Postpartum Depression and Helping At-Risk Mothers
Pregnancy is difficult for many women, but giving birth and going through postpartum depression (PPD) is worse. So many women struggle with “baby blues” and postpartum depression. PPD is a depressive episode that lasts for more than two weeks after giving birth. PPD is challenging to navigate, especially for mothers who have to care for their newborns and face the stigma surrounding PPD. It’s challenging, but if it is left untreated, women can feel disconnected from their babies and even want to hurt themselves or their family.
Women of all backgrounds can experience PPD; however, there are some biological and environmental risk factors for developing PPD. Women who have genetic predispositions for PPD are more likely to experience it. Women who have histories or genetic predisposition to depression and other mental health struggles are also more likely to develop PPD. One of the most significant factors in developing PPD is a woman’s lack of support throughout pregnancy and childbirth. For women of lower socioeconomic status, the lack of resources available throughout pregnancy makes it more challenging to give birth and care for the child. Financial and relationship problems are another risk factor for PPD because negative emotions and depressive states might last longer from additional stress. Fathers are also not inherently expected to care for children or their partners’ postpartum, taking a source of support away from struggling women. Around 50 percent to 85 percent of mothers experience “baby blues” or a lack of connection to their baby and depressive episodes for about three to five days. According to the CDC, one in eight women experiences PPD symptoms. However, the types and number of affected women vary based on financial situations, age, racial bias, and prejudice in healthcare. PPD can lead to higher rates of substance abuse in mothers and a higher risk of maternal and infant mortality; yet, treatment is not accessible for all women, nor is motherhood being streamlined.
It is important to get treatment for any mental illness, but the stigma surrounding mental illness can deter people from getting treatment. With PPD, women often don’t get help because the stigma around it can lead new mothers to think they are bad mothers, which is certainly not the case. Most of the stigma surrounding PPD comes from older generations and their styles of parenting. There are expectations that new mothers will give up their lives to take care of children and that taking care of children is natural and easy. People expect new mothers to be completely selfless, and they see self-care as being selfish to their children. Lack of knowledge about PPD is another reason why there’s so much stigma. The exact causes of PPD are unknown, and treatment does not always mean that women do not have responsibilities towards their children. Psychotropic medications are an option for those struggling with depression and other mental illnesses, but they are not always an option for mothers because of breastfeeding complications. Therapy, which is one of the best treatments for PPD, takes up much money, time, and resources that are not expendable for many women. It is incredibly challenging for women to seek treatment, despite the gravity of PPD.
PPD is a struggle for many women, particularly women with fewer resources. Women of color and women of lower socioeconomic status are the mothers struggling the most, but nothing is happening to help them. There is much to be said about maternal care in this country, but there are simple ways we can ensure women have more support throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. PPD is not a sign of weakness or being a bad mother; it is a result of the stress of motherhood and the lack of support women receive. One of the easiest ways to support new mothers is acquiring paid maternity leave and healthcare from their workplaces. Healthcare providers and workplaces should offer therapy and mental health services to new mothers so when women do have difficulty, they can easily receive affordable treatment without judgment or complications. When assistance is offered to all women, pregnancy and motherhood will be easier, and women can genuinely enjoy being mothers and raising their children.
“Depression Among Women.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 May 2020, www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/index.htm.
Fitelson, Elizabeth, et al. “Treatment of Postpartum Depression: Clinical, Psychological and Pharmacological Options.” PubMed Central (PMC), 30 Dec. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3039003.
“Postpartum Depression.” Office on Women’s Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 14 May 2019, www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression.
MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health. “Postpartum Psychiatric Disorders.” MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, 20 June 2019, womensmentalhealth.org/specialty-clinics/postpartum-psychiatric-disorders.
Thorsteinsson, Einar B., et al. “Changes in Stigma and Help-Seeking in Relation to Postpartum Depression: Non-Clinical Parenting Intervention Sample.” PubMed Central (PMC), 8 Nov. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6230434.