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Break the stigma of addressing postpartum depression

A unhappy exhausted mom trying to take a nap with her baby in the car

It’s time to end the stigma around Postpartum Depression (PPD) and to start addressing the issue by openly talking about the disorder. Research has shown that it’s a vital public health issue, and the diagnosis and treatment are not addressed uniformly to reduce its prevalence.

Postpartum depression is a prevalent mental health illness vastly affecting women in the weeks and months after giving birth. When a baby is born, mothers experience a rush of emotions: joy, excitement, numbness, hopelessness, and isolation. Each year, hundreds of thousands of mothers suffer from postpartum depression in silence. Despite the prevalence and availability of treatment, postpartum depression is still the most misunderstood and overlooked illness.

Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Sleeping too much or inability to sleep
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of energy or immense fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts

The way behavioral health including postpartum depression treated in the past generations has been a taboo. But now, healthcare providers ask about the emotional health of their patients. However, mothers often put on a cape and try to hide their feelings. It is important for women to talk about their emotions during postpartum. Otherwise, it can have detrimental consequences because depression is a progressive illness and keeps worsening if left untreated.

We need to begin with identifying the disorder rather than labeling the mother as the problem. It’s important to separate the person from the disease. When someone has heart disease, they are not ashamed of telling people about their illness and seeking treatment. The illness doesn’t define them! Just like that, postpartum depression doesn’t define a mother. Let’s accept the fact that it is okay to receive help. We as a community should also offer help to new mothers because they are trying hard to figure everything out while compromising their health and sleep. Here are some ways you can be supportive of mothers with PPD.

  • Stop trying to solve her problems.
    Do not make comments like, “You’re a great mom!” it can only increase the mother’s guilt. Instead, say words that validate her feelings and emotions, such as, “It must be really hard.” Share your or someone’s story who dealt with any form of depression. It can be helpful to them and build hope within.
  • Offer to babysit.
    New mothers are often sleep-deprived. Rather than asking them how you can be of any help, just show up and offer to babysit while she takes a nap, showers, or even goes out somewhere for a few hours.
  • Offer to go to her doctor’s appointment with her.
    Validate her feelings, encourage her to seek help, and offer to tag along as her advocate. During the first year of follow-up checkups, it’s majorly about the baby, so a mother’s needs are often overlooked. You can be her support by helping her convey her concerns if the doctor doesn’t ask her.

Postpartum support comes in many forms. First, accept that your feelings are valid and there is help out there in various ways to help you cope with the depression.

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