It’s common for many women to experience the “baby blues” for a few weeks postpartum. But for 10 to 25 percent of new moms, those bouts of sadness, anxiety, irritability and fatigue will mushroom into full-blown postpartum depression, which can include severe anxiety, loss of appetite, feelings of worthlessness and obsessive or negative thoughts toward your baby.
Any mom who’s suffered from PPD knows that it can be an isolating experience that’s hard to talk about. That’s why Ohio resident Kathy DiVincenzo, who’s a doula and mother who’s experienced PPD firsthand, staged a photo shoot that highlights the need to #endthesilence around PPD.
In a Facebook post that’s been shared more than 70,000 times, DiVincenzo poses for two photos: In the first, she’s dressed in sweatpants with her hair thrown up in a messy ponytail. She’s surrounded by clutter and stares at the camera with a dazed look on her face. In the second, she’s smiling, engaged and happily playing with her daughter.
“May has been declared Postpartum Depression Awareness Month and as someone with diagnosed postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD I feel like it’s time to show you what that can really look like, not just the side of me that’s ‘Facebook worthy,'” she wrote.
The truth is, both of these pictures represent my life depending on the day. I would only ever comfortably share one of these realities though and that’s the problem. The only thing more exhausting than having these conditions is pretending daily that I don’t. I work twice as hard to hide this reality from you because I’m afraid to make you uncomfortable. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak, crazy, a terrible mother, or the other million things my mind convinces me of and I know I’m not alone in those thoughts.”
Her post brings up another important point: So often, when you’re scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, what you’re seeing is the highlight reel. People share the good, not the bad, but that can lead to a skewed perspective of what’s “normal.” In fact, some studies suggest that instead of connecting us with others, social media is actually making us feel lonely and depressed.
DiVincenzo ends her post by reminding moms everywhere that PPD is not their fault, and that they’re doing a great job.
“We need to break the stigma and #EndTheSilence by sharing our stories and letting others know they’re not alone. If you have had a postpartum mood disorder please share your story below, or simply post to show you can relate. Let’s show others that they don’t have to suffer in silence.
In case no one has told you, you’re doing an amazing job. You are loved and you are worthy. You’re not alone. Information to local and national support will be in the comment section. I know how unbelievably hard it is to reach out, but I promise you it is worth it. YOU’RE worth it.”
If you think you might have PPD, keep an eye out for these symptoms:
- Disrupted sleep (either not being able to sleep or wanting to sleep the day away)
- Eating problems (no appetite or an excessive one)
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or helplessness
- Severe anxiety
- Problems doing tasks at home or work
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Social isolation — feeling withdrawn or unconnected
- Feelings of worthlessness and of being a bad mother
- Inability to care for yourself or your baby
- Obsessive thoughts about your baby’s health
- Having negative feelings toward or little interest in your baby
- Fear of being alone with your baby
Postpartum depression is treatable. If you experience any of the symptoms above, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you devise a safe, effective treatment plan that’s right for you.
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Symptoms of PPD
The Impact of PPD