Five Things I Want You to Know About Postpartum Depression

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Five Things About PPD.2

I consider it one of my life’s missions, especially at my blog, to simply begin an open conversation about Postpartum Depression {PPD} that will help to break the stigma surrounding it.

Lately, several celebrities, such as Hayden Panettiere, have begun publicly speaking about their PPD. It’s such a breath of fresh air to hear of other women’s struggles, and I commend them for their bravery and vulnerability. Just by sharing their stories, they’ll give hope to other moms who are suffering, too.

But in my own experiences with postpartum depression, I felt completely alone.

Not because I didn’t have loving friends and family who supported me, but because I knew literally zero other women who had been through serious PPD, too. Which meant to me, in my less than rational state of mind, that I must be the only one in the world who ever felt/thought/behaved the way I did. 

Right before I began medication during my second round of PPD, I finally learned that another close friend had experienced depression for some time after the birth of her first child. We talked briefly about it for ten minutes over the phone, and then didn’t speak of it much again.

And that’s just the nature of the beast.

Depression, especially when it revolves around something so beautiful as the birth and care of a baby, is hard to talk about.

We don’t want to be labeled as someone with a mental illness. We don’t want to be thought of as a weak or incapable mother. We’re in a dark and sometimes ugly place, and it’s excruciatingly painful and embarrassing to bare our souls — so we do everything we can to smile and pretend there’s nothing wrong. And we just don’t talk about it.

PPD is also so hard to ask about.

Even if someone has reason to believe that her friend is suffering from postpartum depression or another maternal mental illness, it takes more than a little guts to bring up such a sensitive subject. What do I say? What if I’m wrong? What if she’s offended? 

But what if you’re right, and what if she’s alone?

It’s vital — and I don’t say this lightly — it’s vital that you — that we — begin the conversation.

That we do everything we can to assure women during their pregnancies and postpartum phase that we are with them and we are for them; that we accept them and love them unconditionally; and that if PPD happens, we will do everything we can to see them through to health again.

Begin the conversation

In the spirit of beginning the conversation, here are five things that I want you to know about postpartum depression. 

1. PPD is not the Baby Blues.

The “baby blues” are a common experience after childbirth, affecting up to 80% of new moms. Symptoms of mood swings, tearfulness, irritability, and anxiousness usually begin 3-4 days after childbirth, and end within 2 weeks.

While PPD and “baby blues” share some of the same symptoms, they are not the same thing. PPD can begin anytime within in the first year after childbirth, and symptoms last more than two weeks. PPD is much more serious than the “baby blues.”

Learn more about the differences between “baby blues” and PPD here.

2. 15-25% of women experience either major or minor depression after giving birth.

PPD is not just a freak happening that plagues an isolated few; it’s a real biological disease that affects a lot of women. There’s a good chance that you are one of them, or you know one of them.

Untreated depression, including untreated postpartum depression, is the number one cause of suicide. Get educated so that you can help yourself or your loved ones.

You can learn more here.

3. It is not possible to “just snap out of it.”

Seriously.

Postpartum depression, along with other maternal mental health disorders, is a complex illness that affects both the mind and the body; it’s not a mood that can be “switched off” by sheer willpower.

So if you’re suffering from PPD, stop demanding this of yourself. And if your loved one has PPD, don’t expect this of her.

Instead, speak to a doctor about options to help yourself or your loved one to overcome PPD.

Read more here.

PPD is not her fault. PPD is not your fault. 

4. There are some third-world cultures that have virtually no cases of postpartum disorders.

This is astounding. How do they do it?

According to this enlightening article, scientists researched the postpartum health and habits of women in several third-world countries and found that each culture has five specific protective social practices during the postpartum phase: 

1.) a distinct postpartum period; 2.) protective measures reflecting the new mother’s vulnerability; 3.) social seclusion and mandated rest; 4.) functional assistance; and 5.) social recognition of the mother’s new role and status.

And what about in American culture? The emphasis really falls on the pregnant mother — there are prenatal classes, lactation classes, baby showers, gender reveal parties, and much general excitement over the coming of the new baby.

But once the baby is born, and passed around and snuggled for a few days, then support of the mother seems to wane. Maternity leave is short; paternity leave is almost nonexistent. The new mom is expected to get it together and get back in the swing of life.

This is unnatural at best, and at worst, it can be extremely detrimental to the new mama — and by extension, to her family.

It’s time to reevaluate the postpartum phase in American culture.

5. You can still be a good wife and mama even with PPD.

If you have a loved one with PPD, consider it your mission to do what you can to help her to be the wife and mother she longs to be.

Give her grace when she’s difficult to deal with; offer to help with meals, housework, and babysitting; affirm her beauty and worth; assure her that she is no less of a wife and mother if she can’t do it all right now, all by herself.

To those who are suffering from PPD now, trust me, you are still a good wife and mama.

Did you pull yourself out of bed to make breakfast for the kids, even if it’s a fruit roll up and a hot dog from yesterday? Did you change another diaper? Did you read another story? Did you whisper I love you, even when you didn’t feel it at all?

Are you here today?

Then you’re a good wife and mama.

This dark time will not last forever, but while it does, sometimes just showing up makes you a hero. 

And if you can, take it a step further. Once you acknowledge that you have PPD, you’re already on the path to a better life again.

Now, reach out for physical, spiritual, and professional help {aka medication, counseling, and/or therapy}, because you can’t do it alone.

We weren’t made to do it all alone. 

Reach out for help

 

Copyright 2015 Lydia Borja.

Image Credits:
Photo by FancyCrave1 (2015) via Pixabay, Copyright CCO Public Domain
Photo by StockSnap (2015) via Pixabay, Copyright CCO Public Domain
Photo by Unsplash (2015) via Pixabay, Copyright CCO Public Domain

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About Author

Lydia is a happy wife, a busy mama of three cute and crazy little people, and a two-time overcomer of PPD. She loves strong coffee, dark chocolate, and all things Southern and Catholic. Follow her at http://www.flourishinhope.com, where she's building a community of hope and encouragement for postpartum women.

2 Comments

  1. Lydia,

    These are beautiful words that so badly need to be said more often! Thank you for taking on the mission of speaking up about PPD. There are so many women suffering alone who blame themselves for what they’re feeling, buying into the lie that they’re unfit mothers. It’s incredible to know that other cultures don’t experience PPD because of their drastically different, more effective ways of dealing with the postpartum period. You’re doing a lot of good with your work – more than you realize 🙂

    – Elizabeth

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