During my recent 6 week postpartum visit, I was pleased that the midwife included questions that I immediately recognized as assessing for Postpartum Depression (PPD), questions about mood, anxiety, coping and available support. While I have not personally experienced PPD, those routine questions were reassuring as I thought
about the many women I’ve known who needed to hear them to honestly acknowledge their unexpectedly painful postpartum feelings, to learn that they’re not alone and to get connected to information and support to help them during this emotionally vulnerable time.
Anyone who has been pregnant, given birth or been close to a woman who has, knows the undisputable hormonal shifts that occur and the impact on mood, decision-making, memory, attention, and more. All postpartum women are susceptible to PPD, although certain factors such as having a difficult or traumatic
pregnancy or childbirth, individual or family history of mental illness, inadequate social support, history of abuse, low self-esteem, or a perfectionistic personality are examples of factors that may elevate the risk. While approximately 15% of postpartum women are diagnosed with PPD, the numbers are likely much higher if we factor in the number of women who do not seek help and therefore, are not diagnosed. PPD can develop any time during the first year after childbirth and common symptoms include:
· Feeling sad, irritable, or anxious
· Trouble concentrating or completing tasks
· Loss of appetite
· Feelings of anger or indifference towards the baby
· Inability to feel happy or interested about anything
· Difficulty coping with daily activities
Many women experiencing Postpartum Depression (PPD) suffer in silence, terrified, confused and ashamed for feeling anything other than how they expected or are “supposed to” feel, the idealized notion of maternal bliss: gazing into a cooing baby’s eyes, afternoon naps, sunny walks in the park. Instead they find themselves discouraged, wondering “What is wrong with me?”, feeling overwhelmed, breaking into sobs or angry outbursts, telling themselves “I’m a terrible mother”, and feeling hopeless.
Postpartum depression is NOT a reflection of a woman’s character, nor indicative of her success or failure as a mother. Rather, it is a medical condition that requires attention and can respond well to treatment. No woman needs to endure this anguish and I encourage anyone feeling this way to seek help promptly as this condition
can impact the early bonding that occurs between mother and infant, and creates increased risk of depression for her child as well as her partner.
We are fortunate that the Delaware Coordinator for Postpartum Support International (PSI) is MOT residen Julie O’Neill. PSI has more than 200 Coordinators around the world to provide phone support, encouragement, and resources about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and can help people connect to their community or
internet resources. PSI Coordinators give encouragement and tips but they do not give clinical, medical, legal, or religious advice. Feel free to reach out to Julie at (302) 584-8249. For more information, check out PSI online at www.postpartum.net or Postpartum Progress at www.postpartumprogress.org.