Much has been written on postpartum depression (PPD). It is well documented and common among postpartum women, experienced in varying degrees. While symptoms range in intensity, when moderate to severe, they can be upsetting, shameful, and disregulating. Negative emotions can be especially difficult to tolerate when they occur in situations that involve internalized ideals of the perfect (postpartum) experience. For example, a mother who is postpartum, may, at times, experience feelings of bliss, and a deep love and connection with her newborn, yet at the same time experience feelings of dread, sadness, anxiety, panic, detachment, and guilt, in addition to tearfulness and crying. Further exacerbating this experience are extreme hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, feeding difficulties, and the massive life change of being fully responsible for another life; change occurring in full throttle.
Again, the degree to which women feel this polarizing state varies. When "baby blues" and other symptoms (mentioned above) do not remit or worsen, a diagnosis of PPD is considered. When left untreated, some women may be left with a lingering sadness, that waxes and wanes, often suffering in silence. Although many can function in this state, it is not optimal for mother or baby, and will not go away on its own. Positively, help is readily available and treatment options are promising. You do not have to suffer; speak up, and although it can be difficult, try to discuss your experience with those you feel close to, especially your medical provider.
Together, medical and mental health professionals are openly discussing PPD and the postpartum experience with their patients and loved ones. They are working to diminish the stigma of PPD, along with social service organizations, the media, family and friends. By giving PPD and related symptoms a voice, we can reduce shame, and enable earlier detection and intervention, so that women can stop suffering and feel like themselves again.
Dr. Ariela Bellin
If you or someone you know is suffering with PPD or related symptoms, please find help in your area. Reach out to your doctor, nurse or mental health specialist.