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Three myths about postpartum depression and anxiety

Since the birth of my two children, I have become passionate about working with women who are struggling with prenatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and their partners. Depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 women. However, many women suffer in silence and do not talk about what they are experiencing. I think this silence is due to several myths about what postpartum depression truly is and is not.

Myth #1: When you have postpartum depression you don't feel connected to your baby.

I believed this to be true.  And sometimes it is. A parent who is suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression can experience a lack of connection to their baby. But often this is not the case. Parents can feel connected to their baby and still suffer. In fact, some parents feel so connected with their child that they feel that they are the only ones able to care for them. They have a hard time accepting help from family, or their partner, and can feel overwhelmed. 

Myth #2: People with postpartum depression are the ones you hear about in the news that hurt themselves or/and their babies.

Stories in the media about women hurting their children, or themselves, are sometimes what come to mind when people think of postpartum depression. However, these stories are usually related to postpartum psychosis, not postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis is rare and usually occurs within the first two weeks postpartum. Postpartum psychosis is described as a break with reality. Postpartum depression, on the other hand,  can look like irritability, appetite or sleep disturbance, crying or sadness, or feelings of guilt and hopelessness. 

Myth #3: If I tell anyone about the disturbing thoughts I have about my baby, they will judge me and surely take my baby away.

Some women can have intrusive and disturbing thoughts about their child. Common themes are the baby getting hurt.  Images and thoughts might include the parent hurting or even sexually abusing the baby. These thoughts are usually highly distressing to a parent! Research has shown that these thoughts and images are products of anxiety, they are not delusional and have a very low probability of being acted on. But these thoughts are so disturbing that parents will keep them to themselves and not tell a soul. They suffer in silence for fear of being judged or being labeled an unfit parent. There is help. You do not need to suffer in silence!


There is help out there

Postpartum depression and anxiety can start any time within the first year of parenthood.  If you have been struggling, and think you may be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, there is help out there!  Postpartum depression and anxiety are treatable.

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a 10-question self-administered assessment tool that helps to identify women that are suffering from postpartum depression. You can download and print the questionnaire here, or you can complete it online at the Beyond the Blues website.

To find a trained professional who can help, call Postpartum Support International and a volunteer will connect you with someone in your area. You can also click here for additional resources. 

You are not alone, and with help you will feel better.