Despite the work many women and health professionals are doing to de-stigmatize postpartum depression (PPD), there continue to be assumptions made by the friends and family members regarding PPD and the women who suffer from it. These assumptions hurt moms in a way we can't possibly begin to understand; marginalizing their feelings and making them question themselves. That's why there are things we need to stop saying about postpartum depression if we want to move forward in the battle and make sure that no new mom is left behind due to lack of awareness over the many symptoms PPD can present.
Even though I knew I had a higher possibility of developing postpartum depression (after being diagnosed with prenatal depression and anxiety) I was in denial that I was suffering from it, especially during the early months. I wasn't sad, I wasn't unable to accomplish things; on the contrary, I was incredibly productive, and so, so very angry. To me, that signaled anxiety, not depression. I was wrong, however. Thank goodness I was seeing a therapist already, whom I was able to talk to about my symptoms. Once she clarified what was really going on, I was able to work through the concept of medication and decide on my own (without any pressure from my therapist because she didn't think my symptoms were severe enough to make them a necessity) whether to start taking it, or not.
In the end, I made my decision on treatment protocol, which included therapy, support group, and medication. My treatment is not everyone's treatment, but what's important to note is that I was given a full range of choices, during which I had a strong support network. All moms need these two things (among many others) in order to negotiate the minefield of postpartum depression safely. Part of providing that support is paying close attention to these 10 things we need to stop saying about postpartum depression, immediately:
"It's Just The Baby Blues"
I always loved when people assumed that the "baby blues" somehow extended past the first few weeks and well into the first six months. You understand it's more serious if it lasts longer, right? There's also something extremely offensive about this statement, as though the person is minimizing your feelings and writing off what you've told them as less important.
"You Just Need To Get Outside More"
Sorry people, but going out anywhere is not going to cure postpartum depression. Whether you're referring to nature, or just more social time away from the baby, I can tell you that neither will likely be enough to rid you of the depression or anxiety you're feeling. Which isn't to say it can't help to manage your symptoms, once they're under control.
"It'll Pass On Its Own, Eventually"
What a dangling carrot of a statement that is. So, if I just keep my head down, it'll go away, is that right? That's utterly untrue, so don't kid yourself. Getting the help you need will allow you to manage the first year (or more) of motherhood with a little more ease.
"Oh, I Felt Sad Too But I Got Over It"
Postpartum depression isn't about feeling "sad." I didn't feel sad at all, in fact; I was angry and irritated, most days, and had trouble sleeping. Even I didn't realize that what I was feeling was full-blown PPD, until my therapist pointed it out.
"You Should Try Meditating"
I can tell you from firsthand experience that meditation, even for 30 seconds, is not very easy to do when you're battling postpartum depression. Even guided meditations created specifically for new moms suffering from PPD made me want to crawl out of my skin, most days.
"I'd Never Take Anti-Depressants If I Was Breastfeeding"
I was really hung up on not taking medication when I was first diagnosed with perinatal depression and anxiety. I was terrified of the effects it might have on my unborn child, and once I had given birth, I kept thinking I could make it one more day. But I was exhausted, angry all the time, and slowly losing my remaining ability to cope, when I finally caved and started taking medication. The only reason I took it was because I was in the care of a psychiatrist who specialized in PPD and women's health, and she assured me that the amount that would make it into my milk was negligible. It was completely worth it.
"You Should Be Grateful You Can Even Have A Baby"
You think I don't know that? I know how lucky I am, and my postpartum depression has nothing to do with a lack of gratitude for becoming a mom.
"You Don't Seem Sad"
Depression is not just about feeling sad. It can manifest as irritation, frustration, a total lack of feeling, hopelessness, guilt, feeling overwhelmed, and a general feeling that something just not being "right." There are numerous other ways postpartum depression can appear, but it certainly doesn't always mean sitting on the couch in your robe, crying your eyes out (although that can be one way).
"You're Not Going To Hurt Your Baby, Are You?"
Sometimes, people mistake postpartum depression for postpartum psychosis, which is an entirely different thing. You can experience the former without going through the latter. I was absolutely terrified of getting it, but once I spoke to my psychiatrist about my fears, she assured me that a very, very small percentage of women who suffer from PPD end up also suffering from postpartum psychosis.
"You Don't Look Depressed"
I fit into the high-functioning category of PPD survivors. I was baking, I was doing a Whole30, I was starting a new career as a copywriter and staying up half the night to meet deadlines. I was so accomplished! I also wanted to claw the eyes out of every person I saw in public. I didn't look depressed, I looked like I wanted to get into a brawl with everyone I met.