This is a guest post
Postnatal Depression or Postpartum Depression is a severe mental health issue that affects 13 percent of women worldwide according to the World Health Organization. It’s a serious condition that if left untreated can result in death. Women should be mindful of their mental health both during pregnancy and afterwards and understand that it can be more than just the baby blues. Pregnancy is associated with being a joyous time in a woman’s life. However, some women experience mood swings that result in debilitating depression.
Other times pregnancy is the happy time that we’re used to hearing about. The mother-to-be has that pregnancy glow; she is excited and hopeful about having a new baby. She looks forward to her friends and family celebrating her baby shower and welcoming the upcoming addition to the family. Everything seems to be going smoothly until the baby is actually born.
Having a baby is a difficult transition, to begin with, whether it’s your first one or you’re adding another sibling to the family. It’s important to have a support system in place so that as a mother, you’re not burnt out from trying to do it all. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs and it’s important to give yourself credit for it. When you’re a mother experiencing PPD, it can be even harder to manage the day-to-day challenges of motherhood. Small challenges seem insurmountable and it can be hard to find joy in being a mother.
A mother who has PPD doesn’t understand why she’s not overjoyed looking at her tiny newborn. She’s crying much of the time and thinking thoughts like “I shouldn’t have had a baby.” She hears the baby crying and instead of wanting to soothe him or her, she feels resentment or anger. In some cases, the mother might have thoughts of harming herself or her baby. These serious symptoms and should be addressed immediately.
PPD often goes untreated because the mother experiencing it is ashamed to admit the thoughts she’s having. She is worried that people will judge her or think less of her as being a “bad mom.” What she should know is that Postpartum Depression is a medical condition that she can’t control. It affects millions of women across the world and they didn’t do anything wrong. These women may not have experienced depression in their lives, which makes dealing with PPD even harder. If you’re not used to what it feels like to be depressed, it can be an awful debilitating feeling.
If your symptoms of depression aren’t going away and you’re having trouble functioning, it’s time to seek help. A mental health professional who specializes in maternal mental health including PPD can help you understand your symptoms better. Whether you’re speaking to an online psychologist or one in-person, it’s helpful to be able to release your feelings of depression. PPD is a real mental health condition and needs to be treated as such. There’s nothing wrong with you for having depression. You’re not a mother because you’re dealing with a mental illness. Take charge of your mental health and get better. You’re going to be a better mom when you accept that you need help.
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.
Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.