Thank you Adele for your continued honesty about your struggles being a mother. The headline may read Adele praises Beyoncé, but I want to praise Adele for something a little different; helping other mothers to not feel so alone by sharing her struggle so publicly.
I just attended a local viewing in Orange County of this documentary on Perinatal Mood Disorders; which includes postpartum depression and anxiety, for professionals in my Community. The documentary explores the lack of maternal mental health awareness and resources for moms and the consequences this is having. As a therapist specializing in postpartum adjustment, local events such as these make me happy that awareness is spreading and efforts are being made. This film is available to rent or buy on itunes and Amazon.
I can relate to this article so much. Did anyone else lie about their postpartum depression or anxiety during their postnatal OB visit? I am wanting to offer tips for OB's and Pediatricians on how to better detect a perinatal mood disorder. Would this have helped you?
- Don’t be deceived by looks – symptoms of depression and anxiety may be camouflaged by flawless appearances.
- Be sure to go beyond just looking at the results of the postpartum self- assessment and take the time to talk about it during the postpartum visit.
- Even if they report everything is going well, ask them what isn’t going so well (all mothers can identify with this and it will open up a door to what may really be going on.) Or ask them what could be even better. Know that moms may feel guilt and embarrassment if they don’t report being happy during this time. Give them permission to voice their struggles or unhappiness.
- Have the conversation. If you are a parent yourself, use this opportunity during the postpartum visit to connect with them about the challenges of bringing home a newborn or if you are not a parent, use your awareness of the many challenges this transition can have to open up this conversation and connect.
Many mothers have a hard time identifying postpartum anxiety in themselves because it doesn't fit with postpartum depression symptoms. This too is affecting mothers (maybe more) and needs to be talked about and shared.
The number one complication of childbirth is a perinatal mood disorder (postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.) Up to 1 in 7 women will experience a perinatal mood disorder during or after pregnancy. I was one of them following the birth of my daughter in 2013. My obstetrician did administer a postpartum screening assessment, but at just 6 weeks postpartum I was not yet ready to face my depression following what was supposed to be the most joyous event of my life, so I was not honest about what I was feeling. This is an unfortunate reality for many mothers struggling with a perinatal mood disorder. Up to 85% of these women will not get the help they need. Efforts are being made to improve screening and detection to include pediatricians who will see the mother/infant dyad several times during that first year. If I had been screened at one or several of the well child visits that first year as suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics it could have saved me from one of the worst years of my life. I am joining efforts with the California maternal mental health collaborative by helping to spread the word and improve screening and detection. I want to help close the gap in maternal mental health by improving screening and education for mothers. For more information visit www.2020mom.org and www.thebluedotproject.org.
Marissa Zwetow, LMFT
I was shocked when my own mother shared that one of the happiest times in her life was after she gave birth and was home taking care of her newborn. She also stated that it was one of the hardest times in her life. This confused me. As we spoke more, she clarified that yes it was the hardest, but she was the happiest.
I struggled to believe this. It was so different from my experience. And if this is true then somehow I got robbed. I find that mothers who experience a negative postpartum adjustment of any kind, me included, want to believe that all new mothers are lying if they say they are really happy. Are they in denial? Do they have a live in nanny, a chef, a baby nurse, and a super hero husband?
So, here I was, home with my new daughter, unhappy. What went wrong? Why wasn’t this as easy and as smooth as my mother’s experience? I was so depressed and embarrassed to let anybody know how I truly felt. Not happy at all. The whole experience of having a new baby was overwhelming, exhausting, and not at all what I had hoped, anticipated, and expected.
I realized that I needed to get help. I attended postpartum support groups offered through the Community and the hospital where I delivered and unfortunately they didn’t give me the help that I truly needed. Then, I found a really great therapist who not only helped me personally to overcome my postpartum depression and anxiety, but also helped my marriage by improving our communication and supporting me in asking my husband for help. Research shows that it is the first year after having a baby that is the hardest on the marriage, not the first year of marriage. Additionally, support groups that were offered through my therapist allowed me to meet other mothers that were experiencing similar feelings. I felt such relief in learning that I wasn’t alone.
If left untreated, postpartum disorders can last up to two years. Postpartum depression and anxiety can be so cruel because of the timing; a time in a mother’s life when she really could be the happiest. In hindsight I wish I had sought help earlier. I now know that postpartum happiness was mine for the taking. As a licensed therapist I am committed to doing just that; helping mothers find their happiness.
*Marissa Zwetow is a licensed marriage, family therapist, owner of Postpartum Happiness in Orange County, CA. www.postpartumhappiness.com