Debunking Myths About Postpartum Depression
November 9, 2020Postpartum depression is more common than you might think, and when it becomes severe, it can develop into a serious mental health concern. However, persistent myths and stigma surrounding postpartum depression can cause some new mothers to avoid seeking help. It’s time to debunk these myths and help moms understand the symptoms and treatments for postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Statistics
Between 70 percent and 80 percent of women will experience, at minimum, the “baby blues,” and some experience more severe depression after giving birth.1 The rate of clinical postpartum depression among new moms is 10 percent to 20 percent; however, the true number may be higher, as some women may try to hide their symptoms.1
Myths and Misconceptions
These are some of the most common (and most harmful) myths and misconceptions about PPD.
- Myth: It causes mothers to hurt their babies or other children. Postpartum depression is sometimes portrayed in the media as being the reason why some mothers “snap” and intentionally harm their children. Postpartum depression does not cause violent behavior; rather, mothers who commit violence or other abuse toward their children are more likely suffering from postpartum psychosis, which is a very rare condition that affects only 0.1 percent of new moms. Postpartum psychosis is characterized by the mother losing touch with reality. This highly dangerous condition is always a medical emergency.2
- Myth: Having scary or disturbing thoughts is a sign of postpartum psychosis, or it means you will hurt your baby. It is not uncommon for new mothers to have frightening, intrusive thoughts in which they harm or endanger their baby, either on purpose or accidentally. Women who have these thoughts are no more likely to hurt their babies than anyone else.2
- Myth: It is only experienced by the mother. Believe it or not, postpartum depression can also be experienced by another parent or caregiver besides the biological mother. Studies have found that approximately 10 percent of new fathers experience symptoms of depression during the postpartum phase. Likewise, half of the fathers whose partners suffer from postpartum depression will go on to experience depression, anxiety, or both.1 Even adoptive parents have been known to experience postpartum depression, which indicates the disorder is not purely attributed to changes in the mother’s brain chemistry.1
- Myth: It’s just the “baby blues.” Everyone experiences feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression in their lives. Having a baby is a huge life change, so it’s no wonder new mothers have these feelings. But a few days of the baby blues is not the same thing as postpartum depression. The so-called baby blues are usually characterized by a few days of sadness or feelings of being overwhelmed, mourning the passage of the pregnancy phase, or feeling anxious about having a newborn. Postpartum depression is characterized by persistent feelings of depression and anxiety that can make it difficult for the mother to function in a healthy way.
- Myth: It only affects certain types of women. Some people mistakenly believe that postpartum depression only happens to women who already have depression or anxiety or some other mental illness. The truth is that any mother can experience postpartum depression, even if she was perfectly healthy before.2 Postpartum depression can also occur in women of all ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, education levels, ages, and so forth.1
Signs and Symptoms
Talk to your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms, even if you are still pregnant. Studies have shown that postpartum depression symptoms can occur as early as the third trimester of pregnancy.3
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression4:
- Depressed mood
- Severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Drastic changes in appetite
- Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you aren’t a good mother
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate, or make decisions
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Keep in mind that the symptoms above are specific to postpartum depression and are not symptoms of postpartum psychosis.
Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis4:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Obsessive thoughts about your baby
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Excessive energy and agitation
- Attempts to harm yourself or your baby
If you or your partner are exhibiting any of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately.
Resources That Can Help
New moms who are battling postpartum depression should never have to suffer in silence. Use these free resources to get help:
- “Scary Thoughts” PDF – The Postpartum Stress Center: https://postpartumstress.com/admin/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/ScaryThoughts-1.pdf
- Postpartum Support International Helpline: 1-800-944-4773, text 503-894-9453 or visit online: https://www.postpartum.net
- Weekly Online Support Group Meetings from Postpartum Support International: https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/psi-online-support-meetings/
Be sure to contact your doctor or your local city, county, or state health departments for additional help. Remember, you are not alone.
Prenate® Vitamin Family
This post is sponsored by the Prenate® Vitamin Family, a line of prescription prenatal supplements designed to enhance preconception, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition in women. Talk with your doctor about how taking a daily prescription prenatal or postnatal vitamin could help support a healthy pregnancy and postpartum wellness.