6 things you never knew about postpartum depression, but definitely should

In the April issue of Glamour, model, author, and Twitter star Chrissy Teigen opened up about her struggle with postpartum depression. She wrote a heartfelt essay about what life has been like since she gave birth to her daughter Luna last year, and although we’re used to seeing a version of Chrissy that’s gorgeous and all smiles, her reality of living with postpartum depression has been anything but easy. In fact, it has changed her life entirely.

As always, Chrissy chose to be brutally honest about her postpartum depression when she wrote the essay for Glamour. She did this in an attempt to encourage other moms to come forward and speak about their experiences, because postpartum depression is rarely talked about in our society. In fact, it’s a taboo subject. But it needs to be talked about, because the more we educate ourselves, the better we can take care of ourselves — and take care of others.

Here are six things you never knew about postpartum depression.

1. A lot more women suffer from postpartum depression than you might think.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 20 percent of women who give birth every year suffers from postpartum depression. That roughly equates to 600,000 women who are diagnosed with postpartum depression every year — and that’s in the U.S. alone. That’s an astonishingly high number, and that probably means you’ve known a mother in your friend or family circle who has battled postpartum depression.

2. Women who miscarry or have stillbirths can still suffer from postpartum depression.

There are many moms out there who unfortunately suffer miscarriages or stillbirths, and these women are just as susceptible to postpartum depression as the moms who get to bring their babies home from the hospital. In fact, some studies have shown that women who have miscarried have a higher risk of postpartum depression. The CDC’s report on the number of moms with postpartum depression only includes live births, so when you expand the statistic to include women who have endured miscarriages or stillbirths, we could be looking at upwards of 900,000 women every year who battle postpartum depression.

3. Very few women with postpartum depression get the treatment they need.

Many women who go through a severe depression following the birth of their child feel shame and guilt around what they’re experiencing. They feel like they shouldn’t be depressed about anything, so they don’t bring up their symptoms with anyone, not even a trusted medical professional. It’s estimated that only 15 percent of women with postpartum depression get the treatment they deserve, which means there are hundreds of thousands of moms out there who are suffering from a disorder that could easily be treated.

4. There are some cultures in which postpartum depression cases reportedly don’t occur.

Researchers have found over the past few decades that there are several places around the world in which postpartum depression doesn’t exist among mothers. They studied these non-industrialized cultures to find out why, and they discovered that there are five protective social practices that take place during the postpartum phase: a distinct postpartum period, protective measures reflecting the new mother’s vulnerability, social seclusion and mandated rest, functional assistance and social recognition of the mother’s new role and status.

These five phases allow for mothers to stay healthy and recover from the pregnancy and birth in the best way possible, so postpartum depression is virtually nonexistent among these cultures. They also provide a strong support system for mothers that we often lack in our country. For example, you’d be hard pressed to find an employer in America that offers a new mom “social seclusion and mandated rest” after she’s just given birth.

5. Symptoms don’t always show up right after giving birth.

You might think that if postpartum depression was going to show up, it would show up right after the birth. That’s not always the case, though. Although you can experience symptoms a few weeks after giving birth, it’s also possible to take up to a year for postpartum depression to rise to the surface. Most commonly, it will show up about 3 months after giving birth.

6. There can be longterm effects of postpartum depression.

Everyone in the family is affected when a mother suffers from postpartum depression. If it’s left untreated, the disorder can potentially affect the lifelong bond between mother and child. A study in Pediatrics & Child Health found that children who grow up with depressed mothers are more likely to develop insecure attachments to their mother that will last throughout adolescence. They might even have trouble in social situations later on in life.

Mothers with postpartum depression might have trouble with other relationships in their life as well, such as with their partner, their friends, and their family. Most importantly, though, untreated postpartum depression can result in suicide. The New York State Department of Health released statistics showing that five percent of women with perinatal depression commit suicide.

If you or anyone else you know is showing signs of postpartum depression — significant fatigue, changes in appetite, hopelessness, lack of interest in hobbies, extreme anxiety — don’t hesitate to reach out to a doctor. Postpartum depression is a treatable disease, and no mother should have to face it alone.

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