Patients + Research: Nicole Brady
Nicole Brady, a pediatric nurse at The Hospital for Sick Children, had her first baby in 2009. About six weeks after her son was born, she began to develop anxiety, insomnia and intrusive negative thoughts about herself and the baby — symptoms of postpartum depression.
Women’s College Hospital’s (WCH) family practice team referred her to the Reproductive Life Stages Program, led by Dr. Simone Vigod, a psychiatrist and scientist at WCH.
Nicole is not alone. Depression is one of the most common complications postpartum, with rates estimated from 6.5 to 12.9 per cent. Untreated postpartum depression affects the health of mothers and their families. But studies suggest the condition is underdiagnosed and undertreated.
Nicole received treatment and support through two more pregnancies at WCH. She has participated in research, including a study led by Dr. Vigod to develop a patient-decision aid to help women decide if they should take anti-depressants during pregnancy. Nicole shared her experience of treatment and recovery.
Can you tell us about your health story?
I started seeing Dr. Danielle Martin with my first pregnancy. After he was born, I ended up starting to develop some symptoms of post-partum depression around the six-week mark, and Dr. Martin helped me through that. Eventually, she ended up referring me to the Reproductive Life Stages Program at WCH and I started seeing Dr. Vigod, who was really fantastic. The first year my depression was quite severe. I also attended a group program.
When things were better, I pulled back a little bit. Then I got pregnant again with my second baby, and I ended up seeing Dr. Vigod again. She followed me throughout that pregnancy and then afterward too. I did have some postpartum depression symptoms that time but it was much better. I ended up seeing Dr. Vigod for a shorter period of time, and then I had my third baby. She followed me a little, but I was great with that pregnancy and postpartum.
Did your experience as a nurse make it easier for you to recognize symptoms and seek care?
I always wonder that. Partially, but I think it also made me a bit more resistant in a way, that I felt like I should be able to handle it on my own. That I have this knowledge base, and I am a pediatric nurse, so I know how to take care of children. But when I realized things were really going downhill, I knew we needed to take care of this right now. I also know how to access things within the healthcare system.
What made you decide to participate in research?
For one I’m a nurse myself, so I value research very much. I wanted to take a medication that was compatible with breast-feeding, and Dr. Vigod helped me decide what would work best for me. She really brought the newest research to my attention and was very respectful, knowing my background and knowing the information that I needed to feel comfortable with it. Research is constantly evolving. We have new information and that can help us make the best-informed decision possible.
Why is the patient voice important to health research?
I think the patient voice is important because every patient has different needs. Every patient is coming from their experience — from a different perspective. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to everything. For me, my patient experience was very much dictated by my healthcare background and having that knowledge. The great part of my experience with Dr. Vigod was that she could tailor what I needed based on my knowledge and my experience.
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