“Emily Bridget Jones was born on July 21st. She weighed 8 lbs and was 20 inches long. Both mom and baby are doing fine.” How many times have you seen an announcement like this? Many times, right? It’s a great occasion that marks the arrival of a little bundle of joy. Now how many times has that announcement ended with: “We think the mom is doing fine because she scored well on her initial postpartum depression scoring test. We will continue to keep an eye on her and pamper her”? It never has, right? Are you thinking – “Wait, what is this postpartum test now?” or maybe “Didn’t the mom get plenty of pampering when she was pregnant?”?
Well, alright, so let’s talk about what your mother never told you about postpartum. Many women will have a fairly emotionally stable postpartum period, but many will not. About 75-80% of women experience postpartum blues, which is a temporary condition, but postpartum depression, which is a clinical form of depression, affects about 1 out of 8 women. What is interesting is that this number, which gets quoted widely, is based on a study done within USA in which women *self-reported* their condition. The actual estimate is higher, the number also varies based on several factors and the milder forms of it (ranging from blues to minor depression) affect a much larger segment. This also does not cover the higher end of the spectrum such as postpartum psychosis. Now my contention is that your mother never told you all this when you were pregnant. If she did, then please get me in touch with her! I would like to know what prompted her to share this with you and whether she herself experienced postpartum depressive symptoms.
Lastly, in your life-time, you will likely come across at least one woman who is close to your heart and is going to be a mother soon. It could be your wife, your sister, you daughter, your grand-daughter, your neighbor’s son’s girlfriend. I don’t care who she is or how you know her, but how about simply making her aware of postpartum depression? You can be open, you can tell her your story if you have one, tell her other stories that you may have heard. Tell her what she can do if she finds herself experiencing postpartum depressive symptoms. If you don’t know what she can do, check online or ask me and I will share some of the resources that are out there. I will tell her that this little “speech” that I have going here is not meant to scare her, but by the same token, it is also not meant to be forgotten in the aftermath of her delivery. This speech is here so that her initial motherhood phase can in fact possibly be more of a joyful experience and less of an emotional roller-coaster. This is simply about sharing and becoming aware of something that is as real as the pooping-drooling-and-smiling baby that a new mother gets to hold in her hands.
Other than that, I think I am going to track those birth announcements to see if and when their format changes :) And if you happen to be a reader of my blog or one of my friends, then for sure, this won’t be the last time you will hear from me on this topic!
2 thoughts on “What your mother never told you about postpartum”
Good that u wrote about it….Ithink it’s necessary that every women knows abt this while getting pregnant or before.And it would be also important on the women’s part to share these feelings with her husband, family and Dr. Especially for women who deliver in India, e.g. Are shy or not confident to talk about this, and mostly are overwhelmed with the baby, so this thing might get neglected. Plus as u rightly pointed out mothers usually don’t discuss this and of course we still have stigma in our society about mental illnesses, and ppd is a part of it. So, creating awareness is so important at this stage.
Monali, thank you for your comment. PPD is a pretty global phenomenon and while there is some data on it, there seems to be even less data re: the lower end of the spectrum (minor depression etc.) which I believe operates more subtly but is quite harmful as well. Awareness would definitely be a key element among other things.