Birth and Postpartum Without Land Legs

It took me seven months to write and post this!  It’s so hard to describe the highs and lows of new parenthood… the extraordinary love, the extreme joy, the all-consuming exhaustion, the snuggles, the diapers, the breastfeeding, the recovery, the vertigo, the worries, the awe, the brain fog, the gratitude… It has been a whirlwind.  

Symptom-wise, it’s been much more challenging than I had anticipated.  I’ll give you the relevant bits related to MdDS and VM.

Birth

  • In the days leading up to her birth, I had a daily migraine with vertigo or visual spots. These thankfully stopped after I gave birth.
  • I had an epidural, and once it kicked in… I DIDN’T FEEL ANY FALSE MOTION. Isn’t that wild? It was pretty amazing! 
  • The false motion sensations returned after the epidural was out. Whomp whomp.
  • I worried a lot during pregnancy that I would have really high symptoms during the birth, but it turned out I didn’t have any symptoms once I got the epidural! All that worry and prep wasn’t necessary.

The First Few Days After Birth 

  • In the hospital, my symptoms pretty much stayed at baseline. I wore blue blocking glasses the whole time and used the Cefaly multiple times per day.
  • When I got home from the hospital, I had horrible edema, and the sleep deprivation of the past few days seemed to catch up with me. The rocking, bobbing, and swaying motions were really strong, enough to scare me that something more than just MdDS might be wrong. Within the next day or so, the sensations got more manageable, but I’ve had a higher baseline of MdDS symptoms ever since.
  • My visual auras and head pain improved immediately after birth. No more visual spots!

The First 3 Months

  • Breastfeeding challenges required me to pump every 2-3 hours for the first few weeks, which meant I didn’t get much sleep at all. My symptoms were high, but weirdly I was able to kind of manage and get through it for the first 5 weeks.
  • At the 6th week, my symptoms were so high that I knew I needed some sort of medication. I tried lorazepam before bed, and although it calmed my vertigo and helped me fall asleep quickly, it made me exhausted and depressed for days after taking it. My symptoms did not improve the following day. I think I was too sleep-deprived for it to work.
  • My daughter then started sleeping in a long chunk at the start of the night (5-6 hours), so I’d go to bed immediately after she did. This definitely helped, but a few weeks later, it still felt like it wasn’t “enough.” My theory on all of this is that I wasn’t spending enough time in the deep sleep phase, which was exacerbating my symptoms.
  • Mornings were awful. I woke up exhausted to the bone. I usually felt nauseous (like first-trimester nausea) and struggled with high vertigo. There was rocking/bobbing/swaying, but also a dizziness and indistinct constant motion. I didn’t feel comfortable driving. I cried most mornings, which I figured was normal because I felt so terrible.
  • Nights were hard. It was triggering to be feeding a baby in the dark with high MdDS symptoms. I would sit across from her crib holding her, watching her crib sway back and forth.
  • I ended up talking to my OB, neurologist, and lactation specialist/nurse practitioner about my struggles, and I’m so glad I did. It turns out, some breastfeeding women have symptoms like these in the morning when breastfeeding hormones are at their highest (prolactin and oxytocin) and dopamine is low. The recommendation was an antidepressant that would help with vestibular migraine, MdDS, and offset the breastfeeding hormonal shifts. 25mg of Effexor seemed to fit my needs in all areas.

After Effexor

  • I’ve tried really hard the whole time I’ve had MdDS/VM to avoid prescriptions as much as possible. This experience reminded me that there are times when lifestyle medicine, strategies, a great attitude, and hard work don’t matter. I physically needed medication to function well. Day one on the Effexor, and I felt more energetic, less vertigo, and calmer. No more nausea or crying in the mornings.
  • Four months later, my symptoms are typically 2-4 out of 10, I’m able to cope with my still-not-great sleep situation, and I’m able to drive and use technology without concern most days (both of which were very difficult postpartum). I have good days and bad days, and I can’t say I feel like I did pre-pregnancy, but I feel well enough to do what I need and want to do.
  • I have continued to use the Cefaly daily (usually just 20 minutes before bed, but sometimes more), Timolol Maleate eye drops as needed, and some extra magnesium on bad days.

Being a Mom

  • I love being a mom more than I have loved doing anything in my entire life. I love my daughter. I love seeing my husband as a father. The joy is beyond words and far exceeds the challenges that I’ve been through and continue to face. I look forward to each day with her with giddiness. I can’t wait to see her smile and watch her learn and acquire new skills.
  • I’m hoping to do it all again in a few years. I can’t think of a better way to explain why other than to say that it’s beyond “worth it” even with a vestibular disorder (or two).

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