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For most women, postpartum depression seems like something other women get.
It’s hard to figure out, as the symptoms don’t make a lot of sense. Postpartum depression doesn’t care how great your life is, how much help you have or how much you love your new baby.
Recently, postpartum depression gained a new spokeswoman in model Chrissy Teigen, who publicly announced her diagnosis in a blunt, detailed essay in Glamour magazine.
“I also just didn’t think it could happen to me. I have a great life,” Teigen wrote. “I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny. But postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling. Sometimes I still do.”
If you think postpartum blues, often called “baby blues,” could never happen to you, think again. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) affect up to 1 in 5 women during pregnancy and after giving birth, thanks to hormonal changes and sleep deprivation, among other factors.
While postpartum blues usually resolves within a week or two after delivery, sometimes symptoms continue and worsen. New research suggests perinatal depression (also called postpartum depression or PPD) affects as many as 1 in 7 women, and about 1 in 10 fathers.
In her essay, Teigen describes physical pain, including nausea, as well as irrational emotional outbursts of crying and anger. Unless she had to work, she never left her house, she wrote.
“I'll just say it: I have post partum depression.” Source: Instagram.com/chrissyteigen
How do you know when you’ve moved beyond baby blues? Some red flags for perinatal depression are not being able to nap while your baby is sleeping or worrying obsessively about your baby’s health. Here are some other symptoms to be aware of:
When PMAD symptoms last for more than two weeks or make it difficult to function, it’s time to get help. In very rare cases (1-2 percent), mothers may experience agitation, mood swings, or a loss of touch with reality marked by delusions, hallucinations and even suicidal or infanticidal thoughts or actions. Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency and treatment is urgent.
Motherhood is challenging for everyone. It can be confusing to struggle with feelings that contradict the feelings of joy often expected of new mothers. Many women are acutely aware that they are not feeling like themselves and that something is wrong. Unfortunately, most suffer in silence out of fear, guilt or shame.
It’s important to recognize that PMADs have a very real biological basis — and are also highly treatable, with early identification leading to faster and more effective treatment. Here are some ways to detect PMADs early so you can feel better:
“I’m speaking up now because I want people to know it can happen to anybody and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone,” Teigen wrote in her essay. “I also don’t want to pretend like I know everything about postpartum depression, because it can be different for everybody. But one thing I do know is that—for me—just merely being open about it helps.”
If you’re dealing with a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, there is no shame in getting the help you need to feel better. No one can be a perfect mom, but we can do our best to be a healthy one.
Learn more about PMADs.
Get help for postpartum depression and anxiety. Call the Mom’s Line at 630-527-7294, or join the Nurturing Mom support group.
Explore behavioral health resources, or call 630-305-5027 for a free behavioral health assessment.
Fatima Ali, MD is a psychiatrist at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
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