Photo: Smiling through postpartum depression, about 2 months after giving birth to my wonderful boy.
Suicide accounts for 20% of all deaths among women in the first year after giving birth the US.
This makes suicide the second leading cause of death among women in the postpartum period.
May is postpartum depression (PPD) awareness month. PPD is a condition that is starting to get more attention due to high profile moms like Chrissy Teigan, Hayden Panettiere and Adele speaking honestly about their struggles with depression after birth. Postpartum depression is a complicated medical condition with many contributing factors: hormonal changes, genetic pre-disposition, sleep deprivation, isolation and lack of social support. The woeful lack of support for new mothers in the US - particularly lack of paid maternity leave and the recent push to eliminate maternity and mental health care from insurance plans – certainly contributes to the prevalence of postpartum mental health issues and makes treatment even more difficult. And even though screening for postpartum depression in the US has dramatically improved, the standard 6-week postpartum visit occurs too late to pick up early signs that a woman may be struggling.
If you are a new mom and think you may have postpartum depression, please reach out to your healthcare provider or clinic for evaluation and possible treatment. What you are feeling is real and can be treated. You can also find self-screening tools online, like this one.
Even if you don't have a good support network, reading about other women's struggles and how they made it to the other side can help. I highly recommend Brooke Shield's Down Came the Rain (published back in 2006!) or Chrissy Teigan's essay in Glamour. These stories from women who "have it all" only further emphasize the very real medical condition that is PPD.
If you know a new mom – check in with her. Offer to help with her other children, household duties or just be available to listen if she needs a grown-up to talk to. And help her to seek help for PPD if you are worried. You can literally be a life saver!
And let’s all continue to talk about our experiences with postpartum depression so that we know that we’re not alone.