To fight the stigma of mental illness during and after pregnancy, these 7 women got very real.
Because getting help can change everything.
1 in 7 moms deals with postpartum depression or another perinatal mood disorder.
That's a lot of women who are facing a serious situation, many of them in silence and without help, because there's a stigma attached to this type of illness.
Now, these women want to show us the faces of everyday moms with the condition.
Seven real women, all of whom survived or are currently being treated for PPD or other perinatal mood disorders such as postpartum anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, opened up about their experiences in a video so that we can keep talking about the fairly common condition. (You can scroll to the end to watch it — it's worth your two minutes.)
Here are some of the very real and honest feelings they shared:
"Just the sounds of crying, it really started to get to me."
"And my stomach always felt like when you miss a step when you're going down the stairs and your stomach jumps. That's how I felt all the time."
"I really wanted to act out this anger on inanimate objects around my husband. And it was such a weird feeling."
"I found myself just getting fixated on certain things, extreme worry about his health."
"I felt like I could finally ... I would be able to rest if I would die."
What is postpartum depression, anyway?
Some women experience "baby blues" after giving birth. Those last for a few days or a few weeks tops and pass. According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms include the following: mood swings, sadness, anxiety, crying, irritability, trouble sleeping, and decreased concentration.
Postpartum depression is something else. It is one of the most common perinatal mood disorders, which can occur during or up to one year after pregnancy.
Mayo Clinic notes that "postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms of PPD are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks." They list the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Intense irritability and anger
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Loss of interest in sex
- Lack of joy in life
- Feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy
- Severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
(For a list and explanations in "plain mama English," you can visit Postpartum Progress.)
Without treatment, PPD can last months — or longer — and interfere with your ability to bond with your baby (which can cause problems for your child later in life) and even turn into a chronic depressive disorder that extends well beyond your postpartum months.
I spoke to Jill Williams Krause of Baby Rabies, the woman behind this video, to learn more about barriers to seeking help.
"I experienced postpartum anxiety and OCD, which are two diagnoses I didn't even know existed until I read about them on Postpartum Progress," she shared. "I read it when my second was about 8 months old and, for the very first time, realized that I wasn't a 'bad' mom. I was sick."
Why aren't more moms getting help? Well, for one, some "simply don't understand that it's not just feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts," Jill said. "They breeze through the six-week checkup not realizing that the obsessions, the visions, the panic are all things that they can get help for. Also, many moms are told they will get better with time."
Additionally, Jill says some moms "worry if they express that it's anything worse than a lack of sleep, they will lose their children."
Another barrier to reaching out for help is the way we've been presented with extreme stories of PPD in the media. "In many cases, their only exposure to a mom who has dealt with this is via a horrific news story. They don't want to be associated with that," Jill explained. Think: Cases where women tried to kill their babies (or actually succeeded).
But those cases are few and far between. We really need to focus on all the moms who are fighting this alone and silently — who can get better with help.
Because getting help matters so much.
Here's what the women had to say about their lives after treatment.
"I started feeling like myself again, and I could tell that for six months, I had felt like a completely different person."
"I mean, it was really a moment where I felt like I'm kind of me again."
"I was doing things with the kids more. I wasn't over-analyzing every bad thing that could happen. And I wasn't crying as much."
"You will get better. You will feel better. You feel right now like you're going to feel like this for the rest of your life, but it does get better."
Watch these women talk about their experiences.
"The seven women in this video are each in various stages of recovery from various perinatal mood and anxiety disorders," Jill explained.
"We want women who are struggling to see this and hopefully see themselves, their struggle in another mom who is healing or who has come through the other side. We want them to see the photos of loving moms with happy babies and know that 'good' moms deal with this stuff. That they are good moms, too."