What do Chrissy Teigen, Brook Shields, Hayden Panettiere, and thousands of other women have in common?
They all gave birth, but instead of feeling like amazing, happy mommies, they felt withdrawn, overwhelmed, and distant.
They all had Postpartum Depression (or PPD.)
Since this month is all about women and the important accomplishments we have added to history, and amidst the #MeToo movement that has us women coming together in support of one another, I felt there was no better time to speak about something many women fight silently…
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression is a mental health issue that affects women within the first year after they have given birth. While PPD affects most women within the first few weeks, it can also wait to appear until the child is several months old.
Postpartum Depression is different from the “Baby Blues” which according to NIH affects nearly 80% of women. Whereas PPD tends to affect about 15% of women.
After giving birth, a woman’s body goes through a lot of changes in a small amount of time. That mixed with caring for a newborn baby and constantly being exhausted can make anyone feel emotional. So, it is important to understand that within the first 3 weeks after birth, these emotions which are called the “Baby Blues” are completely normal. However, feeling overwhelmed, sad, worthless, or anxious can be signs of PPD.
What Other Signs of Postpartum Depression Should I Look For?
There are several signs that you or your loved one may have PPD and not realize it. Many women go undiagnosed thinking they are just a little sad or perhaps that no one would believe them or worse, think they will be judged. Some signs to look out for include:
- Feeling sad or down often.
- Frequent crying or tearfulness.
- Feeling restless, irritable, or anxious.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in life.
- Loss of appetite.
- Less energy and motivation to do things.
- Difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or sleeping more than usual.
- Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty.
- Unexplained weight loss or gain.
- Feeling disconnected from friends, family, and your baby.
- Feeling like life isn’t worth living.
- Showing little interest in your baby.
It isn’t unusual for a woman to feel some of these symptoms right after giving birth. It is when the symptoms don’t go away after several weeks that it could be PPD. It is also important to mention that every woman is different. So while one may have every symptom of Postpartum Depression, another may only show a couple of the signs.
In more rare cases, a woman could develop postpartum psychosis. This is a very serious disease. It includes all the symptoms of postpartum depression, as well as thoughts of hurting yourself, hurting the baby, or both. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or the baby, seek help immediately.
So, What Causes This?
The truth is, there is no definitive answer. We speculate that it could be several different things. The most popular answer is that after pregnancy, your body goes through drastic changes in a short amount of time whereas when you are pregnant, your body has nine months to slowly adjust. Because of this, hormones in the body can be off, which means the chemicals in the brain can also be off balance.
There are also other theories as to why this happens. According to WebMD if a woman doesn’t have a good support system to help her take care of the baby or she didn’t want to be pregnant in the first place, she could be more at risk to develop PPD.
Other thoughts as to what causes postpartum depression or women who could be at a higher risk of developing PPD could be caused from:
- Previous postpartum depression.
- Depression not related to pregnancy.
- Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- A difficult or very stressful marriage or relationship.
- Few family members or friends to talk to or depend on.
- Stressful life events during pregnancy or after childbirth (such as severe illness during pregnancy, premature birth, or a difficult delivery).
The openness of Postpartum Depression
Until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of information out there on PPD. It went undiagnosed in women for a long time. Or some mothers felt ashamed they didn’t fit the normal motherly type portrayed on TV or in magazines. So they kept quiet.
Now, more and more women are speaking about what they went through and how they found help. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Brook Shields are making strides to normalize PPD so that women will seek out the treatment they need.
There have even been episodes on different TV shows dedicated to showing what PPD is, for instance on the CMT TB show Nashville where Hayden Panettiere’s character goes through PPD and finding the help she needed. That episode hit close to home for the actress as she went through PPD herself.
Is There Any Treatment Available?
Just as with normal depression, PPD has a similar treatment. It is recommended to attend talk therapy. You can also take antidepressants to help. Mental illnesses are very individualized. So there is no one size fits all answer.
For some, simply changing their diet and exercise or meditating works best. Others need group support or other types of therapy. And some women need a combination of several treatments to help them. The important thing is that treatment is sought out.
Finding the right support is also important. Admitting that you may have postpartum depression is not admitting failure. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad mother or bad person, and finding the best kind of treatment to help you through it will also help you realize that.
If you think that you or someone you love may be suffering from PPD, don’t be afraid to contact us for more information or treatment. We are here to help.