With Mother’s Day now behind us, and National Mental Health Awareness Month coming to an end, we thought these two nationally observed events intersected at a critical junction. Postpartum depression (also known as: PPD, postnatal depression), impacts an average of 1 in 7 women. Celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen and Hayden Panettiere have been reducing the stigma surrounding PPD by refusing to keep their stories silenced. With increasing awareness of the issue happening in the main stream, we’d thought we’d shed some light on the most common myths we see in our office.
Common Misconceptions About Postpartum Depression
1. Women with PPD cry all the time
a. Yes, some new mothers cry a lot, but there is no “one way” to experience the symptoms of PPD. Other, lesser known symptoms include (but are not limited to): irritability, guilt/shame, lack of interest in your baby or partner, avoidance, changes to sleep or eating, trouble concentrating, severe mood swings, rumination, obsessions, and thoughts of hopelessness. In some rare cases, postpartum psychosis occurs. The psychosis is like a bout of mania, and is very serious. If you start to feel like you’re hallucinating or having delusions, paranoia, refuse to eat, can’t think clearly, or have thoughts of hurting someone, please call 9-1-1 immediately.
2. PPD occurs in the first few months after giving birth
a. The onset of PPD can occur anywhere from two weeks to a year after giving birth. If symptoms last for more than two weeks, there is a good chance you’re suffering from more than just the “Baby Blues.”
3. Women with PPD are bad moms
a. News reports and Lifetime movies like to feature the “Bad Moms.” PPD gets lumped-in with other biological, psychological, or contextual problems because it makes for an entertaining story. Yes, PPD can have a lasting impact on the individual and their relationships. However, many survivors say it actually made them a better parent. Not only did they learn to overcome and communicate, they also found strength in recognizing there was even a problem to begin with.
b. You can be a great parent without being a great infant parent. Just as others wish to fast-forward through the adolescent stage of development, some can’t wait to hear what their little bundle of joy thinks, wants, and needs. Some people enjoy the maternity leave, diaper changes, and midnight feeds. Others are bored and unhappy without their work or outside connections. Just because you don’t love every minute of the infancy stage doesn’t mean you won’t grow into your uniquely perfect parent-child relationship.
4. PPD only impacts moms
a. For dad’s, Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND) is very real. According to Kim & Swain (2007), the prevalence of PPND ranges from 1.2-11.9% globally. These rates have a sharp increase (24-50%) when compounded by a partner’s PPD.
b. Any kind of disorder, even when resolved quickly, can impact our relationships with partners, parents, children, and even friends. When someone can’t get their basic needs met, it can be hard to meet the needs of others.
5. PPD will go away on its own
a. After childbirth, women experience a dramatic drop in estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid functioning. Research shows that seeking help early on facilitates recovery. Common interventions include (but are not limited to): individual therapy, group therapy, and prescription medication.
It is easy to get caught up in what we think being a new parent “should be.” Unfortunately, that can result in an isolating reality. If think you, or someone you know, might be suffering from PPD, please know you are not alone. Whether it’s a friend or family member, clergy or clinician, partner or professional, please reach out.
Kim, P., & Swain, J. E. (2007). Sad Dads: Paternal Postpartum Depression. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 4(2), 35–47.
Tessa Gittleman, M.A. of Marriage and Family Therapy, swore growing up that she would never, ever be a therapist. Having been a consumer of bad therapy, Tessa didn’t see the point in going to talk to anyone who inevitably held his or her own opinion, or her parent’s opinion, higher than her own. She hated the feeling of being talked down to, or of someone else’s truth being forced upon her.
Instead, she graduated from Boston University with a promising career in food media. Having held an internship with Andrew Zimmern, and working in kitchens across the Twin Cities, Tessa learned how to make food a therapeutic experience. That was, of course, until food tried to kill her. If you’ve ever seen Will Smith in the movie Hitch, you’ll understand.
Tessa was forced to take time off to complete her “Tour de Mayo,” traveling from Rochester to Scottsdale to meet with different doctors. Eventually, the medical team was able to identify a rare set of medical conditions that better explained what her therapists had mislabeled all those years ago. Once she got a handle on her health, and found out what good therapy could feel like, Tessa shifted her focus to helping others avoid the terrible experiences she had growing up.
Tessa’s professional experiences with mental health have been vast over the last five years. From group homes for severe mental illness to working with incarcerated populations, Tessa found she was most passionate about her work with adolescents. Tessa spent the 2016-2017 school year at Edison High School, where she provided individual, family, and group therapy to students of North Minneapolis.
Tessa is excited to join the team just in time for the new school year! She describes her style as: funny, transparent, and collaborative. When Tessa is not at work, you might find her cooking (the new foods she can safely consume), walking her puppy, Teddy Bear, or hanging out with her chosen family.