(I wrote this to bring awareness to Postpartum Depression in the hopes you will take a quick minute to read it and share it on behalf of a very dear friend of mine just recently overcoming an eight-month long battle with PPD since the birth of her daughter…)
Every baby is different, just as every pregnancy is different. Some babies sleep well, others don’t. Some pregnant moms get morning sickness, some don’t. And just as every baby and pregnancy is different, so are the repercussions of giving birth – having this new life to care for. All mothers are affected differently. And one of the ways a woman is affected is by PPD or Postpartum Depression. It is defined as moderate to severe depression in a woman after she gives birth. It may occur as soon as the baby is born (or even during pregnancy some recent research has suggested) and can show up anytime within the first 12 months after giving birth. It doesn’t matter how emotional you are as a person beforehand. It doesn’t matter if you have ever been stricken with anxiety, panic or OCD. It doesn’t matter if you are a Type-A personality or someone who is carefree. It doesn’t matter what your situation before giving birth. Like so many diseases, it’s difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mock anxiety or stress. And many new moms don’t sleep well, another symptom. Thoughts of hurting a baby are real and also a symptom. The feeling that you aren’t made to be a mother or you’re not a good enough mother are symptoms. Thoughts of suicide and wanting your life to end and your baby’s life to end are real feelings. Day dreaming of dropping your baby over a wall and into water is real. It is scary, and the symptoms range that drastically. From simple anxiety to full-fledged psychosis.
These are quick definitions from Postpartum.net
Pregnancy (also called antepartum) or Postpartum Depression. A woman with PPD might experience feelings of anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or herself.
Pregnancy (also called antepartum) or Postpartum Anxiety. A woman with PPA may experience extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of the baby. Some women have panic attacks and might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling.
Pregnancy or Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Women with PPOCD can have repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and sometimes they need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts. These moms find these thoughts very scary and unusual and are very unlikely to ever act on them.
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PPTSD is often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth, and symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event.
Postpartum Psychosis. PPP sufferers sometimes see and hear voices or images that others can’t, called hallucinations. They may believe things that aren’t true and distrust those around them. They may also have periods of confusion and memory loss, and seem manic. This severe condition is dangerous so it is important to seek help immediately.
The truth is, it occurs and is a real sickness. It is difficult to understand when you want something so much in your life and you’re mentally struck with this feeling afterwards. Most recently referred to as Maternal Mental Illness. A meta-analysis of studies on postpartum depression found that one-fifth of women (that’s a lot!) have depressive episodes before their babies’ first birthdays, and about HALF of those women had serious symptoms. Anxiety, bipolar disorder, and OCD are also common maladies in that first year postpartum. And this feeling of being overwhelmed about their children’s safety and well-being can last well into motherhood, too, which is why it’s being more broadly defined as Maternal Mental Illness. A complex interplay of genes, stress and hormones causes maternal mental illness, scientists say. “Hormones go up more than a hundredfold,” said Dr. Margaret Spinelli, the director of the Women’s Program in Columbia University’s psychiatry department. After birth, hormones plummet, a roller coaster that can “disrupt brain chemistry,” she said. (“Thinking of Ways to Harm Her,” by Pam Belluck). This article I reference is a heart breaking two-article must read published by the New York Times that is profound. I encourage you to read them both, “After Baby, an Unraveling,” by Pam Belluck).
This is REAL. It affects so many. I have to say with a very thankful heart, that I was not affected by PPD. Although I have been stricken with anxiety and panic in my early thirties, I wasn’t affected by PPD. However, that said, I am sharing this with you all because I have a very dear friend that has just overcome an 8-month battle with postpartum depression and I am shocked to find out. I have known her for a very long time. She is smart, motivated, a go-getter, loves life and everyone in it. She moved away from her home town in the mid-west to begin a new life on the West coast, found and married her one true love and had a beautiful baby girl, living her dream life on the beach. We chatted often about our new born daughters and we shared stories, baby clothes, baby food recipes and little gifts from across the country. I never dreamed she was sick or suffering so. Her life seemed perfect. She seemed perfect. Her beautiful daughter is perfect. How could something be so wrong? And yet it was. She was struggling.
“Maternal mental illness is not new. It was recognized as early as the fifth century B.C., when Hippocrates proposed that fluid from the uterus could flow to the head after childbirth and cause delirium. In the Middle Ages, mothers with such symptoms were viewed as witches or victims of witchcraft. In the 1920s, one Freudian-inspired theory attributed these mood disorders to frigidity, suppressed homosexuality or incestuous urges.” (“Thinking of Ways to Harm Her,” by Pam Belluck). And in 1994, it was only just recognized as “Major Depressive Disorder.” A lot is still left to be learned. But I leave you with this beautiful short writing that my friend shared on her Facebook page to raise awareness of this disease. So much can be done from a research stand point, from an awareness standpoint, from just talking about it in social circles, from a man’s point of view – a husband, a father, a grandfather. We can personally take a moment to think twice when we see a new mom struggling (or not struggling but trying to keep it all together) in public with her newborn. We can be mindful of the first time we meet a new baby and look at the mom as she is smiling, knowing that her anxiety level could be rising. It shows up in so many different ways. And there is help that can be sought out but knowledge and awareness begins with each one of us. Like so many diseases, it’s difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mock anxiety or stress. And many new moms don’t sleep well, another symptom. Thoughts of hurting a baby are real and also a symptom. The feeling that you aren’t made to be a mother or you’re not a good enough mother are symptoms.
It’s also good to recognize that this can go on beyond pregnancy, beyond giving birth and well into motherhood.
Thanks for reading. Lots of love to all of you new moms out there that are suffering and to those who are not. We are in this most important stage in our lives right now guarding and shaping a new life and we must embrace what we’ve been given. You are doing an amazing job and just remember, they only have you and you are all they want and all they need. There is no reason to suffer. Seek help and treatment or for those not suffering, please join in raising awareness.
PLEASE SHARE THIS TO RAISE AWARENESS OF POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION. UNDERSTANDING IS KEY. If you or someone you know is suffering, please visit postpartum.net to seek help and understanding and support.
It is the mother who keeps her baby covered, fearful that open air might get him sick.
It is the mother who is happy to pass her baby off to a friend because it gives her a moment of relief.
It is the mom with the dark circles under her eyes, who hasn’t showered in three days.
It is the mom who is in full makeup and her designer jeans for a quick run to the store.
It is the mom who has yelled at her infant.
It is the mom who ditches all of your plans at the last minute.
It is the mom who has an activity planned every single day.
It is the woman yelling at her spouse in public.
It is the mom throwing her water bottle in anger.
It is the spotless home.
It is the woman, out for a jog, trying to run away from it all.
It is the mom you glared at when her baby wouldn’t stop crying on the airplane.
It is the mom you sighed disapprovingly at because her stroller was taking up too much space on the sidewalk.
It is the mother walking around with a big smile on her face.
And tears behind it.
It is rage and anger and fear.
It is sadness and worry and discouragement.
It is regret and disappointment.
It can be so many things, but what it needs to be is talked about.
It is not something to hide or be embarrassed by.
I ask you to take it easy on those moms.
I ask you to take it easy on yourself.
I ask you to speak up, reach out, get support.
If you question if it is effecting you, just once, it probably is. We can help one another.