Let's Be Real and Talk about Postpartum Depression and Anxiety...
Let's take a moment and talk, really talk, about Postpartum Depression and Anxiety (PPD and PPA). It has only been recently that the stigma surrounding Postpartum Depression and Anxiety has started to lift. It has also only been recently that people are really starting to understand this very specific and at times debilitating mental health diagnosis.
For so long, PPD and PPA have been explained away as simply "baby blues" that will pass with time or increased attachment to their child. What a horrible and ignorant belief that trapped women in a cycle of confusion, shame, and frustration for much longer than was ever necessary. The reality is that a large percentage of women struggle with PPD and PPA, and a woman's likelihood of experiencing PPD and PPA increases significantly when she has experienced depression and anxiety in the past, or she has a family history of PPD and/or PPA. It is a very real mental illness influenced and compounded by the extreme hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy and childbirth. It ranges from mild depression to extreme psychosis and has been often overlooked or misdiagnosed in the past. Fortunately, this is starting to change, and even the recommendations set forth by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force strongly advise early screening and intervention as well as appropriate referral to mental health professionals specializing in this area.
It also bears mentioning that PPD and PPA aren't exclusively experienced by women. Although the research and data on men experiencing PPD and PPA is relatively new, I believe it is important to recognize the struggles men experience following the birth of a child. The stress of supporting a child and recovering mother can certainly exacerbate these symptoms, and the stigma and shame men may experience could deter them from seeking help for PPD and PPA.
So if you or someone you love (male or female) appear to be having a difficult time, don't just assure them it will go away on its own. Suggest they seek help from their OB-GYN, Primary Care Doctor, therapist, or mommy support group. These symptoms can onset weeks to even months after the birth of a child, so we must be vigilant for ourselves and our loved ones. Let's not dismiss our concerns or the concerns of others. No woman or man should have to suffer without support and help.