According to the American Psychological Association (APA), it is estimated that 9-16% of birth mothers display some form of postpartum depression (PPD). While the symptoms of this enigmatic condition differ for everyone, they often include anxiety, irritability, mood swings and trouble sleeping. Sometimes the symptoms are short-lived, but sadly, they sometimes linger and make the early days of motherhood seem impossible.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there is no one cause of postpartum depression. There are a variety of factors, such as hormonal changes and sleep deprivation, that can trigger this disorder. Because it’s a mood disorder and the symptoms are so varied, it can be confounding to women affected by it as well as their loved ones. It can also create a lot of myth and misunderstanding when it comes to getting one’s head around how to manage it. For that reason, we’ve debunked 12 myths about postpartum depression to help clear things up. Hopefully this information can help you or someone in your life who is up against this challenging mental state.
1. Myth • If you have PPD after one pregnancy, you will have it with all
Just as every pregnancy and every child is different, how you feel after the birth will be different, too. You can suffer PPD with all of your children or none of them. There’s no crystal ball for this one.
2. Myth • Breastfeeding and PPD Meds don’t mix
Antidepressants are often prescribed for PPD. While most are considered safe and only trace amounts are passed on through breast milk, whether you can continue to breastfeed is something you, your partner and your doctor should discuss. Depending on the severity of symptoms, your depression and inability to enjoy your newborn may be more harmful than meds or discontinuing breastfeeding.
3. Myth • Ignore it and it will go away
If you had a cold that didn’t improve or a sore muscle that didn’t heal, you’d head to the doctor. If you think you have symptoms of postpartum depression, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Like any illness, you have to recognize it and then seek treatment.
4. Myth • PPD happens right after birth
It can happen right after birth, several months later or even many months after that. The conditions that worsen PPD like fatigue, feelings of isolation, and hormonal changes, continue well into the first year after giving birth. The truth is that PPD can hit you anytime.
5. Myth • You cry constantly when you have PPD
Remember, you’ve gone from childless with the ability to sleep and organize your day, to caregiver of a helpless infant that takes all your time and most of your sleep. All new mothers are likely to cry or feel overwhelmed more than usual. It’s not a one-size-fits-all disorder and how it affects you is unique as well. There are a range of symptoms including: sadness, anxiety, doubt, anger, detachment, and physical pain.
6. Myth • You will hurt your child if you have PPD
Despite highly publicized instances, women with PPD generally don’t harm their children. Women experiencing postpartum psychosis—an extremely rare and severe postpartum illness—are likely to hurt themselves or their children. Symptoms of postpartum psychosis are pronounced and usually appear within 48-72 hours of birth.
7. Myth • Only weak people get PPD
Any woman can suffer from PPD just as any woman can suffer from the flu. Changes in hormones, fatigue, and anxiety can cause postpartum depression in any woman.
8. Myth • You can’t take antidepressants while pregnant
If you suffer, or have suffered from depression in the past, speak honestly with your doctor about the risks for PPD and how taking antidepressants during your pregnancy may affect your unborn child. Many medications have shown to have a low risk of harming your baby and it’s essential that you stay healthy throughout your pregnancy.
9. Myth • Only low income women get PPD
Any woman can have PPD regardless of her financial status. While financial worries may worsen PPD, they are not the cause. Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow and Courtney Cox are just a few of the celebrities who have spoken openly about their postpartum depression, and we suspect none of them had to worry about the cost of diapers.
10. Myth • Primarily American women primarily get PPD
Women all over the world suffer from PPD. Having a good support system of family members and friends can soften the effects of postnatal depression.
11. Myth • Women are always happy with a new baby
Being pregnant, particularly in the end months, is tiring. Giving birth is hard work and the caring for a newborn is often frighteningly hard work. It’s more natural that a new mom is worn out and irritable than over-the-moon happy. Though most of the time, it is possible to be both.