Did you know an average of 11-20% of women who give birth in the US experience Postpartum Depression? Recently PPD as it is referred made its way back in the news with new awareness as actress Hayden Panettiere has discussed it and is getting help for it. What is postpartum depression? Make no mistake, this is a very real form of depression, caused by a combination of a severe drop in hormones mixed with the challenges of the first year of baby care and other physical and lifestyle factors.
If you or someone you know is suffering from this condition, take heart that there are ways to treat it successfully and cope, heal and reclaim your joy of motherhood. Also hearing the stories of others going through the same thing can help you feel less alone or alienated. There are many who understand just what you are going through! Here are some famous voices who have spoken out on their experience of postpartum depression.
Apparently beauty, happiness, fame and money isn’t everything. Almost immediately after giving birth to her now 12 year-old daughter, Shields experienced a strange sorrow and disinterest, which were dismissed as the baby blues. When the issue escalated to breakdowns, feelings of suicide and strange illusions, she came across the term postpartum depression. After studying up on the symptoms of postpartum depression, she knew this was what she was going through. In her case, possibly undergoing IVF, complications from birth and the recent death of her father may have contributed to the condition, along with other life factors. She wrote in her book, Down Came the Rain,
Postpartum depression takes certain truths and turns them into the worst version of the truth…”
“It Takes a Village” and “Not All Births Are The Same”
After giving birth to her second child in 2006, Gwyneth Paltrow experienced a bout of postpartum depression that she chose to disclose. She recently reflected on this time on her website, Goop.com:
When my son, Moses, came into the world in 2006, I expected to have another period of euphoria following his birth, much the way I had when my daughter [Apple] was born two years earlier…Instead I was confronted with one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life.”
There you can see that these symptoms of postpartum depression may not just occur automatically in every pregnancy. Incidentally, I found another part of the article on Goop.com interesting, as psychologist Dr. Binder-Brynes states that she believes some of the cause of the condition can be attributed to our modern lifestyle.
Most of us mothers today, especially in the Western World, live in a very different lifestyle than our ancestors. Typically, we are giving birth and raising our children away from our families, hometowns, or villages. We are often alone for the most part with our new family (except for when family members visit or move in with us temporarily). In the days of past, whole clans and the home-village helped with the childcare and a new mother was never isolated.”
I often think about the consequences of how we are raised more isolated these days. They used to say “It takes a village,” and it’s true. I won’t lie. If I could have many hands – trustworthy hands – helping out with raising my kids, it would be amazing. I do wish things were different.
“The Delayed Crash”
After daughter Coco was born in 2004, actress Courteney Cox described going through postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety…starting only 6 months after birth. She described to USA Today,
I couldn’t sleep. My heart was racing. And I got really depressed. I went to the doctor and found out my hormones had been pummeled.”
And in fact, Courteney received some emotional support from fellow sufferer Brooke Shields. Cox also described feeling suicidal feelings, and a sense of “smallness.” This description of feeling “small”, vulnerable and insignificant is a very important warning sign of depression and anxiety. It is important to seek support as there are ways to cope and heal from these phases.
“The Honest Actress”
After the birth of her daughter Frances, Amanda Peet described her severe depression to Gotham magazine. She says she experienced a euphoric pregnancy and it “all came crashing down the second [Frankie] was born.” Expecting to continue in the wonder of her pregnancy, she instead felt “sleep-deprived beyond belief” and ambivalent about motherhood, much like the feelings Brooke Shields described.
I want to be honest about it because I think there’s still so much shame when you have mixed feelings about being a mom instead of feeling this sort of ‘bliss.’ I think a lot of people still really struggle with that, but it’s hard to find other people who are willing to talk about it.”
Every time a famous person reveals a personal struggle such as the postpartum depression symptoms they experience, which are common to many others, they are opening doors to helping more people heal and find help. Cue Hayden Panettiere.
“A Brave New Voice”
Recently it was announced that Hayden Panettiere, star of “Nashville,” was entering a treatment center for postpartum depression. After giving birth to her daughter in December 2014, she revealed on “Live with Kelly and Michael” that
There’s a lot of misunderstanding and I feel like there’s a lot of people out there who think that it’s not real, that it’s not true, that it’s something that’s made up in their minds and, oh, it’s hormones. It’s really painful and it’s really scary and women need a lot of support.”
Again there’s nothing wrong and much more to be gained from being open about her condition as she has brought more awareness to the issue and this helps more women find help and support they need. As she wisely stated: “…it’s something I think that needs to be talked about and women need to know that they’re not alone and that it does heal.”
You can’t have an article like this and leave out Marie Osmond, who has written and spoken volumes on the topic of postpartum depression, including in her book Behind the Smile: My Journey Out of Postpartum Depression. As a women used to a high-function lifestyle, Marie was unaccustomed to feelings of helplessness, despair, lethargy and was devastated to find herself unable to bond with her seventh son right away. She describes feeling general baby blues with other children, but with her youngest she experienced something much more severe, which made her feel like her whole world was unraveling. She writes:
The doctor had warned me to go easy, but I thought his advice was for somebody else. It couldn’t be for anyone as tough as me. I could handle it. I could have a baby and get right back to work. I could get my family moved, make business decisions, get back in shape. I could get past the ‘baby blues.’ I could do whatever needed to be done. Five minutes later, I was sitting on the kitchen floor, heaving with sobs and all I could think was, ‘This can’t be happening to me.’ This couldn’t be me, collapsing in hysteria, not even recognizing my own wails. This was not me, shaken to the core, sliding into a despair of the deepest kind. Whoever this was, she had no control of her emotions. Whoever this was, I wanted nothing to do with her. I wanted her away from my house, my children, and my baby.”
Osmond describes a bad combination of hormone-drop (progesterone) combined with stress, hormonal imbalance, and food allergies among other things going on in her life that contributed to her particular postpartum depression symptoms. She also says she was high risk for it but didn’t know it until later due to family history. Osmond has brought the topic a long way for many women across America.
You can see from just these famous voices of postpartum depression that other women, even women who seem to have it all, experience these very same emotions and troubles, unfortunately this condition, much like miscarriage, does not discriminate across class or race. However, there is help and with the proper treatment, guidance and support, you can wind your way out of this depression.