Only a minority of women get professional treatment for postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety/OCD and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. One study puts the number at just 15%. This means that hundreds of thousands of women every single year are white knuckling it, hoping that their misery will eventually slink away on its own.
Why do they do this? Because no one has ever told them what the consequences are of ignoring PPD, or even that there are consequences. And also, because there’s still this belief that mothers should sacrifice themselves for their children. They shouldn’t need any help, and should devote their every waking second to their babies without even a thought for themselves. Get help? Who needs help?!
The two primary objectives of Postpartum Progress the nonprofit are to increase the number of women who recognize they have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder and to increase the number of women who get professional help for those illnesses. It’s crucial to get help. There are two major reasons why.
The first, and we’ve talked about this since 2010 but it was reinforced in the news this week, is because untreated PPD can morph into chronic depression. A study just published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry finds that about 50% of women with PPD are still depressed after the first year, and 30% still suffer from depression even three years later. The Belgian researchers believe reasons for this include:
– Some of the moms with PPD likely already had a pre-existing condition of depression prior to having a baby.
– Some may still contend with the risk factors that contributed to their PPD in the first place, such as a poor quality relationship with their partner.
I would argue another big reason, perhaps even the most important reason, is that some of them were diagnosed but never treated. They’ve never gotten any help, so the symptoms persist. (Or, they were ineffectively treated or quit their treatment plan too early.) The researchers had no way to account for this in their study. As reported by Science Codex, “Dr. Vliegen and colleagues note some important gaps in the research—including a lack of data on how treatment for postpartum depression affects long-term outcomes.” We know treatment helps. Just ask the Warrior Moms who say it saved their lives. Or the ones who held off getting treatment and wish they hadn’t.
The second reason it’s crucial to get professional treatment for postpartum depression is that children whose mothers have either untreated depression during pregnancy or untreated PPD or anxiety are more likely to be negatively impacted over the long term. This is a fact. It’s painful to talk about — believe me, I know — given that those of us who have had these illnesses already suffer tremendous guilt and worry over our children.
As explained by the nonprofit organization Zero to Three, “Older children of mothers depressed during infancy show poor self-control, aggression, poor peer relationships, and difficulty in school.” They have higher rates of substance abuse and psychiatric illness themselves. At younger ages they have a higher risk of cognitive and behavioral problems. There are numerous studies that bear all of this out. I would submit that the kids who have more problems are the kids whose mothers didn’t get or have any help. The longer the mother suffers and the longer her symptoms go on, especially if they go on indefinitely, the higher the likelihood her child or children will be negatively impacted.
Does this mean if you never got help that you’ve somehow ruined your child for life? No. It just means the sooner you get help, the better for both you and your baby.
Asking for help is hard. Admitting you’re not well is hard. Making yourself go to that therapy appointment, or attend that support group, or take that medication, is hard. There’s no question about it. There are so many things that make it easy to just ignore what you’re going through. To try and convince yourself you can do this on your own.
You have to let that go. You have to do what you need to do and make that call. If you need treatment for postpartum depression or anxiety, go get it. You have options. There is something that will work for you.
Postpartum Progress is behind you all the way.
Photo credit: © Marek – Fotolia.com
Great post. I feel grateful every day for the help I received. I don’t like to imagine how I would still feel now without it. I hope anyone reading this finds the strength they need to reach out x
Fantastic post. The day I took that first pill was one of the hardest days of my life. The day I admitted I want to end my life to my husband, even harder. The day I posted my story on the internet, terrifying. BUT, seeking help, admitting I wasn’t okay, and telling the world was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Thank you for all that you do.
Megan @ TheMcBaileys.com
Megan, I think you’re amazing for sharing your story, thank you.
We think she is too, mom!!
Oh my goodness, thank you Katherine! You are truly such an awesome gift to struggling (and recovering) mommies out there. In awe of your work!
Thank you! Pressing that “publish” button made my hands shake, but it was worth it!!! Xoxo
I was one of those moms who gritted her teeth and said repeatedly, “I can do this.” It took me way too long to admit to myself that I couldn’t do it. With three kids, 4, 2, and 6 months, and a husband who was in school and working full time, I just couldn’t manage it all. It took me far too long to get help. I was in such bad shape I ended up in the hospital. Since then I have been working with numerous professionals, from counselors to social workers and psychologists and psychiatrists. I would be lying if I said it was an easy road. But it has been the right road. Now my baby is 2 years old. I am still battling depression, and I am still working with professional help. I know that if I had gotten help sooner, things would be different. If you are even wondering if you might need help, DO IT, even if it’s just attending a local support group. The risks of not getting help are too severe.
Thats the issue…so many of us think that we’re getting the proper treatment when in reality its not even touching it. Then we think the next person that helps us supposedly isnt truly helping like we need. Why would we want to keep telling everyone our nightmare we’re living in only to not get treated properly? I understand both sides. I keep praying that the help Im getting is decent at least. I went five yrs pp with ppocd after my first born. Not as bad as this time around(my third baby) though. Im not using meds, instead trying essential oils and a light box bc ad scarred me for life using them years ago with my first ppocd experience. I am also doing CBT, affirmations, thought blocking, me time(which is soooooo hard for me for some reason).
Tiffany, I too use alternative methods since I’m afraid of meds, but I get so scared sometimes because although I’ve gotten better than the really acute time with ppd ppa, I’m stil chronically moderately experiencing both and wonder if I’m destined to always feel this way if I don’t do the meds. This experience has scarred me.
Well written! Short enough to read if you’re a busy mom, and important / useful info! THANK YOU from a recovering, post partumly anxious new mama.
This is so true! If we wait around for providers and society to give us permission to ask, too many of us will fall through the cracks–and do. We have tried policy, we have done the research–yet the prevalence rates remain unchanged. Women can, and are, and will demand maternal care that includes screening and treatment if they know the symptoms. We can never underestimate the power of a mother to protect her child–telling a provider about mental health is part of that. Maternal health is mental health. Rock on warriors.
Thirteen years ago I was told that I had a beautiful baby and I should just deal. Luckily, I pursued help even though at the time no one believed that someone who hadn’t had a C-section could have a traumatic birth, PTSD, and that I didn’t meet the symptoms for PPD. I had to blind call across the country in order to get help. Thank you for putting this resource out there.
I have a really big concern, that is on my mind day & night would like to get the proper help to find my way to get help if it’s really what I need. I was hoping to find a cure without having anything to do with medication. Don’t know know what to do any longer with my symptoms & it’s been almost 5 YEARS!!! 🙁 if anyone is kind enough to help me out I would much gladly appreciate it. My email is email@example.com THANK YOU
It’s not as easy as just “go get help”. My insurance company gave me a list of providers. I’ve called 15 or so names so far. Most do not accept new patients, some work with children only, one had an answering machine, one was an inpatient clinic. I’m trying to find a psychiatrist in case I need medication. But no luck so far.
I’ve done individual therapy and neuro feedback with only minor temporary relief. Now I’m at the point where I cry everyday. And I do feel sad that my toddler sees me like this, I can’t always hide it. It’s hard.