Strange post-partum behavior...

  1. I'm a student and I'm only posting this question for my personal FYI because I can't find anything on the net that's even close.

    I ran into a friend earlier today that I hadn't seen in 1 1/2 years. She was a size 4 when I saw her...she is skinny everywhere else, except for her belly. She still has a belly that makes her look about 5 months pregnant...SO much so, that I asked if she was expecting again...she was wearing a "baby doll" top that actually accented it.

    Well, we walked up the way and sat down to Starbucks for coffee and spoke extensively about her pregnancy and delivery...I"ll not make a long post longer by the details, but let's just say she had a horrible pregnancy and horrible birth and is a single mother with zero support system. She loves the baby to death, but what she had to do to get there is something no woman should go through.

    THIS IS WHAT IS ODD: She confessed she secretly had been keeping her belly on purpose because it reminds her of being pregnant, and she rubs it all the time. she said when strangers ask her if she is pregnant, she still says yes. She is constantly buying (still) "new baby" items such as trinkets, keepsakes for her baby that will be two very soon.

    I just sat there and didn't know what to say. She seemed happy but I thought this was very weird...has anyone even seen anything close to this?
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  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   Jolie
    I agree that this is very strange behavior, and would encourage you to try to convince her to seek care from her OB/GYN, PCP, or a mental health provider.

    It frightens me that she is telling people that she is pregnant, as that kind of behavior has been linked to infant abductions.
  4. by   RebeccaJeanRN
    Yes, this is not normal behavior. This is a pseudo pregnancy, I've only read about this in the news or in books, but its the type that people imagine so much that their bellies even grow. Pregnancy is the time when people get lots of attention, and the sudden transferring of all that attention from mother to baby after birth, is an adjustment that causes some mothers to feel 'down'. This mother however is past the typical postpartum months, so she must be very lonely. Babies are great to love, but rarely do they fill the mother's need to FEEL loved and important. Maybe, if you can spend more time with her, you can encourage her to get some help (and can find out where she can go for it for little or no cost, if she doesn't have insurance).
  5. by   BSNtobe2009
    I appreciate the posts. I was just wondering if anyone had noticed any trends between a woman "letting go" of the psychological aspects of being pregnant, postpartum and a traumatic birth. The other thing that she mentioned when we were discussing the day her baby was born is that she "didn't even feel like she had a baby". I also started to wonder if this had to do with her c-section vs a vaginal delivery.

    I did encourage her to see a therapist but she said she was having a hard time fitting it into her schedule with the new baby and not really having any help (I don't live in the same state anymore as her or I would volunteer, as I was just visiting when I ran into her).

    I appreciate the posts.
  6. by   SmilingBluEyes
    For, me, for several reasons, this is very disturbing. I think she would benefit from some sort of counseling. As to whether she will get it, hard to say. She would have to admit/agree there is a problem and want to work on it. I would also worry about her stability as a parent!

    Now I am just "armchair quarterbacking" here BUT: It sure sounds as if she has a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder---a very real syndrome and the likely the result of her traumatic pregnancy/birth experiences. She likely mourns the losses of her concepts of the ideal pregnancy/birth and parenting experiences. This can really cause serious emotional distress for many women, and should be taken seriously and dealt with.

    Not that I am a social worker or psychologist, but this is my guess as to what is going on. Still calls for professional help as she needs to heal herself, and thus, be able to effectively and stably parent her child.
    Last edit by SmilingBluEyes on Oct 9, '06
  7. by   rbytsdy
    Quote from BSNtobe2009
    The other thing that she mentioned when we were discussing the day her baby was born is that she "didn't even feel like she had a baby". I also started to wonder if this had to do with her c-section vs a vaginal delivery.
    I'm still doing pre-reqs so I am not a nurse but you are asking an interesting question and I think the answer is probably yes. A lot of women aren't bothered by their c-sections. However, many women are completely traumatized by them. I've used a similar description - sometimes I feel like I am waiting to give birth because it hasn't really happened yet. I know that my dd was born and is healthy and beautiful but I expected to actually push a baby out and hold her right away. Not having that experience sometimes feels like something is missing. I was preparing and preparing for an event that never happened (well, it didn't happen the way I expected it).

    I definitely agree that your friend needs professional help. Her belly probably reminds her of a happier and more joyous time in her life. Having a child shouldn't stop her - there is no reason why she cannot take a baby to therapy with her. Of course that all hinges on whether or not she realizes she has a problem and wants to do something about it. I'm not sure how to help her realize that other than acknowledging that PPD and PTSD are real events that can happen after something as joyous as a birth and it's okay (and the right thing to do) to seek help.
  8. by   rn/writer
    Your friend definitely needs some kind of attention and help.

    This is not a false pregnancy or pseudocyesis. Women who experience that problem truly believe that they ARE pregnant. Your friend's confession indicates that she doesn't fall into that category.

    This quote from SmilingBluEyes is right on the money--

    It sure sounds as if she has a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder---a very real syndrome and the likely the result of her traumatic pregnancy/birth experiences. She likely mourns the losses of her concepts of the ideal pregnancy/birth and parenting experiences. This can really cause serious emotional distress for many women, and should be taken seriously and dealt with.

    Not that I am a social worker or psychologist, but this is my guess as to what is going on. Still calls for professional help as she needs to heal herself, and thus, be able to effectively and stably parent her child.
    Speaking as a nurse with both psych and postpartum backgrounds, she sounds like someone who is somatizing. People who feel helpless to express or receive help for deep psycho-social-emotional trauma can "relocate" their unseen needs to the physical realm, where others will offer the care and connection they crave. I must emphasize that this is rarely a conscious choice and even those who appear to be controling their physical signs and symptoms are often oblivious to the connection between what they are doing and their non-physical pain.

    It sounds to me like your friend is in desperate need of comfort and nurturing and perhaps some serious counselling to help her get past the trauma she has experienced. She might be trying to relive the nicer parts of carrying a child in order to distance herself from the negative memories.

    Please encourage her to get help. If she resists, still be there for her. Stay connected and perhaps she will develop enough trust in the future to deal with her inner needs more effectively.

    She is fortunate to have a concerned friend like you.
  9. by   BSNtobe2009
    I appreciate all of the posts. All of them make perfect sense and now that you folks have broken it down for me, I can understand more of how I can help her on my end as a friend.

    I have been calling her every single day since I saw her. It's sad because she said yesterday that I am pretty much the only person that calls her now.

    We are about the same age (mid-30's). Ever since I have known her, she has wanted children but wanted to get married first. She is not the type of person to sleep around, but she had a horrible breakup with her fiance that devasted her and slept with an ex-boyfriend to "make herself feel better". Well, she found out she was pregnant, and this ex-boyfriend was such a POS that he told her the entire time she was pregnant that if anything happened to her when she had the baby that he would give it up for adoption. This frightened her because she had no other family and she is a practical person that understands fully that late in life pregnancies have their own risks.

    Well, she got gestational diabeties and it wasn't going well. She had the baby only about 4 weeks early, but when she went to her OB for a visit they put her in the hospital immediately (I don't know more details b/c since I'm not a nurse all of what she said didn't stick with me). After a couple of days, something started to go wrong with the baby and they had to do an emergency c-section and that poor girl had to do it by herself, she didn't even have anyone to call to be with her. Well, when the baby was born, she didn't even get to see it, they took it away to work on it, so it was almost 2 days old before she got to see it for the first time because she was so weak. The baby had a low BW for gestational age and underdeveloped. Everything is fine now, the baby was in the NICU for about a month and appears to have no problems. Very lucky.

    She didn't even call me the entire time the baby was in the hospital so she went every day...then the child's father started dating some girl (I mean, they weren't together, but this was just tacky) and BROUGHT her up to the NICU to see the baby. A volunteer from the hospital helped her take the baby home, stayed with her about an hour and left....and she has been alone with the baby ever since. No one to help her with a meal, no one to help her get a good nap, no one to help her do anything.

    I just felt really sorry for her. I can relate to alot of it, b/c I'm a single mom too, but she doesn't live close to her parents and she has a well-paying job where she lives, so she doesn't want to move.

    I told her when I was on Christmas break from school, I'm going to go back and stay with her for a week and she was very excited b/c our kids are roughly the same age.

    I am still trying to encourage her that she has to take time to see a mental health professional...things like PTSD didn't even occur to me.
  10. by   daisybaby
    Quote from BSNtobe2009
    I appreciate all of the posts. All of them make perfect sense and now that you folks have broken it down for me, I can understand more of how I can help her on my end as a friend.

    I have been calling her every single day since I saw her. It's sad because she said yesterday that I am pretty much the only person that calls her now.

    We are about the same age (mid-30's). Ever since I have known her, she has wanted children but wanted to get married first. She is not the type of person to sleep around, but she had a horrible breakup with her fiance that devasted her and slept with an ex-boyfriend to "make herself feel better". Well, she found out she was pregnant, and this ex-boyfriend was such a POS that he told her the entire time she was pregnant that if anything happened to her when she had the baby that he would give it up for adoption. This frightened her because she had no other family and she is a practical person that understands fully that late in life pregnancies have their own risks.

    Well, she got gestational diabeties and it wasn't going well. She had the baby only about 4 weeks early, but when she went to her OB for a visit they put her in the hospital immediately (I don't know more details b/c since I'm not a nurse all of what she said didn't stick with me). After a couple of days, something started to go wrong with the baby and they had to do an emergency c-section and that poor girl had to do it by herself, she didn't even have anyone to call to be with her. Well, when the baby was born, she didn't even get to see it, they took it away to work on it, so it was almost 2 days old before she got to see it for the first time because she was so weak. The baby had a low BW for gestational age and underdeveloped. Everything is fine now, the baby was in the NICU for about a month and appears to have no problems. Very lucky.

    She didn't even call me the entire time the baby was in the hospital so she went every day...then the child's father started dating some girl (I mean, they weren't together, but this was just tacky) and BROUGHT her up to the NICU to see the baby. A volunteer from the hospital helped her take the baby home, stayed with her about an hour and left....and she has been alone with the baby ever since. No one to help her with a meal, no one to help her get a good nap, no one to help her do anything.

    I just felt really sorry for her. I can relate to alot of it, b/c I'm a single mom too, but she doesn't live close to her parents and she has a well-paying job where she lives, so she doesn't want to move.

    I told her when I was on Christmas break from school, I'm going to go back and stay with her for a week and she was very excited b/c our kids are roughly the same age.

    I am still trying to encourage her that she has to take time to see a mental health professional...things like PTSD didn't even occur to me.
    Sounds like social work/discharge planning could have been of great help to your friend. Most hospitals with NICU have a perinatal outreach department to assist in these types of cases.

    Now, it's entirely possible that these services were in fact offered while your friend and her baby were in hospital, but she declined them. Please encourage your friend, as others have suggested, to seek the counseling that she needs. As one of the few friends she remains in contact with, you have a great opportunity to help your friend and her baby. Best to you.

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