May is Mental Health Awareness month as well as Maternal Mental Health Awareness month.
Recently, model Chrissy Teigen spoke up about her experience with postpartum depression (PPD), the No. 1 medical complication of pregnancy. In her interview with Glamour, Teigen said she felt “unhappy” after her daughter’s birth, even though she finally had the family she longed for. At first, she didn’t realize that her feelings didn’t make her a “bad” mom; they actually meant she was depressed. Just like so many women experiencing a maternal mental health complication like PPD, Teigen misread her feelings of sadness, worry, and her lack of energy, chalking them up to the new demands of motherhood. Now, Teigen hopes to dismantle the shame and stigma attached to PPD by speaking up about her illness.
It’s estimated that almost 20 percent of mothers will suffer from a maternal mental health complication like postpartum depression, others will suffer from anxiety or even the very rare but serious postpartum psychosis. But unfortunately, many women are never properly screened, diagnosed or treated for maternal mental health disorders. As a result, many women suffer in silence believing they aren’t “good” mothers, feeling ashamed that motherhood is not a “joyful” experience.
Culturally, we need to break the stigma associated with maternal mental health disorders. Motherhood doesn’t always feel like a greeting card. While there are many blogs and articles educating women and families about the signs and symptoms of a maternal mental health complication, there aren’t as many stories that capture what if feels like to live with this illness all while being responsible for the care of a newborn.
But one brave mom, Maureen Fura, hopes to change this by sharing a short video that depicts how she felt when she experienced depression and anxiety during her pregnancy and postpartum. Even though every woman’s experience with maternal depression differs, Maureen shares some relatable thoughts and worries that enter the minds of many women.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of PPD that Maureen experienced, as well as her quotes that highlight the collective thoughts and feelings that often haunt mothers struggling with depression.
The feeling of shame:
Many mothers who suffer from a maternal mental health concern are filled with intense feelings of shame. Unlike guilt, which makes someone feel like they did a “bad” thing (I didn’t nurse every two hours, I didn’t hear the baby crying), shame causes women to believe that they are “bad” moms. This embarrassing emotion causes moms hide their suffering, tucking it away in secrecy so that no one ever judges them in the way that they judge themselves. In the video, Maureen shares her shame-filled thoughts by saying, “I am crazy,” “I am a terrible mom.”
Worries intrude the minds of many mothers suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. Unlike “common” motherhood concerns, these worries wash over a woman’s psyche. Like thick fog on a windshield, they make it difficult for mothers to recognize that these worries aren’t reality and that they are temporary. In the video, Maureen gives us a glimpse of her anxiety by saying, “How much milk does she have?” “Did I change her diaper?” “I have to clean the house; I have to clean the house…”
Many women suffering from PPD are unable to sleep, but this symptom is overlooked because all moms are sleep deprived. But the fatigue that accompanies PPD differs from the feelings of sleep deprivation. Often, moms are tired, but their minds won’t rest. Maureen talks about her insomnia by saying, “I can’t sleep. I am so tired…”
It’s not uncommon for many mothers to experience intrusive thoughts. Like a boomerang, these bothersome ideas may seem to pop up out of nowhere. Often, they are scary and include fantasies of “worst” case scenarios. For Maureen, this worry included: “What if I let go of the stroller?”
Contrary to popular belief, motherhood is not a “joyful” experience. Still, many mothers feel guilty about the sadness that often accompanies this identity transition. Too often, we internalize the belief that “maternal desire” should erase any difficult feelings and experiences that motherhood brings. For Maureen, her sadness echoes when she shares, “All I wanted was to be a mom...”
In honor of mental health awareness month, we ask you to share the video to help break the silence surrounding maternal mental health, disorders, like postpartum depression.
As part of May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re focusing on treatment and the stigma around getting help. Check out our coverage here and share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.