Postnatal depression is much more than just mood swings: how women* suffer from it and what to do about it
For a long time, postnatal depression was something that even in private circles was only talked about behind closed doors – if it was even an issue. And even today, mothers downplay their symptoms in front of friends and relatives because of the huge societal pressure after having a child. Because the image sticks in society that the new mom should be grateful above all that the child was born healthy and in the weeks after the birth you have to float on cloud nine with your little miracle. And this despite the fact that the hormonal chaos after childbirth is just raging and sleep is just a fading memory on the horizon.
The general societal idea is still: mothers should all be on cloud nine after the birth of a child
The problem: With this pressure, which is placed on many women, there is also a certain shame if one does not correspond to the social ideas of the blissful mother. If negative thoughts and feelings then arise during childbirth, they will keep them to themselves. A strong feeling of loneliness can set in, even though millions of other women around the world share the same feelings.
Postnatal depression: more than just a ‘baby blues’
Perhaps most don’t even realize that what they’re feeling is an actual medical diagnosis, so little is postnatal depression talked about or its associated symptoms dismissed as mere “mood swings.” Friends and relatives who also grew up with the social notion that after the birth everything has to be sunshine and roses, are therefore happy to dismiss postpartum depression as a little “baby blues” that will surely pass by itself quickly.
Up to 15% of all mothers suffer from postnatal depression
Postnatal depression is much more common than most people think and the often very severe symptoms accompany mothers sometimes even for months. A current report by the RKI on the health situation of women in Germany from 2020 shows that up to 15% of mothers contract it – and the number of unreported cases is estimated to be even higher.
There’s finally a headwind against common stereotypes surrounding postnatal depression
Depression affects women of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, and contrary to what is often claimed, it can occur after the birth of any child, not just after the birth of the first. Fortunately, to deal with exactly such stereotypes or false information – also thanks to social media channels like TikTok – there is now more and more talk about postnatal depression and its actual effects.
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Expert Jilly Blankenship gives tips for those affected and their families
To help even more women not feel alone during this vulnerable time and to further dispel common misconceptions about postnatal depression, we spoke to neonatal nurse, baby sleep consultant and internationally certified lactation consultant Jilly Blankenship and captured the results of our conversation here:
How long can postnatal depression last and what causes it?
Postnatal depression can last for several months or even up to a year or more if left untreated. It’s thought to be caused by a combination of physical, emotional, and environmental factors, including hormonal changes, lack of sleep, stress, isolation, and/or lack of social support.
What are the most common misconceptions about postnatal depression?
There are many misconceptions about postnatal depression that can be dangerous and discourage women from seeking help.