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Uncovering the Realities of Postpartum Mental Health

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Motherhood is often portrayed in a positive light. Society tells us that becoming a mother should be seen as a joyous and fulfilling experience. But if we peek behind the curtain, it’s not always that way.

Postpartum mental health disorders, including postpartum depression, anxiety, and stress, affect many women after childbirth. Now is the time to reveal the hidden realities about these issues, and break the stigma surrounding them.

By promoting education and empathy, we can foster these conversations and create a culture that supports the mental well-being of new mothers.

A concerned woman holding a baby.

Common Misconceptions about Postpartum Mental Health

Misconception 1: Postpartum mental health disorders affect a small portion of women.

According to The Ammon-Pinizzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health at MGH, “about 85% of women experience some type of mood disturbance during the postpartum period. For most the symptoms are mild and short-lived; however, 10 to 15% of women develop more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety.”

Misconception 2: Postpartum mental health disorders are the same as "baby blues.”

“Baby blues” refer to temporary mood swings, making them different from more serious concerns. A qualifying difference is that postpartum depression, anxiety, or stress has a long-lasting impact on one’s well-being.

Misconception 3: Postpartum mental health concerns only affect women who have a history of mental illness.

Although pre-existing mental health conditions can increase the risk, any woman can experience these hormonal and emotional changes during and after pregnancy.

Misconception 4: Postpartum mental health issues are a reflection on the mother’s capability of caring for her child.

This is absolutely not the case. What’s most important to understand is that in postpartum mental health issues are NOT a reflection of a woman's strength or ability to be a good mother.

A woman with her head in her hand giving a baby a bottle.

What are the signs of postpartum mental health disorders?

Postpartum mental health disorders can manifest in various ways. Recognizing signs and symptoms can assist with getting the support necessary. Someone who may be struggling may exhibit:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness

  • Severe anxiety or paranoia

  • Difficulty bonding with the baby or lack of interest in the baby

  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much

  • Increased irritability or anger

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

  • Thoughts of causing harm to yourself or the baby

This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms, but are best characterized by their intensity and duration. If these signs persist for more than two weeks, you should seek professional help. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a significant difference towards recovery.

The Importance of Seeking Help for Postpartum Mental Health Issues

Seeking help for postpartum mental health issues is a courageous step towards recovery. Some may hesitate to reach out due to fear, shame, or resistance, but asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

When left untreated, postpartum mental health disorders can take a negative toll on the physical and mental state of the mother, and even of the baby.

A woman's hand on a shoulder of a woman holding a baby.

By seeking help, a mother is taking care of herself, and creating a healthier environment for her baby and family. Addressing mental health needs can help better meet the responsibilities of motherhood and find joy in raising a child.

There are several avenues to seek help. It’s always recommended to consult a licensed professional, such as a doctor or therapist, for the most credible guidance.

Start Therapy Today

Therapy can make a huge difference for those struggling with mental health during the postpartum period by providing a safe, non-judgmental space. It’s important to consult someone who specializes in therapy for pregnancy and fertility issues, such as Noticing Growth Therapy in California.

Take it from Noticing Growth: “There is a perception and expectation in our society that pregnancy and becoming a parent is ‘the happiest time in your life.’ There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t feel wonderful or happy right now.”

Our therapy services specialize in:

  • Perinatal mood disorders, including: depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and intrusive thoughts

  • Infertility

  • Pregnancy loss and miscarriage

  • Pregnancy termination for medical reasons (TFMR)

  • Traumatic birth experiences

  • Recovery from postpartum psychosis

  • Coping with high-risk pregnancy

  • Coping with NICU hospitalization

  • Coping with a baby that has complex medical needs

  • Surrogates

  • Birthing persons considering termination and after termination

  • LGBTQ+ couples navigating fertility options

Read our full page on perinatal mental health services here. If you’re located in Sacramento, get in touch to schedule a free 20 minute phone consultation. We also offer telehealth for all California residents.

Let’s empower and support those affected by postpartum mental health disorders and pave the way for a brighter future for new parents and families.

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