Perinatal mood disorders can be shrouded in shame, guilt and misunderstanding. When mothers and families are not adequately educated, some first-time mothers are not able to tell the difference between feeling depressed and being an exhausted new mother. In addition, mothers feel that no-one else could possibly feel like they do. They feel they must have done something wrong and it is all their fault – “There must be something terribly wrong with me, as a mother.” As a result they become expert at hiding how they really feel, and putting on a coping front.
The longer this goes on, the more isolated the woman with PPD feels and the worse the condition gets.
Here are three key facts about PPD:
1. THERE IS HELP
Help does exist. And, with help, mothers can get well. A three-fold combination of counseling, group support and psychiatric medication has been found to be most effective. In addition family and community support is critical.
One of the best places to begin looking for help is on the resources page of website of Postpartum Support International. PSI is an international organization with area coordinators in almost every state in the USA and in many countries throughout the world. They even have coordinators for military families. When you contact your area coordinator, they will let you know where to find local resources.
PSI also offers a Support Warmline in English and Spanish (1-800-944-4PPD).
The PSI position is: “Depression or anxiety in pregnancy or postpartum is treatable, no matter how severe the symptoms. Women need to know that they are not alone, they are not to blame, and they can recover with a plan of self-care, healthcare, and support.”
2. A CRISIS CAN BE AVERTED
Even when a mother’s symptoms are severe, a crisis (such a suicide) can be prevented with good support and expert professional care.
When a mother has suffered from PPD in a previous pregnancy, she is more likely to suffer from PPD after subsequent pregnancies. Thus steps can be taken to prevent this. A great book on this subject is: What Am I Thinking? : Having a Baby after Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman
Risk factors for PPD have been well-researched. Families, primary care providers, OBGYNs, midwives and pediatricians who are familiar with these risk factors can help prevent the crisis of PPD. Here is a list of risk factors: http://www.themommyblues.com/riskfactorsPPD.html
3. THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF SYMPTOMS
There have been cases of women with postpartum psychosis who have hurt their babies and children. This is not the same as postpartum depression. There is a difference between losing touch with reality and hearing voices (psychosis), and being very distressed, but still in touch with reality (depression and anxiety).
In addition, feeling tearful and moody in the first couple of weeks after the birth of a baby is also not postpartum depression.
It is very confusing when people use “postpartum depression” to describe so many different conditions..
Whether a woman is experiencing the “baby blues” or postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, is best diagnosed by an informed medical professional.
If you or someone you know is having trouble adjusting to a new baby, please contact the PSI (see no.1 above) for guidance on how best to manage the situation!