In light of World Maternal Health Day, let’s take a moment to tackle the somewhat taboo issue of postpartum depression.
As many as twenty percent of all new mothers experience postpartum depression, and certain environmental factors can increase that risk. Those more susceptible to dealing with postpartum depression include:
- Young mothers under the age of twenty.
- Those who may lack support in handling the tasks that come with caring for a newborn.
- Those that have experienced extreme physical, mental, emotional, or financial stress within the past year.
- Those that have struggled with mental illness before.
Due to the stigma surrounding any type of depression, I would like to take a moment to debunk those myths that exist with postpartum depression.
As a seasoned mom of two children aged five and two, I experienced severe depression after the birth of my third and youngest child. It looked nothing like the way it is often portrayed in the media. I did not want to hurt my children. I didn’t even necessarily want to end my own life.
However, I was exhausted all the time, consistently overwhelmed, and was struggling to find the joy in everyday living I had always been so good at discovering.
Let’s take a moment to talk about what people *think* postpartum depression is versus what it *actually* is…
4 Postpartum Depression Myths Debunked
Myth #1: It’s just the “baby blues” and will go away on it’s own after a few weeks.
Fact: Postpartum depression can last years untreated. I was convinced I could just manage on my own, and my energy levels and mental health did not improve until I finally visited a doctor THREE years later. In addition to finding a medical option that worked, I needed lifestyle changes and to make self care a priority. Doing ALL of these things was critical in my recovery.
Myth #2: Postpartum depression can be prevented.
Fact: Again, wrong. You cannot do anything to prevent postpartum depression. If you have struggled with depression or anxiety in the past, you may be more in tune with your body and catch it sooner than I did, but you are not able to totally prevent it from happening.
Myth #3: Postpartum depression makes you hear voices or have hallucinations.
Fact: That, my friend, is not normal postpartum depression. That is a condition called postpartum psychosis, and it requires seeking medical attention immediately. For me personally, postpartum depression made me feel like I was spinning on a hamster wheel. Exhausted from the effort, but not really getting anywhere.
Myth #4: Postpartum depression means you are a bad parent who does not want your child.
Fact: So False! Postpartum depression is “an illness caused by chemical imbalances in your brain that you can’t control”.
If you are worried you might be suffering from postpartum depression, OR if you are concerned for a loved one, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage it can cause.
First and foremost, reach out! It is past time to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental illness and learn to normalize getting care for depression as much as we normalize taking care of strep throat, the common cold, the flu, etc. As a new parent, I found critical support in my tribe of friends and family.
In addition to friends and family, there are also numerous support groups online. The Lily-Jo Project runs an online resource page chalk full of resources to help support those parenting or working with youth of all ages, as well as providing self care tips for parents and youth workers as well. I am the moderator of the group, and we would love to have you! You can request to join here.
Read Hannah’s Story
Last summer our pal Hannah shared her experience of having a baby during lockdown – read more about her story and tips for new mothers on The Lily-Jo Project blog here.
More Resources on Maternal Mental Health
If you found this article helpful, check out these other resources out there on maternal mental health.
- For advocacy and campaigning, check out the World Maternal Mental Health Day website.
- For self-help resources for mothers, check out the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health and the Maternal Mental Health Alliance.
- For US-based maternal mental health support groups and hotlines, check out PostPartum Support International.
- More information on perinatal and postnatal mental health can also be found on Mind here.
Monzon, C. (2018). The facts on postpartum depression. Retrieved from https://www.lifespan.org/lifespan-living/facts-postpartum-depression
Todd, N. (2019). Common misconceptions on postpartum depression. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/common-misconceptions
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is an early childhood educator in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com), her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.