Motherhood is one of the most selfless, challenging, exhausting, and rewarding journeys. Most mothers will do anything for their children daily, putting their own needs on the backburner. Mothers often sacrifice their own needs and desires to make sure their children are healthy and happy. Over time this can become a burden that can potentially result in anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, or substance use disorders. May is dedicated to National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, a time dedicated to increasing awareness and improving the quality of care for women worldwide.
“In many countries, as many as 1 in 5 new mothers experiences some perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMADs). These illnesses frequently go unnoticed and untreated, often with tragic and long-term consequences to both mother and child.”
There are many different types of depression; however, major depressive disorder is the most common; thus, it is the most talked about in mainstream media. Post-partum depression is a subset of depression that occurs in moms after they have given birth. Post-partum depression can appear anytime in the first year after delivery and is similar to major depressive disorder in many ways. The hope is that more women who experience can share their journey with others about mental illness to break down barriers to treatment, reduce stigma, and encourage others to seek help and be more open about their mental health.
“I have been here before. I know there is another side. And the other side is more significant than my PPD-riddled-temporarily-adjusted-brain could have ever imagined: as a mum. As an artist. As a friend. As a collaborator. As a leader. As a boss. As an activist,”-Alanis Morissette
Women and mental health
Although post-partum depression is a mental health disorder solely diagnosed in women, both depression and anxiety are more common among women than men. It is not clear why mental health disorders are more common in women; however, it is known that discrimination and trauma are prevalent among females. Both of these play a role in the development of mental health disorders. Research has shown that half of the women have experienced trauma in their lives, and one in four women have experienced sexual assault. The challenges of gender discrimination and the mistreatment of women are critical components in female mental health.
Post-partum depression is characterized by extensive periods of sadness, loneliness, fatigue, tearfulness, and recurrent thoughts of death. Moms will experience feelings of guilt, and all of these symptoms interfere with the mom’s ability to care for herself and her baby. Many moms, especially first-time mothers, will blame themselves for having these feelings. After all, isn’t motherhood supposed to be blissful and magical? Our society has created this view that is not reality. Motherhood is complex and can be lonely, and moms who have postpartum depression are not at fault. The majority of moms struggle with overwhelming feelings, but unfortunately, our society does not shed enough light on the struggles of early motherhood. As a result, moms who have postpartum depression may not realize they have a mental illness because of the stigma surrounding the signs and symptoms. If you are a mom, you must understand that postpartum depression is not your fault. You did not cause these symptoms.
Risk factors for postpartum depression
- History of depression during pregnancy or before pregnancy
- First-degree relative with depression
- History of physical or sexual abuse
- Chronic stress associated with divorce, loss of a loved one, unemployment, or financial troubles.
- Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy
- Under 19 years of age
- History of diabetes before or during pregnancy
- Current use of tobacco, excessive alcohol, or illicit drugs
- Negative thoughts about being a mom/having trouble adjusting to being a mom
The “baby blues”
The post-partum blues, also known as “baby blues” is similar to post-partum depression; however, symptoms are more temporary and not as severe. Symptoms usually peak on the 4th or 5th day after delivery and generally resolve within two weeks. Moms will experience sadness, tearfulness, and irritability, but these symptoms do not interfere with her ability to function or care for her baby.
Seeking treatment at AKUA
AKUA Mind and Body is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment center that offers multiple treatment approaches for both men and women battling depression. Depression is most successfully treated with various treatment modalities, including medication, therapy, and support groups. Motherhood can be difficult, but as a mom, it is your job to take care of your mental health for the sake of both you and your child.