Postpartum depression, or PPD. It’s a very real and very scary thing that happens to be the most common complication of pregnancy — yet women are still afraid to talk about it, even with the people closest to them.
Why is that? Maybe it’s because many women feel like they should be able to handle personal struggles on their own. Or they don’t want to feel like a burden or bother anyone. Or they’re new moms who just assume this is part of the package. Maybe they’re afraid they’ll look like a bad mother or that they’re not capable of taking care of their families. Or they come from a community where mental health is just not talked about in general. Maybe in the age of Instagram perfection, people are afraid to appear less than perfect. For whatever reason, as a society we are still afraid to talk about PPD — and it’s really hard to identify or treat something that isn’t discussed nearly enough.
PPD is starting to be discussed more openly, especially online where moms have started sharing their PPD stories and creating communities where other women feel supported in hearing and sharing these real journeys, too. This is a good thing — the more opportunities women have to hear about real experiences shared by other moms, the more we can learn to recognize PPD in ourselves or our girlfriends, and the more we can understand that it’s OK to get help.
Collectively we can prevent any woman from suffering in silence, afraid to speak up. Here are a few ways we can start to normalize the discussion around postpartum depression:
Ask other moms who are close to you about their experiences shortly after giving birth. Chances are, there are more women in your inner circle who struggled quietly than you might think. Even if their kids are older and that time feels like ages ago, there can be healing in talking about the realities of that time period, and every discussion contributes to making these topics more normal and accessible.
Share your story to the extent that you feel comfortable doing so. That might be with just a few close friends and family, or with a larger audience in your own social media circle or as a guest blogger on a channel that invites women to tell their stories for other women to hear. So many women feel like they are the only ones going through this, and it can be a huge and welcome relief to learn that they are far from alone. Your story and experiences belong to you, and it’s up to you alone when — or if — you’re ready to tell others.
Advocate in your community for better postpartum mental health resources for new moms. Maybe it’s contacting the local hospitals’ labor and delivery departments to find out what kind of postpartum support or PPD screening programs are in place and asking for improvements. Is it covered in birthing classes or maternity ward discharge videos? Or maybe you might start a discussion group for local moms to get together and share stories and support. Advocacy might even be tuning in to discussions about policies and legislation around family leave, health care resources, access to breastfeeding space for working moms, and anything else that could use your petition signature or vote to help other moms.
Intervene if you see another mom showing signs that she’s struggling. Please say something. It’s easy to think that it’s not our business, or that it might be awkward, or that someone else will step in — but that one “Hey, how are you really doing?” might be that priceless lifeline that mama has been waiting for.