Moms have to deal with all kinds of advice when it comes to being a parent.
Many mothers with postpartum depression are told to “fake it ’till you make it” which is a common psychotherapy practice. And in many cases, it’s a great way of building up a person’s confidence and self esteem. But it’s not always the best course of action and can actually be more dangerous than good. There’s a reason why this advice is best given by a licensed therapist and not just anyone on the street.
Here’s some more information about why the “fake it ’till you make it” advice isn’t always best for managing postpartum depression.
What does “fake it ’till you make it” really mean?
It’s all about pretending. Let’s say a new mother is struggling to bond with her baby or feel any emotions other than sadness and despair. She may be given the advice to “fake it ’till you make it.” What it means is that she should pretend to be happy. She should smile and cuddle with her baby as often as possible. The theory is that acting happy will convince her brain that she actually is happy until eventually she’s not depressed anymore.
I know, right? It sounds ridiculous.
But believe it or not, there is some merit behind this advice. It falls into the same category of things like positive affirmations, self help books, pep talks, or other self esteem building activities. They all work by building up our confidence and helping us to feel positive, empowered and worthy. The “fake it ’till you make it” advice basically says that if you want to be happy, you have to do what happy people do.
Why it’s not the best advice for postpartum depression.
While the practice of “faking it ’till you make it” does work for many people, it’s not the best thing to say to a woman suffering from postpartum depression. First of all, it’s dismissive. Telling a new mother simply to “fake it ’till you make it” is kind of like a slap in the face. It can leave her feeling ignored and neglected and makes light of her suffering. Postpartum depression is a major mental health disorder and being told to “fake it till you make it” treats it as no big deal.
The “fake it ’till you make it” advice is often misunderstood.
It’s not at all about faking a state of happiness in front of other people. But this happens too often, especially among mothers. When someone asks us how we feel following the birth of our child, we hide all of our pain and suffering and fake a smile.
Instead, the “fake it ’till you make it” advice should be focused inwards.
The idea is for mothers to act happy in order to train their ownminds and not to convince anyone else. Smiling in the mirror or dancing and singing to music when no one else is around are ways that we can fake a state of happiness for ourselves and no one else.
“Faking it” can also make it difficult to gauge whether or not your condition is getting better or worse.
The lines between real and fake can start to become blurred. This makes it difficult to tell whether the symptoms of postpartum depression are truly improving or not. If you’re planning to “fake it ’till you make it” you still need to be honest about how you are feeling in order to determine if it’s working.
What to try instead.
Boosting your confidence and re-training your brain to focus on the positive are both very important for healing from postpartum depression. But there are lots of ways to do it.
Without the help of a trained therapist, it can be all too easy for a mother to get stuck in this “fake” world. Postpartum depression already has a way of isolating us from the outside world and keeping us apart from our loved ones. When it comes to mental illness, things can get out of control without warning if left untreated. If you’re considering using the “fake it ’till you make it” method for boosting your confidence, do so with caution and preferably with the help and support of a medical professional.
6. Who did you talk to about your postpartum depression and what was their reaction?
I tried to talk to my husband but I hated the way he felt so sorry for me and just didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was burdening him. So I talked to my family doctor. He was very empathetic and supportive and called my husband into the room and told him “this is not her fault – she cannot control it” and then it was easier for me to talk to him after that. – Vanessa
The first person was my sister, who was nothing but supportive and wanted to do anything to help me. – Anonymous
My health visitor was wonderful, she had her suspicions for a while but I wouldn’t tell her anything. She organised specialist support out of area as I couldn’t access services at work. She was just lovely. She made sure I knew that she didn’t think I was a bad mum, she kept pointing out how good my bond was with my child despite it all. – Alexandra
I talk to my sister in law, my doctor and midwife. Their reaction was, medication, go get help, my sister in law didn’t help much. It wasn’t until I attempted suicide that people realized how serious this was. – Amber
My husband is the only person that knows my struggle. He is so supportive even on the days I feel like giving up. – Anonymous
Anyone who would listen. They were concerned but it never felt like I reached anyone who understood. No one was shocked. I guess there was zero reaction really. Except my husband. He was genuinely concerned and wanted to help me feel better. – Nicole
I have talked to several friends and my therapist. They were very supportive and understanding. Most were by surprised because they had experienced something similar. – Anonymous
My doctor said “you have a lot of anxiety I can see it” when I was being tormented by a dysphoric mania. And said “you have to try harder for your daughter and snap out of it”. When I asked my psychiatrist if I would ever get better, she said “I don’t know, I’m not a fortune teller.” My husband said “its JUST anxiety” as if it was not a big deal but I tried telling people this was different…and it was. I had postpartum dysphoric mania and an agitated clinical depression at the sane time and was basically dying. I begged hospitals to admit me and they got angry and said “just go home and keep taking Prozac” but the Prozac made everything worse, they didn’t believe me. – Brittany
My sister and mom. They were very understanding as my sister just went through it – Jodi
Doctor and understanding. Ordered meds and sent me to behavior pysch MD – Anonymous
My ob/gyn. She was very understanding. – Ashley G.
My mom. She was supportive. – Anonymous
I talked to my doctor finally and her reaction was extremely empathetic and understanding. – Amanda
My husband and he was very worried. – Anonymous
My husband saw it come on very strong at 3 months (I hid other symptoms very well up until then), and he immediately took me to my gyno and my mom came to stay with us for two weeks. – Katy
I was open with my fiance both times. And I pretty much tell everyone. He was pretty supportive although at times he didn’t understand. And other people just don’t get it. You feel very judged. – Samantha
I talked to my husband because he was always asking me why was I crying and I never knew what to say. He said that he was going to help me that I didn’t have to do it alone because I was not alone.– Anonymous
My family and husband do not understand so I started seeing a therapist. – Melissa
My doctor. She was very helpful and gave me anxiety meds and recommended a obgyn who deals with ppd. – Marcella
For a long time no one. Then my husband, then my doctor. My husband encouraged me to get help. I felt brushed off by my doctor. – Anonymous
I talked to my fiance and baby’s dad. He was supportive, would hold and hug me and make sure I knew it was ok. – Emily
My SO first- he didn’t understand. Then my parents. They told me I was overreacting. Finally my doctor, she was very concerned when I broke down at my two week pp check-up. Now, I talk openly about it as much as I can. – Lorena from Motherhood Unfiltered
First my mom, and she kept telling me it was normal and everyone goes through it but I knew it was more than “ baby blues” and then my husband, and he didn’t know how to help me the first time around. The second time around he was much more understanding and helpful. – Chelsea
I knew my husband would understand. He has always understood, or at least listened, to everything I have gone through. I could tell he was trying to be the calm and collected one for me, but was actually really worried. I know he knows I would never hurt the baby, but he does worry about how I take care of myself. He is always checking in with me about it, it helps keep me grounded. – Kathryn
Husband – it was extremely scary for him to think he wouldn’t have a wife or the kids not having a mother – Anonymous
My husband, he didn’t know how to help but wanted to. A support group online, gave advice, and then I brought it up to my doctor and she was happy I found help and is working on helping me – Krista
After my diagnosis, I really only told my family who I think wanted to believe at first that my doctor was misguided, until they came out to visit a few days later and saw the symptoms for themselves. After a few months I wrote a rather raw blog post, and I was overwhelmed by how many mothers shared my experience. It helped me a ton seeing that I’m not alone. – Leah Elizabeth from Lottie & Me
My mom-in-law and she was very informative and supportive. – Jessica
No one.– Theresa
I spoke to my husband and my parents. Now I speak to everyone because it’s my mission to break the silence, but when I spoke up to family, I was told I was just tired. My suffering was brushed off. – Amanda from Mom Like Me
A friend- she told me I was crazy and oppressed and possessed by a demon spirit. – Anonymous
My fiancé , he was supportive and had me go to the doctor to reach out for help – Haylie
They all just knew my son was a “difficult baby” I was aware I had ppd but didn’t really talk to many people about it. – Crystal from Heart and Home Doula
My health care providers and husband. Husband was very supportive. – Anonymous
Husband, doctor, friends. All were supportive – Anonymous
My mom, doctor, partner. All encouraged me to talk to a therapist – Anonymous
My husband- he was well-meaning but somewhat unhelpful at times. My mom- she was a huge source of comfort and reassurance. My family doctor and therapist- both assured me it would get better. – Anonymous
My daughter’s pediatrician, my nurse practitioner and my OB/GYN all handed me referral sheets for mental health practitioners but I couldn’t get myself to call. My husband and mother shrugged. My best friend wanted to move into my house for a week to help (but that seemed overwhelming). – Eda
Best friends… They offer support and encouragement. – Anonymous
A few other mom friends but never told anyone how serious it was. After my arrest due to my psychosis many many friends of mine came out to say I had asked for help and talked to them about this for years. – Kathleen
My gynecologist first, she was concerned and prescribed medication right away and got me into counseling. My best friends were sympathetic. – Stephanie
Only recently I mentioned it to my best friend and she was surprised and felt bad that she didn’t know before. She said, “why didn’t you say anything?” I pointed out that I DID say things the only way I knew how but that ultimately I didn’t recognize what was happening to me because I just thought this was my new reality. – Yonat from Embodied Therapy Santa Rosa
My husband. He wanted to understand but his actions made things worse. – Beth
Asking for help with postpartum depression is one of the toughest obstacles to overcome.
It’s never easy for a mother to admit that they need help. For many women who have never battled with mental health issues before, venturing into the scary and unknown world of psychiatric disorders is terrifying. And our biggest fear is being separated from our babies or pegged as an “unfit mother.” Our husbands, partners and those closest to us often understand because they see us at our worst and know we’re not ourselves. But do they know what to do to help us?
What can we do to change this?
Mental illness will always be scary and daunting. But postpartum depression can be treated and so it’s always important to ask for help no matter how terrifying it is. The more we speak up about it, the less intimidating it will become and the closer we get to ending the stigma. New and expectant parents should learn all they can about postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders so that they can recognize the earliest signs and symptoms. There are so many places that a mother can seek help and advice that there’s no reason she should have to stay silent.
Postpartum depression symptoms can be triggered by different factors, making the recovery process much longer than it needs to be.
With a proper treatment plan, postpartum depression can go into remission. But postpartum depression triggers are internal or environment factors that can cause symptoms to flare up again. These can continue to affect mothers for years after the postpartum period.
It can be frustrating to battle symptoms of postpartum depression for years, and it might even feel like it will never go away. Identifying your specific triggers can help you to avoid them, which means you’ll be less likely to experience a postpartum depression relapse.
Here are some of the most common postpartum depression triggers to watch out for.
Our brains need sleep and there isn’t an acceptable substitution for it. No amount of caffeine, medications, diet changes or exercise can replicate what sleep does for our bodies. If our brains don’t get the chance to reset each night, they don’t function very well during the day.
Sleep deprivation is an especially big factor for postpartum moms. Babies have much shorter sleep cycles than adults do. This means that a mother’s brain isn’t getting the chance to fully “reboot” because it’s constantly being interrupted by a hungry baby. So it’s no surprise that sleep deprivation is one of the most common postpartum depression triggers.
Sleep deprivation is also not synonymous with the postpartum period. It can occur at any time in our lives. It can be caused by a baby’s sleep regression or teething, illness, stress, interrupted schedules or sudden changes, anxiety or even daylight savings time.
In order to get the most undisturbed sleep possible:
Enlist the help of your spouse or a family member for a night shift or two.
Get your baby into a good sleep routine, which can help you avoid sleep deprivation in the long run.
Breastfeeding is another one of the more common postpartum depression triggers. In fact, many mothers report feeling more stressed about breastfeeding than they did about labor and delivery. Breastfeeding can be a struggle and it can cause pain, frustration, shame and embarrassment.
Mothers who struggle with breastfeeding can feel guilty, unworthy, judged or end up feeling resentful and full of regret. All of these feelings certainly contribute to symptoms of postpartum depression. But some mothers found that breastfeeding eased their symptoms and helped them to bond with their babies. Each woman’s experience is so different, but if this is a trigger for you, know that you are not alone.
Education can be key to successful breastfeeding. While it’s promoted as “all-natural,” it doesn’t come naturally to the majority of mothers. Consider hiring a lactation consultant, or take an online breastfeeding course from home. If all else fails, know that it’s perfectly okay to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula for the sake of your mental health.
When we think of pregnancy and childbirth, we associate it with some form of pain. This is often thought of as a rite of passage and many mothers spend a lot of time preparing for it. But in some cases, the pain of childbirth can trigger unexpected feelings and suppressed memories.
A painful delivery or recovery can be one of the first postpartum depression triggers, but pain is a trigger that can linger long after the recovery period. When we experience pain in another form, such as menstrual cramping, pelvic pain, back pain or migraines, it can trigger the symptoms of postpartum depression again.
This trigger can be especially difficult to avoid due to the fact that pain comes in so many different forms. Identifying that pain is a trigger is a good first step. Experiment with different pain treatment options, such as CBD oil, and try to deal with the root cause of any chronic pain, in order to avoid being triggered long term.
The weight issue is another trigger that affects expectant and new mothers. During pregnancy, a woman can gain 20 – 40 lbs in the span of 9 months. And then immediately following childbirth, her body can look unrecognizable. There will be pressure to lose all the extra weight as fast as possible. She may also have to deal with a c-section scar, stretch marks, loose skin and sagging breasts.
These weight and body changes can have a significant effect on our mental health. Even if body image was not an issue for us prior to becoming a mother, postpartum depression can take a hit on our self esteem.
While maintaining a healthy weight is important, embracing our new bodies is equally as important to keep weight changes from triggering postpartum depression symptoms.
The fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy and in the postpartum period are completely normal. They are responsible for the extreme mood swings, weepiness and other symptoms referred to as “the baby blues.” It’s not unusual for hormones to also take all the blame when it comes to postpartum depression, however we know that there’s much more to it than that.
Certain hormonal imbalances can be postpartum depression triggers. Some women find their symptoms are triggered upon the return of their menstrual cycle or with another pregnancy. Certain illnesses can also cause hormonal imbalances, such as thyroid problems or diabetes.
Marriage and relationship problems can begin or get worse following the birth of a child and they are a major cause of stress and anxiety for both parents. Postpartum mothers are extra sensitive, irritable and sometimes prone to rage. They can be extremely difficult to communicate and reason with.
In addition to the lack of communication and mood swings, it can be really difficult to open up about all of these scary thoughts and feelings. Instead, women tend to shut down, retreat away from their spouses, and have difficulty with intimacy.
Despite how hard it might be, try your best to talk to your loved one about what you’re feeling. Getting an official diagnosis may help you both to understand what’s going on. Couples therapy is also a good option to help break down the barriers.
Grief is a major depression trigger that can affect postpartum moms. Pregnancy and welcoming a new baby are symbolized by joy, happiness and new life. It can be shocking when these actions cause an opposite effect, but sometimes they do.
A mother who previously suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth or the loss of a child may be triggered by grief upon giving birth to a healthy baby. Postpartum depression symptoms may also be triggered when a woman thinks of someone who previously passed away and isn’t present to meet their child.
Grief is a part of life and there’s really no avoiding it. If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, talk about them openly. Talk to your baby about them, look at an album full of pictures or share stories about them. Try not to keep all that pain inside, and instead, memorialize the ones you have loved and lost.
Special occasions can actually be quite difficult for a mother with postpartum depression. Certain dates or holidays might stir up traumatic memories that are postpartum depression triggers. Plus, social anxiety and the desire to withdraw from conversation are common symptoms of postpartum depression. This makes it very hard to get together in large crowds, even if they are all people whom you love.
As these dates approach, try to be proactive about your condition. Take the day off work, scale down the festivities or plan a vacation instead. Changing your memories about that day might be hard, but not impossible.
Cold weather and rainy days can make anyone feel depressed but it’s much deeper than that. Depression thrives when a person feels isolated. And there’s nothing better at keeping a mom with a new baby locked up indoors than some bad weather. Hot weather can also encourage a new or expecting mother to seek out the cool air conditioning instead of a muggy back yard.
All this time spent indoors can deprive a mother of enough fresh air and sunshine. Combined with the other effects of seasonal affective disorder, the weather changes should never be underestimated as postpartum depression triggers.
Keeping a journal or mood tracker can help to identify if your postpartum depression symptoms are being triggered by the weather. If they are, then there are several easy therapies and common practices you can do to help avoid it.
Money problems are high on the list of depression triggers. For parents, adjusting to the financial strain of adding a baby to the budget can be difficult. In addition to the cost of diapers and daycare, a mother has to battle with the financial stress of staying at home instead of working – or feeling guilty for working instead of being home with baby.
Changes in finances are just one of the many overwhelming adjustments that a new mother will need to make, and it can be a big trigger for postpartum depression.
One of the best ways to avoid this is to prepare for the financial stress prior to giving birth. Meet with a financial advisor and make a plan for the future. To save some money, research which baby products are worth investing in, and which ones you can probably do without. And most importantly, stick to a budget to keep financial stress under control.
Changes in Treatment
To help fight all of these different postpartum depression triggers there are several different treatment options available. The variety of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications available means that you should be able to find one that works well for you, even if you have to try out a few first. Considering online therapy? Check out this detailed review of online therapy companies to help with your decision.
But beware when making changes to your treatment plan. Sudden changes to any of your medications can trigger symptoms of postpartum depression again. The same goes for stopping therapy sessions or another supplemental form of treatment. If money is the issue for stopping, you can find out more information about the cost of online therapy here.
Consider weaning yourself off slowly instead. If you plan on switching to a different medication, slowly wean off of the first one and gradually begin the second one. Obviously, speak to your doctor about any and all changes in your treatment plan. And make sure to be open about the symptoms you are experiencing, so that you can find the treatment that works for you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think this is incredible forward progress for maternal mental health and commend all those who put so much effort into creating it. But after researching more about this postpartum depression drug, I have to admit that I am not nearly as excited as I was when I first heard about it.
Here’s some more information about the new postpartum depression drug.
It takes 60 hours to administer.
That’s two and a half days. For a mother with children who are a bit older – that might sound like a welcome vacation. But for a women who has recently given birth? Not so much. Since the postpartum depression drug is recommended in the first 6 months postpartum, spending two and half days away from a new baby can be a difficult task to pull off.
The good news is that Brexanolone (Zulresso) can work within 48 hours, so if you are able to manage the time away, then it could be worth it.
It can only be administered in a hospital setting.
The postpartum depression drug is given via an IV, which means that a woman will need to stay in the hospital for the full 60 hours and possibly longer if she experiences any adverse side effects. Considering that the US only has one perinatal psychiatry inpatient unit(a.k.a. mother and baby unit) in the entire country, this means that a woman will need to be separated from her newborn baby for an extended period of time. The hospital stay is necessary because a woman receiving the drug can suffer from such side effects as suicidal ideation or a loss of consciousness and therefore would need to be closely monitored.
This could be a major setback for a mother who may have had a traumatic hospital delivery that triggered her postpartum depression to begin with.
The price range for the new postpartum depression drug is between $25,000 to $35,000. And that’s not including the cost of the hospital stay for 2 – 3 days (or possible income loss and childcare cost during those days). For a family with accumulating medical bills after the labor and delivery, this is another burden on top of all of that. Even with a great insurance plan, Brexanolone (Zulresso) is such a new drug that you’d have to make sure it’s covered by your insurance, which is yet another hurdle to overcome.
The high price tag and insurance red tape make the postpartum depression drug seem inaccessible to the vast majority of suffering women.
It can obstruct breastfeeding.
The postpartum depression drug has not been tested in breastfeeding mothers, however it is confirmed that the drug does pass through breastmilk. It’s likely that, until further testing is done, mothers who choose to take the postpartum depression drug will be discouraged from breastfeeding.
This is just a temporary situation, as mothers can pump and dump while being administered the drug in order to keep up their supply. But time away from a newborn baby before breastfeeding has been properly established can have a big impact on the overall success of breastfeeding in the long run.
For a mother who is already overwhelmed by the pressure to breastfeed, this can cause an added amount of guilt and regret.
It hasn’t been extensively tested.
The clinical trials for the postpartum depression drug was run on a group of less than 250 women. Considering what we know about the different symptoms and ways that postpartum depression manifests, it just doesn’t seem like enough. In addition to the low number of women in the trial, there was only a slight difference in the effects felt by the women who received the dose of Brexanolone (Zulresso) versus the women who received the placebo. Read more details on the trials here.
It’s great that the drug trials were conducted in such a timely manner, but it leaves me to wonder if there isn’t something they’ve missed.
It can discourage other forms of care.
A drug specifically to treat postpartum depression is not a cure for postpartum depression. I feel like a lot of people will be confused by that. Just like all other forms of treatment, certain things work for different people. In addition to medication, therapy is also important to help avoid relapses and tackle the root cause of the symptoms. And let’s not forget about the importance of self-care.
As of right now, Brexanolone (Zulresso) has only been tested in single doses and the women who participated in the study haven’t experienced a relapse of symptoms. So there’s no evidence available yet on the long term effect of the postpartum depression drug.
While the news of this new drug is fantastic, it’s not the one and only solution.
It first requires diagnosis.
Before a woman can even receive the postpartum depression drug, she needs to get a proper diagnosis. This is one of the biggest problems surrounding postpartum depression and should be where our focus lies. The screening process for maternal mental illness is not nearly thorough enough. And too many women slip through the cracks because their symptoms are not being taken seriously.
So while a new treatment option for postpartum depression is wonderful news, it also shines a light on all the other places where our medical system is currently failing new mothers.
The postpartum depression drug is just one step.
Obviously, I am excited that progress is being made in the field of maternal mental health. Brexanolone (Zulresso) is hopefully the first in a long line of treatment options and better care for women with postpartum depression. While we may not be able to walk into our local pharmacy and buy a bottle of the magic postpartum depression elixir to cure all that ails us – it’s still a step in the right direction. And I look forward to a future where maternal mental health care is a top priority.
Most women with postpartum depression know two things – that they should talk about it, and that they don’t want to.
New mothers are bombarded with information telling them that they need to speak up if they just aren’t feeling right. But they don’t – and for several good reasons. So how do we bridge the gap between the terrified mothers living silently in darkness and the concerned support system who can only help if they know what’s wrong?
Ending the stigma surrounding mental illness would break down so many barriers. And more women talking about postpartum depression would help to do that.
The women who DO speak up, are courageous for doing so. They have decided to ask for help and tell their stories, despite the barriers presented by the medical system and society in general.
Here are some tips for women who want to know how to talk about postpartum depression.
Read About It
Reading the stories of other mothers can help you figure out how to talk about postpartum depression. Try to read as many stories as you can, because each mother’s experience is different. You never know which ones will relate to you specifically. And if you find a story that feels like the author took the words right out of your mouth – then save it and read it over and over again. Share it on social media or with someone you love. Let the courage of other woman inspire you to want to share your own story.
If you want to know how to talk about postpartum depression, then you need to practice what you’re going to say. Writing it out is a great first step. You don’t need to be a professional writer nor feel any obligation to share your story with anyone. Write it just for you.
Write it out on paper, in pen, so that you can’t erase or delete anything. You can scribble words out but they will still be there like an everlasting reminder that running away from your thoughts doesn’t help.
When you’re done writing it out – you will want to burn it or tear it up into a million pieces and flush it. But instead of doing that, find the courage to keep it. It will help you greatly when you are ready to talk about postpartum depression.
Help Someone Else
Helping someone else who is in the same situation as you are is a great way to learn how to talk about postpartum depression. One way to do this by joining a private online support group where you can talk more freely with strangers. Mothers are usually quite honest and open in these groups and ask questions about everything from medications to marriage problems. If you don’t feel quite ready to ask your own questions, then start by answering one for another mother.
Supporting someone else is incredibly empowering and can give you the courage to talk about your own struggle with postpartum depression.
Here are some online support groups you can join: (I am a member of all these groups as well)
No one knows how to talk about postpartum depression better than a survivor. I should mention that, when it comes to maternal mental illness, there are no REAL survivors because there is no REAL cure.
What I mean by a survivor is:
A woman who has lived through the worst of it in the first year postpartum.
A woman who decided she needed help and asked for it.
A woman who spoke up about what she was going through.
A woman who made changes in her life to avoid the chances of a relapse.
A woman who has established a treatment plan.
A woman who’s mind told her to end it all but she didn’t.
Survivors are still battling the pain of postpartum depression and/or are at risk for a relapse. But survivors have one thing that you don’t… they have spoken up about postpartum depression and lived to tell the tale. So find a survivor and ask them how to talk about postpartum depression.
Don’t Do It Alone
Fighting a battle alone is never a good plan, no matter how much courage you have. It is much easier to talk about postpartum depression when you have someone holding your hand. Asking for help with postpartum depression doesn’t always mean asking for medication or therapy. Asking for help can mean something as simple as helping you talk to someone about what you’re going through.
Who do you want to talk to about postpartum depression? Your spouse? Your doctor? Your family or friends? Find a person or group to stand with you as you do it (physically or virtually). Having someone else there for “emotional support” can give you the courage you need to speak up, and also hold you accountable so you can’t back out at the last minute.
One option to consider if you’d like help to speak openly about your postpartum depression to your family and friends is to access an online psychiatrist. Thanks to the privacy and anonymity that it offers, you can speak to a licensed professional, on your own time, without anyone needing to know until you are ready. Find out more at Online-Therapy.com.
Consider the Worst Case Scenario
Make a list of all the things keeping you silent. Which one do you fear the most? Are you afraid you will be treated like a criminal or child abuser? That your children will be taken away from you, or that your spouse will leave you? Maybe you’re worried that someone will judge you, say insensitive things to you or avoid you altogether?
Now make a list of all the reasons why you want to speak up. Are you struggling and don’t know how to cope? Do you want to be a better mother and wife? Do you want others to know why you’ve been acting strange? Do you feel alone? Are you scared of what you might do? Contemplating suicide?
Which list is your worst case scenario?
Don’t wait for something bad to happen before you decide to talk about postpartum depression. Think carefully about the consequences of staying silent when you should be speaking up. Talking about it won’t be easy, and neither is battling in silence – but wouldn’t you rather have an army by your side to fight the war raging inside of you?
Make Plans For the Future
Thinking about the future can help you decide how to talk about postpartum depression. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the darkness happening right now, but the future is that light at the end of the tunnel. Without help or a plan to get better, the future seems bleak. It seems like a never-ending life of sadness and despair.
Imagine what you want your future to look like.Do you want to have more children? Think about watching your children grow up, helping them with homework and taking family vacations. Aim to achieve it instead of mourn what would be. So make a 1, 5, and 10 year plan for your life. Having a future will give you something to fight for.
The simple act of talking about postpartum depression can feel like an insurmountable task for many mothers.
The hundreds of reasons for staying silent are completely valid and understandable. Postpartum depression is a private matter and there is no need for the entire world to know about a mother’s inner most thoughts and feelings.
But the hundreds of reasons for speaking up are also valid. It will take a lot of courage, and make a person feel exposed and vulnerable. But it means that you won’t have to fight this battle alone. And if you don’t have to fight it alone, you have a much better chance of winning.
Mothers with postpartum depression began to reach out to me, stating that it spoke to them and they realized their reasons were not insane or unreasonable. These mothers also felt like they wanted to tell their story but didn’t know how or where to begin.
It inspired me to create a safe place for women to share their postpartum depression stories, without judgement, or requirements or any degree of difficulty.
Speaking up and sharing my own story and the stories of other women turned Running in Triangles into a beacon of light for those women who were lost and suffering in the darkness.
Over the past couple years, I’ve had the chance to connect and interact with so many women who have had or are currently suffering from postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders.
One thing that so many of them had in common was the fact that they stayed silent for so much longer than they should have. And there are so many more than 9 reasons why these women chose not to speak up about what they were feeling…
Here is a list of over 50 reasons why mothers don’t speak up about postpartum depression.
1. We are in denial
2. We don’t even know we have it
3. We’re not 100% certain that we have it
4. We haven’t been officially diagnosed
5. We don’t think it’s as bad as it actually is
6. We just aren’t ready to admit it yet
7. We think this is “normal” motherhood
8. We don’t think it’s a big deal
9. We don’t want to make it seem like we’re suffering more than any other mother
Postpartum depression, as common as it might be, is widely misunderstood.
No one knows for certain exactly why mothers get postpartum depression and many aren’t even aware of the symptoms. If there was less stigma and more mothers felt comfortable enough to speak up about their postpartum depression, perhaps the rest of the world would know about it and find ways to help.
Here’s a list of 10 things that mothers with postpartum depression want you to know.
1. We Are Not Bad Mothers
Mothers with postpartum depression are not prone to hurting their babies. While there have been cases that ended in tragedy – many of those mothers were suffering from postpartum psychosis, which is a much more serious condition.
We might be seen as “bad” mothers because we didn’t bond with our babies right away, or we seem withdrawn from them or avoid holding them. These are common symptoms of postpartum depression but it does not mean that we want to harm our child or that we don’t love them as much.
If anything, postpartum depression makes us stronger mothers because we have to fight harder to build a mother-child relationship.
You don’t need to take our babies away from us or be concerned about leaving us alone with them. If we come to you for help and admit what we are feeling – that makes us a better mother, not a bad one.
2. It’s Not In Our Head
Postpartum depression is not just a psychological issue – it’s physical pain, it’s chemical imbalances, it’s uncontrollable hormones. It’s a total body experience and not just something we imagine.
Positive thinking alone will not get rid of postpartum depression. It’s important to stay positive to help reduce stress which is a big trigger for symptoms, but there is so much more to it than that. Many women suffer from disruptions in sleep and appetite, headaches and back pains from stress and tension, nausea and debilitating fatigue.
It might be called a mental illness, but the pain is never just “in our head.”
3. Nothing We Did Caused This
Postpartum depression is NOT our fault. A traumatic labor , breastfeeding problems or lack of support are out of our control and not something that we did wrong or could have avoided. It’s natural to want to find an explanation for what we’re going through and it’s easy to look back on our pregnancies and deliveries and find something to blame for the mess.
While there are several different risk factors that can increase your chances of having postpartum depression, the truth is – even a women with the happiest of pregnancies, easiest of deliveries and biggest support system could still be diagnosed with postpartum depression. It does not discriminate.
There are plenty of treatment options and ways to control the symptoms but we will never be the same person we were before postpartum depression.
Anti-depressants, therapy, self-care, yoga and meditation, etc., are all important for helping with the symptoms but they will not make postpartum depression go away permanently. Some women can control their symptoms better than others, but no matter what, we will all have to live with the darkness inside of us for the rest of our lives.
If we’re not careful about following our treatment plans, we could suffer a relapse.
5. It Can Be Invisible
Just because we don’t seem depressed doesn’t mean we’re not suffering inside. Postpartum depression can be an invisible disease, which means we don’t have a giant scar or walk with a limp but we are in just as much pain. Mothers with postpartum depression have gotten very good at putting on a smile to hide the pain and avoid the awkward questions.
Postpartum psychosis leads a mother to have hallucinations and hear voices in their heads. They are often a danger to themselves and those around them, including their children, because of their unpredictable behavior. They are not aware of what they are doing, and if left untreated – can end in tragedy.
Postpartum depression can manifest itself in different ways.Fits of uncontrollable rage is a lesser known symptom and can cause a lot of strain on relationships.
When we are riding the emotional roller coaster that is postpartum depression, it’s easy to lose control and lash out. But until our symptoms are under control with a proper treatment plan, it’s best not to take the things we say and do personally.
The urge to push people away and withdraw into ourselves is strong with postpartum depression, but that doesn’t mean it’s what we actually want.
8. It’s easier to talk to strangers
Please don’t feel offended if we don’t want to talk to you about what we’re going through. It’s much easier to talk to strangers who have been through it before, such as a therapist or online support group.
They understand what we mean and won’t judge us. We know you don’t mean to judge us, but unless you know what it feels like to be inside the head of a crazy person, you couldn’t possibly understand.
Even if we don’t want to talk to you, we still need your help to get through this. Postpartum depression is a tough fight and it’s even harder to fight alone. There are so many ways that you can help us, but it’s very hard for us to tell you what they are. The biggest way that you can help us is by trying to understand what we’re going through.
And even if you don’t understand, stand by us and support us no matter what.
10. Please Don’t Abandon Us
Mothers with postpartum depression make for some of the worst company. We’re weepy and emotional. We rarely smile or laugh. We’re tired all the time, or angry and annoyed. We dodge your phone calls and cancel dinner plans. We don’t blame you for not wanting to hang out with us…
Withdrawing from society is a major symptom of postpartum depression and it’s out of our control.
But we hope that, when we do finally feel better, you will still be there waiting for us on the other side of the darkness.
Many women are afraid of suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of a child, but none more than a mother who has already experienced it before.
It goes without saying that any mother who has suffered from postpartum depression would never willingly want to put themselves through that kind of torture again. But while the idea of having another baby after postpartum depression feels like a suicide mission, a significant amount of women go on to have more children after being diagnosed.
This means that, while it might seem preposterous at the time, there is hope for a full and bright future filled with all the children we dreamed of having.
Here is my best advice for how to prepare for another baby after you’ve suffered from postpartum depression.
If you don’t already have a treatment plan for your postpartum depression, then establishing one is the first step. Once your treatment plan is in place, don’t deviate from it – even if you start to feel better.
If you never initially sought treatment for your postpartum depression but feel like it is under control – it is still worth seeing a doctor, therapist, counselor or other health professional to discuss your options should you experience a relapse of symptoms.
Is your treatment plan safe for pregnancy and/or breastfeeding?
Many women avoid pharmaceutical treatments because they want to continue breastfeeding (myself included) and most women avoid pharmaceuticals during pregnancy due to the lack of testing.
So if your normal treatment plan includes anti-depressants then you may need to create a back-up plan.
There are many other safe and natural treatment options available can help to reduce some of the guilt that so often affects mothers who give up breastfeeding in order to take anti-depressants. Online therapy is a great option to consider if you’re unable to use medication to treat your postpartum depression.
Make sure to talk to your doctor about your current medications if you are planning to have another baby.
Before adding a new baby to the family, it’s worth considering what triggers your postpartum depression symptoms and trying your best to eliminate them ahead of time. Tracking your mood fluctuations can help you identify specific patterns and triggers.
Financial or marital problems should be worked out in order to avoid added stress. Illnesses, chronic pain, nutrient deficiencies and the overall state of your health should be addressed. Practicing yoga and meditation can be a great way to get in better physical and mental health prior to having another baby.
While many triggers will be unavoidable, if you can be in good physical shape and proper mental health prior to getting pregnant again, then you will be more prepared should postpartum depression strike again.
Document Your Feelings
Writing down everything you’ve gone through can help you to remember what your experience was like at a later date. Sometimes the things we feel in the heat in the moment can easily be sorted out when our mind is clearer.
If you wrote down any of your thoughts or feelings in a journal of some sort during your first round of postpartum depression, then you should take some time to re-read those entries prior to have another baby and see if they give you some insight.
If you do end up struggling with postpartum depression again after another baby, then document your feelings again so that you can compare both experiences and see if there is a common factor or trigger that you can work on.
download A free printable PDF to help you document your journey
I know, I know, I’m always talking about how women need to speak up about postpartum depression… but it really makes all the difference!
In addition to your loved ones, your doctor or midwife should know that you suffered from postpartum depression with a previous baby if they don’t already.
Knowing that you have a support system already in place in the event that you suffer the same unfortunate fate again, will help you to prepare for having another baby after postpartum depression.
Make Sure You’re Ready
Why do you want another baby? Is it because you’ve always dreamed of having more? Do you feel like you need to provide a sibling for your child to grow up with? Does your spouse or partner want another baby? Do you feel your biological clock ticking?
I’m not saying that any of these reasons are wrong reasons to have a child, as long as it’s what you really want.
If you feel pressured in any way to have another baby, it might be time to do a little soul searching and think carefully if the time is right.
I can give you thousands of tips on how to prepare for another baby after postpartum depression, but unless you are ready – none of them will help.
Become a Warrior
Speaking up is only the first step to battling postpartum depression. If it has affected your life – don’t let it get away so easily. The best way to fight against postpartum depression is to take a stand and help destroy the stigma that surrounds it.
The more you know about, and are involved with the postpartum depression community, the better you will be at defeating at.
The truth is, if you’ve suffered from postpartum depression before, the chances of suffering from it again are high. While you may not be able to avoid postpartum depression the second time around, being prepared and educated will help you handle the symptoms and know when and where to turn for help.