“Where does my heart go when I’m so angry because it isn’t here loving my son? It is somewhere else, and I just can’t quite reach it. My brain tricks me into thinking how dare he cry, but he’s just a baby and he’s telling me ‘Momma I need you,’ which these ears fail to hear with all the screaming…” – Melissa Hoos
I type PPD (Post-Partum Depression) in the search field of my mom groups and very quickly, hundreds of results come flooding in. Story after story of fellow moms, of different ages, different backgrounds, from many different places sharing about the same dark cloud hovering over their heads, holding them hostage.
I wondered–with all the unfiltered, unsolicited advice people kept doling out the moment they knew I was expecting, a couple of years ago–why did no one tell me about this? A new mother’s well-being is vital not only for herself or her newborn, but for the whole family. She is the light of the home and this unspeakable darkness puts her out.
Mental illness is a serial killer, it is as real, if not more painful, than the physical ailments we so readily attend to. So here are nine facts that everyone should know about postpartum depression.
Up to 80% of women will experience Baby Blues–a few days of sadness that occur shortly after birth. The majority of these new moms will soon recover without any extra help. Post-partum depression and anxiety is a much more difficult condition to overcome. The fact is, since these two share a lot of the same symptoms, people are quick to dismiss one for the other. If these normal blues don’t disappear after a few weeks and they feel more intense, seek out a specialized health practitioner who can help determine what’s happening. Don’t wait.
It’s true that many women with post-partum depression experience sadness and episodes of inexplicable crying, but there’s actually a spectrum of symptoms and illnesses that fall under the umbrella of perinatal mood disorders. Since they don’t get the same limelight as depression, women who are struggling can feel even more hesitant to reach out for help. Some of the symptoms include, but are not limited to: rage, irritability, scary thoughts, brain fog, numbness, insomnia, or would manifest even physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, upset stomachs, or panic attacks. It’s a general pervasive feeling that something is wrong, and that you’re not quite yourself.
Despite the seemingly perfect lives other moms depict through social media, studies show that 1 in 7 women experience PPD in the year after giving birth. PPD doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your age, race, where you’re from, or if you have a history of mental illness or not. As we’ve seen in the news, sometimes it’s even those whom we least expect who are suffering from it. A complex combination of factors may cause post-partum depression: A rapid drop in hormones cause the chemical changes, then there are the social, psychological changes, plus the sheer physical exhaustion sustained by new mothers. All of these take their toll.
Research has found that depression among new dads increases by 68% during the first five years of a baby’s life. Postpartum Men, a website that helps men overcome depression, states that at least 1 in 10 new dads suffer from PPND (paternal postnatal depression). If you think your partner or a loved one is afflicted, encourage them to get help for the sake of their health, and the overall well-being of the family.
If you had a bad kidney or any physiological pain, your road to recovery begins as soon as it is determined. Screen yourself and take the test here as a first step to see if you have PPD, and talk to your doctor about the results.
A World Health Organization report has named depression as the greatest disease burden for women worldwide. In particular, childbearing years are a time of increased vulnerability to the onset or recurrence of major depressive tendencies. In the most severe cases of post-partum mood disorders, women can experience Post-Partum Psychosis. It’s very rare, affecting 1 to 2 women in every 1,000, but very dangerous. This is what we see in the news, and is already considered a clinical emergency that would require hospitalization and medication for the mother.
Maternal Depression is actually a more accurate description since PPD is generally thought to begin only within the first 4-6 weeks after having a baby. However, recent studies suggest that this timeframe is unrealistic. New findings show that maternal depression may actually be most common around the time your child turns four. The main point is that PPD is not confined to the time directly after having a baby, and there is a wide range of onset periods with a corresponding wide range of resolution periods.
It is 100% treatable, but this is not something for us to overcome alone. By nature, mothers are nurturers who give and give, without thinking much of themselves. So if you suspect you have PPD and are hesitant to get treatment for whatever reason, just think that you are doing this for your family. Read more on the dangers of not getting help, here. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. You can’t give anyone what you don’t have, including love.
Our society views depression as something to “just get over” or “snap out of”. It gets dismissed as a minor issue, fixed with a little attitude adjustment. Again, PPD is a serious illness that requires professional help. Help is available. Talk to your spouse or partner, your friends or relatives, but most importantly, talk to your doctor. You may also call 804-4673 (HOPE).