Postpartum Depression Facts No One Tells You (But You Need to Know)

By Bridget Croteau March 13, 2020

Postpartum depression is probably the most recognized name of the disorders that fall under the umbrella term of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). Although the name postpartum depression is well known, many people don’t know what postpartum depression is.

1. It's not just postpartum…

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can present during pregnancy, anytime in the first year postpartum, or even after weaning from breastfeeding your baby.  

2. It's not just depression…

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders include more than depression. Often people think that because they are not experiencing depression they don’t have a PMAD. PMADs also include prenatal/postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), postpartum bipolar disorder or postpartum psychosis.  

I went through two very different PMADs after the births of my daughters. I suffered from postpartum depression with my oldest and postpartum anxiety with my youngest. My postpartum depression began very early on with my daughter, Natalie. She was in the NICU for a week following a difficult birth and labor. I experienced immense guilt, worthlessness, and cried almost daily. With my youngest daughter, Chloe, my postpartum anxiety took several months to appear. I was sleep-deprived and incredibly stressed. I began to have panic attacks, became very angry, and I would throw things and scream.

3. You’re not alone!

PMADs are very common! It is estimated that 1 in 5 mothers will experience postpartum depression or other PMAD. Fathers can experience these as well; it is estimated that 1 in 10 fathers will have a PMAD.  

While going through postpartum depression with my first daughter, I felt incredibly alone and didn’t think anyone would understand how I was feeling. When I began attending a support group, the feelings of loneliness started to fade away. I felt a connection to the other moms… they truly understood what I was experiencing. We could all turn to each other and nod in agreement to feelings, moments, and thoughts we shared.  

4. Not the same as the “baby blues”... 

The “baby blues” are very common, occurring in 60-80% of women. Symptoms include sadness, fatigue, and irritability. Baby blues symptoms will subside within a couple of weeks. A PMAD will last for much longer and be more severe than the “blues.” 

If the symptoms are more severe, continue past two weeks, or worry a mom or her family, it is important to reach out for help!

5. It’s treatable!

PMADs are completely treatable! Plans will vary from person to person. Treatment may include therapy, support groups, and medication. There are also complementary treatments including yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. It is also recommended that you see your primary care doctor for a physical as there could be something physiological going on that is contributing to symptoms.

While going through postpartum depression and anxiety with my daughters, my personal treatment plan included talk therapy and attending a support group. I also went for a physical and my blood work indicated that my B12 levels were in a low-normal range that was associated with the depression symptoms I was experiencing. I began taking B12 supplements, and after a few weeks my mood began to improve.  

Here are two great resources available to help you or a friend/family member going through a PMAD:

  • Postpartum Support International offers information, a Helpline, online and telephone support groups, and more. The PSI Helpline number is 1-800-944-4773.
  • "Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression and Anxiety," by Shoshana Bennett and Pec Indman is a fantastic resource, not only for mom, but for her support network as well.  

6. There are risk factors.

As with many illnesses, disorders, or diseases, there are risk factors that make it more likely that someone will suffer from PMADs, but they do not guarantee it. Likewise, someone could have no risk factors and still experience a PMAD.  

Some of the risk factors include lack of support, major life change (moving away from family, loss of a job, death of a loved one, etc.), unplanned pregnancy, difficult labor, personal or family history of anxiety, depression or other disorder, and previous trauma.

The most important thing to remember: You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.

Bridget Croteau lives in Suffolk County, New York, with her husband, Beau, their two children, Natalie and Chloe and labradoodle, Jake. She is the author of "Me, Again: How Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Transformed My Life."  
Bridget is also serving as Mrs. New York USA Ambassador 2020 to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and to help moms, dads, and families feel less alone. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.