at higher risk for postpartum depression. Shields is, as she puts it, "cervically challenged," making conception difficult. Like many women, she underwent several failed attempts at IVF before conceiving and taking a baby to term. Part of the treatment involved Henchy giving her shots of hormones in her rear end to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs. (The first time he had to do it, she says, he almost passed out, but with practice he became "a pro.") The drugs had to be given so regularly that the couple traveled with the syringes; they feared the tabloids would find out and assume she was doing illicit drugs. Still, IVF challenges were not her only ones. Shields also says she has a short cervix due to scarring that occurred years before when she had surgery to remove precancerous cells. Factor in a highly publicized divorce, a family history of depression, a miscarriage, and no baby nurse or help, , and she was an ideal candidate.
Yet, "it was a surprise to me. How about that one?" she quips. "I think of myself as aware, and all of these things were staring me in the face," she says. But "for each individual thing, I had a justification for how I was going to get through it to make sure it didn't bring me to my knees. I just didn't assume I would be weakened to the point of being affected, and therein lies the stigma."
Now, two years later and seriously considering having more children, Shields is doing what she can to remove this stigma in her new book, Down Came the Rain, due out in May.
"There is a really unfortunate and not-so-pretty part of going through something like this, and nobody wants to admit it, so I figured let me just blow the lid off this, and hopefully it will be able to speak to somebody."