Postpartum Depression - Mental Health

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  1. Major form of depression
    1. Most mothers experience the “baby blues” at some point after giving birth, but this is different from Postpartum Depression (PPD), which is a form of major depression that begins shortly after birth.
  2. Risk factors and helpful strategies
    1. Newer insights into PPD have helped identify risk factors and preventive strategies that could lessen the impact of this painful condition on new mothers. 
  3. Build awareness through storytelling
    1. Use storytelling to build empathy and counter the shame and misconceptions that can prevent mothers from getting treatment in the early stages of PPD.
Catelynn Lowell opened up about her experience with postpartum depression after having daughter Nova in 2015, on Teen Mom OG. (Image courtesy of MTV).

Storytelling Tips

Show Conversations About Mental Health and Help-Seeking
  • Show mothers talking about postpartum depression, which can make these conversations seem less daunting and more accessible 
  • Telling someone you have difficult feelings around the birth of a new baby can be intimidating. People may fear judgment or just not want to say the words out loud. 
Spotlight Support from Friends and Family Members
  • Portray an active support network to help educate viewers on how to spot PPD and how to help. 
  • Family members can play an important role in noticing warning signs of PPD and supporting a mother through the most difficult parts of the depression.
Highlight the Power of Coping Skills and Self-Care
  • Depict mothers practicing self-care to give other mothers permission to do the same. 
  • The first few weeks after bringing a baby home can be chaotic, and mothers often sacrifice alone time and self-care to try to keep up with the demands — self-care is an important part of overall wellness and treating PPD.
Move Past Stereotypes
  • If your story involves a character with postpartum psychosis, look for opportunities to differentiate that from the more common PPD to avoid misconceptions. 
  • While postpartum psychosis is a real condition, it’s fairly rare, with only 1 to 2 women in every 1,000 experiencing this more severe, dangerous condition. 

Snapshot

Most mothers experience the “baby blues” at some point after giving birth, but this is different from Postpartum Depression (PPD), a mental health condition that is diagnosed as major depression that begins within four weeks of giving birth. PPD involves physical, emotional, and behavioral changes, and can be very overwhelming and confusing to new mothers who may feel shame or guilt at not experiencing joy during the first weeks after birth. 

While we don’t fully understand the causes of PPD, we do know it involves hormonal changes following childbirth, lack of sleep, changing social dynamics, and the pressures of taking care of a new baby. When these challenges are interfering with daily life and persisting longer than a couple of weeks, the new mother might be experiencing PPD, which could be treated with medication and therapy. 

Facts & Stats

Mothers with a history of depression, anxiety disorders, or serious mood disorders are 30% to 35% more likely to develop PPD.
If someone has experienced postpartum depression with previous births, they are 10% to 50% more likely to experience it again.
It is believed that 50% of mothers who develop postpartum depression begin experiencing symptoms during pregnancy. This proves the case for early symptom recognition, awareness, and access to treatment.
Treatment works. The overall success rate for treating PPD is 80%.
Only 1 or 2 mothers out of every 1,000 will develop the more severe postpartum psychosis that can include delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. This condition is very concerning because it significantly elevates the risk that someone will hurt themselves or their child. 

Symptoms & Warning Signs

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with the new baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Restlessness, insomnia, or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Mother having thoughts of harming herself or the baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment Options

  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy can help mothers work through the depression and feelings of guilt or shame that might be attached to it. Therapists can also help in developing coping skills that can help a person manage or heal from PPD.  
  • Medication: Antidepressants can be effective in treating PPD and there areoptions that are safe to take while breastfeeding. Medication may be more effective when paired with talk therapy.

Need more guidance on depicting postpartum depression? Browse the expert directory >

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