Why We Need To Talk About Postpartum Depression

This week is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week.


UK singer Adele recently spoke out about her experience of postnatal depression in Vanity Fair, and she hit the nail on the head:

“My knowledge of postpartum—or postnatal, as we call it in England—is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job. But I was obsessed with my child… It can come in many different forms.”

Postnatal or postpartum depression is often used as a catch all phrase that covers a range of postpartum mood disorders including anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and psychosis.

I prefer the broader, more inclusive term, postpartum mood disorder, but often use depression instead because that is usually how it is referred to culturally and in many studies and resources.

Recent research is finding that postnatal mood disorders such as anxiety and OCD are actually more common than depression. The problem is that most mothers - and even many health care professionals - don’t know this.

Depression typically includes feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation and fatigue.

But anxiety, for example, might include excessive worrying, feelings of panic and being unable to stay calm and still.

So you could suffer for a long time without getting the help you need if you don’t fit the criteria specifically for depression. It’s possible you have some other mood disorder that you don’t know about and aren't being screened for.

We Need To Talk About This!

Most people feel ‘anxious’ or ‘depressed’ at times, so how do you know when it’s time to call in back up?

When your bad feelings last for more than two weeks and when they interfere with daily activities like eating, caring for your children or sleeping. It’s time to get help.

Even then, many mothers find it really difficult to admit that they are not coping. Feelings of shame or embarrassment may prevent you from getting the diagnosis that could help you be the mum you want to be.

But as Andrew Solomon says, depression is the secret we share. I highly recommend you watch his excellent TEDTalk

1 In 7 Women Will Experience Postpartum Depression.

And it is now thought that dads may experience depression at the same rates as mums, they just aren’t being screened or diagnosed.

We Need To Talk About This!!

On top of the stigma our culture has around mental illness, we also have a stigma attached to many methods of treatment, preventing some people who have a diagnosis from getting the treatment they really need. Many kinds of treatments are seen as taboo, ranging from medication to alternative therapies.

We Need To Start Talking About This!!!

Knowing about postnatal depression reduces the impact of postnatal depression.

If you are a doula or a midwife it’s time to start talking about postpartum mood disorders. Whilst we are not qualified to diagnose, cure or treat any mental illness we can certainly be a part of the conversation. Talk about mental health to you clients and colleagues! Reduce the stigma, increase awareness and together we can limit the impact of mental illness on young families. 

Please share this blog post with another doula or midwife.