While it's true there's been more awareness about postpartum depression in recent years than in the past, there still remains a certain stigma attached to the condition. You were just blessed with a healthy baby, after all. Shouldn't you be on cloud nine, blissfully bonding with your sweet little cherub? Motherhood is something you've dreamt about for so long. So why is it all so freaking hard, and why do you feel so helpless? For many moms experiencing PPD, reaching out for help can feel impossible. In fact, most moms feel pressured to hide their struggles, a new survey reveals. And something seriously needs to change.
The results of a new survey by HealthyWomen — a nonprofit health information source for women — were recently released. This online national survey of more than 1,000 women who are either pregnant or planning to become pregnant asked respondents about their experience with and knowledge of postpartum depression (PPD.) Conducted by HealthyWomen and sponsored by Sage Therapeutics, the survey set out to discover women's perception of PPD and their level of awareness about the condition — as well as identify communication gaps between expecting moms and their healthcare providers. And honestly? It looks like we've still got a long way to go when it comes to helping moms who are suffering from PPD.
Here are some of the key findings of this HealthyWomen survey, according to a news release:
- Ninety-one percent of women reported agreeing that there are societal expectations for moms to hide or disguise any sort of sadness or anxiety that comes along with motherhood.
- Just over half (51 percent) of the 356 women surveyed who had been diagnosed with PPD think it's an embarrassing diagnosis to receive.
- Nearly one-third (32 percent) of women said if they were to experience PPD, they would be less likely to have more children.
- Just over half (51 percent) of women believed that PPD is preventable, not realizing that the rising and falling hormone levels between pregnancy and birth are believed to play a possible role in triggering it.
- Less than half (38 percent) of women knew that having suicidal thoughts can be one of the symptoms of PPD, suggesting a need for education about the gravity of this condition.
“With more resources available and more celebrities openly sharing their stories, I am surprised that our survey revealed that many women and health care professionals are still not having the conversation about PPD and its signs and symptoms — which could lead to women suffering unnecessarily,” said Beth Battaglino, RN, and CEO of HealthyWomen, in a news release. "It is important that women who are pregnant or who have just given birth and their loved ones know the signs and symptoms — there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about." She continued:
Mothers need to feel supported and encouraged to ask for help. Receiving an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of the condition are crucial, as PPD not only affects the mother, but can have a significant impact on the whole family.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA,) up to 1 in 7 women in the United States experience PPD. Symptoms can appear days or months after giving birth — and they aren't the same for everyone. Here are signs to watch out for, per the APA:
- A loss of pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy
- Eating much more, or much less, than you usually do
- Anxiety — all or most of the time — or panic attacks
- Racing, scary thoughts
- Feeling guilty or worthless — blaming yourself
- Excessive irritability, anger or agitation — mood swings
- Sadness, crying uncontrollably for very long periods of time
- Fear of not being a good mother
- Fear of being left alone with the baby
- Inability to sleep, sleeping too much, difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Disinterest in the baby, family, and friends
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby.
Although I was never officially diagnosed with postpartum depression, I'm almost positive I had PPD after both my second and third children. When my third child was about 15 months old, I sought treatment for depression with anxiety. And that's when it clicked: I didn't have to feel this way. Instead of suffering in silence for so long, I could have felt like a fully-functional human being. So take it from someone who needlessly "powered through" feelings of worthlessness, excessive irritability, and anxiety: There is no shame in taking medication for a very real, and often very isolating disorder. You'll not only be helping yourself in the process, but your family as well.
If you or someone you know is experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, contact the Postpartum Health Alliance warmline at (888) 724-7240, or Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773. If you are thinking of harming yourself or your baby, get help right away by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or dialing 911. For more resources, you can visit Postpartum Support International.