Gina Florio
March 07, 2017 6:06 pm
Tommaso Boddi/WireImage/Getty Images

You’ve probably heard the term postpartum depression at some point in your lifetime, and you may have even known a mother who has suffered from it. But it’s not a disorder that’s talked about very often in our society, so there are quite a few misconceptions about what postpartum depression really is, and how it truly affects mothers and their families.

When Chrissy Teigen opened up about her postpartum depression in Glamour‘s April issue, she surprised a lot of people. Looking at her life through Instagram you’d think she was nothing but thrilled to be a mother to Luna and a wife to John Legend. But postpartum depression can affect anyone, anywhere, and it can change your entire life. Chrissy had to see a doctor and start taking antidepressants to get her health back on track — and she’s not ashamed to admit it.

Up to 20 percent of new moms will suffer from postpartum depression, and although it’s a highly treatable disease, most of these mothers don’t get the help they desperately need. By arming ourselves with the correct information we have a better chance at helping moms everywhere live a healthy life.

Here are seven myths about postpartum depression it’s time to stop believing.

Myth #1: If you have postpartum depression, you’ll know you have it.

We don’t talk about postpartum depression regularly enough to where we all know what the symptoms look like. In fact, it’s such a taboo subject that many moms don’t know much about the disorder at all. In her essay for Glamour, Chrissy wrote about all her struggles following Luna’s birth — loss of appetite, extreme irritability, lack of interest in things that used to excite her, severe fatigue, among others. These are all classic symptoms of postpartum depression, but she had no idea she had it until a doctor diagnosed her with it.

Postpartum depression is a really complicated illness, and it won’t look the same for all women. Therefore, there are thousands of women out there who live with postpartum depression for months and they just don’t know it. We shouldn’t place unnecessary pressure on mothers to diagnose themselves. Instead we should encourage them to seek help from medical professionals if we notice that they’re not feeling well.

Myth #2: Symptoms develop immediately after birth.

Since it’s called postpartum depression, a lot of people are under the misconception that the symptoms will appear shortly after the baby is born. That’s not always the case, though. In some mothers, their postpartum depression shows up a year after their child is born. Studies have even shown that some women can develop a depression when they’re still pregnant. These may not be the most typical expressions of this disorder, but they’re certainly possible. It goes to show that there is no one-size-fits-all postpartum depression.

Myth #3: Postpartum depression happens to women who aren’t very healthy.

Not only is this myth incredibly offensive, but it’s completely untrue. Women don’t develop postpartum depression because of anything they’ve done or haven’t done as a mother. At childbirth there is a rapid fluctuation of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, and this can take a toll on the body, regardless of the mother’s health. Furthermore, a woman who has a history of abuse or trauma may be at a higher risk of postpartum depression. To assume that a mother would bring this illness on herself because of her choices in lifestyle is a damaging way to think about postpartum depression.

Myth #4: Postpartum depression only arises in women who have had depression before.

Although preexisting mental illness may increase your risk for postpartum depression, it certainly isn’t the only cause of it. There are plenty of women out there who have suffered from postpartum depression even though they themselves have never battled depression or anxiety before they became pregnant. The hormonal fluctuations that happen in your body during and after childbirth might result in some changes that you’ve never experienced before.

Myth #5: Moms with postpartum depression are a danger to their children.

Mothers suffering from postpartum depression are much more likely to harm themselves than they are their children. However, the media portrays a different story, which is why so many people automatically assume that moms with postpartum depression might hurt their baby. There is a very rare illness called postpartum psychosis, which affects 1 in 1,000 mothers and comes with a small risk of harming their children. It’s very different than postpartum depression, so the two shouldn’t be confused with one another.

Myth #6: Postpartum depression will go away if you wait it out.

You may have heard that a healthy diet, regular exercise, and more sleep will cure postpartum depression. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Postpartum depression is a serious illness that deserves medical attention. Common treatments are therapy and/or medication, but the road to recovery will look different for every woman. We should never tell women that their disease can just be willed away — would we say the same if it were something like arthritis or pneumonia? Definitely not.

Myth #7: Only birth mothers suffer from postpartum depression.

Surprisingly enough, all kinds of parents are capable of suffering from postpartum depression. Adoptive parents and fathers can be diagnosed with this illness, and studies have shown that there is a higher correlation of fathers with postpartum depression when their wives or girlfriends also suffer from it. We would all do better to be more sensitive and understanding of what parents go through when they bring a child into the world.

If you ever notice that you or your friend is suffering from the typical symptoms of postpartum depression after giving birth, reach out for help. Postpartum depression is a very real, very difficult illness to endure, and the more we spread the word about its effects, the more we can teach others that it’s a treatable disease that happens to the best of moms.

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