Becoming a mother is one of the most incredible miracles a woman will celebrate. It is often described as a beautiful and precious time of their life; although not all women share the same experience. Some mothers go through difficult hormonal and severe body changes during their pregnancy and once the baby is born, they can go through an emotional rollercoaster known as Postpartum Depression (PPD).
PPD is a type of mental depression that occurs after a baby is born. “About 85% of women experience some mood disturbance or disorder during the period immediately following childbirth, however many of these cases are mild and resolve without treatment.” (Gale Encyclopedia NAH). For many women PPD can come and go so quickly there is no harm no foul, but what if a mother’s “baby blues” (as it is commonly referred to) does not pass? The mood disorder does not target specific women, but research shows some are more susceptible to a longer effect of PPD then others. Baby blues, will typically last about 12 weeks after the birth of the child, but in other cases it has been reported to last up to a year or in even rarer cases it can last longer. “Younger woman or woman with prior anxieties are more likely to suffer from PPD for longer portions of time.” (Gale Encyclopedia NAH).
While we may consider all the risk factors and think because it is common we would know how to handle PPD there is no sure way to prevent or cure PPD. Every woman’s body is affected differently. Those who suffer from the baby blues can occasionally slip into a deeper state of PPD known as “Postpartum Psychosis”.
“Postpartum psychosis is an overt presentation of bipolar disorder that is timed to coincide with tremendous hormonal shifts after delivery. The patient develops frank psychosis, cognitive impairment, and grossly disorganized behavior that represent a complete change from previous functioning.” Journal of Women Health. The difference between PPD and PPS in the slightest would be; when the imbalance becomes a psychosis it can be a shift in the way your brain is delivering your emotions. Instead of feeling the standard normal emotions, the feelings and reactions are heightened. The understanding of right and wrong can become clouded
In 2003, Andrea Yates was convicted of Capitol Murder in the state of Texas. Yates received a life sentence to be served in a Texas Mental Hospital, where she remains today. Andrea Yates was a mother of five, who struggled with years of depression even prior to her children. Once she began having children however, she was diagnosed with reoccurring postpartum depression. It was not until baby number four was born, she was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis (PPS). The doctors recommend she stop having children. Once she had her fifth and final child Yates fell off the wagon and became so indulged in her PPS, she murdered all five of her children. Yates took each of her children one by one a drowned them in the bath tub of her home. “Shortly after Andrea Yates methodically drowned her five children in the bathtub, she told an investigator that she did it because she was such a bad mother she had doomed her young to eternal damnation” (CNN). It’s hard to imagine drowning your child, but to have done it four more times after that is heart wrenching. We know how complex the human mind is, but to know how dangerous it can be beyond frightening.
To get a closer look at how PPD can affect a mother I spoke with a family member who has been struggling with the depression for almost two years now. She had her first child at twenty-four. After her son, she had her daughter, the babies only being fifteen months apart, she has struggled to rid herself from the PPD. I asked her the following six questions,
1. How long have you been struggling with PPD, “I am still struggling with it every day, once I had my son I could never get rid of it. 2. Did a doctor prescribe you any medication or methods to help cope with the PPD? “They told me to try yoga, stretching or count to 5 with deep breathes in between. They also tried to put me on hormones to balance me out but the side effects were too much to handle, but I am also not comfortable with pills.” 3. What are some of the thoughts you have had during the time of PPD, and did you have suicidal or murderous thoughts? “My PPD was never directed at my children, but I did direct it towards my spouse. I have had moments where I think I could literally killed him. I could end up on that show snapped.” This was not an easy interview for the mother or even myself to swallow. To answer such personal questions is a hard thing for a mother to open about. Though she would tell you, opening about her PPD and having someone to listen does help.
Nobody can ever imagine what is running through a mother’s mind during PPD. However, there are measures a mother can take with PPD. Some methods involve breathing and exercise, or breaking through some of the scares, a mother has during this time. According to Journal of Clinical Psychology “Findings of prevention studies suggest that programs targeted at high-risk women, which are reasonably intense, begin in pregnancy, and carry on to the postpartum period, may have the most promise and are likely to be the most cost-effective prevention interventions.” You must be willing to fight and fight hard to move forward with your life and move past the depression. One method that seems to help mothers is being in a PPD support group with others dealing with similar thoughts and emotions from the depression. “We (Aberastury 1972) ran groups with expectant mothers, in which they could share their feelings about pregnancy, anticipate the problems they might encounter later, become able to tolerate their own mistakes and get to know the life of a baby through others’ experiences.” (Difficulties in treatment, Winnicott, 1960 p. 49) If you are struggling with a long term PPD reach out, find help. I cannot stress how important it is to be proactive while dealing with PPD, leaving it alone and not trying to move past that time in your life can only make things worse.
In light of this paper, my hope is that a new or even an experienced mother will read this and realize they are not alone. You do not need to be ashamed of the thoughts in your head, or the sadness with in you. PPD is a hormone imbalance, it is not something you can get over or switch off. If you notice that you are beginning to withdraw from your family and friends, having suicidal thoughts, or are even thinking about harming your children, seek the help you need. The more aware women are the better they can be prepared for the silent killer. Together we can continue to find strong methods of help and better ways to heal from PPD. You are not alone.
Black, Bethanne, and Tish Davidson. “Postpartum Depression.” Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, edited by Gale, 2nd edition, 2013. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/galegnaah/postpartum_depression/0?institutionId=5312. Accessed 13 Mar 2018.
I implemented this source to give an up to date statistic on how many women suffer from PPD. I wanted to be sure to show my readers understood that PPD is a very common mood disturbance new mothers face every day. I was able to pull information for how common PPD is as well as the affect age can have as well.
Defense: Yates killed kids to save them. Insanity defense raise at murder retrial for Houston housewife by Lisa Sweetingham Court TV Tuesday, June 27, 2006; Posted: 11:31 a.m. EDT(15:31 GMT)
I used this article in order to get a quote from Yates describing her reasoning behind killing her children. I wanted to give an example to the reads of how deadly postpartum psychosis can be compared to depression. It is no doubt that Yates struggle with more than just PPS but also other mental depressions. The quote is just a small insight to her mental instability.
Cattaruzza, Alexandra. “Difficulties in the Treatment of Depression during Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression.” Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan-Mar2014, pp. 75-87. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/15289168.2014.880296.
I used this information to give an accurate definition of PPS. To show the difference between PPD and PPS. This is a scary difference because it PPS is a far more dangerous side to PPD. I used this information educate the reader as accurately as possible.
Dorothy Sit, Anthony J. Rothschild, and Katherine L. Wisner.Journal of Women’s Health.May 2006.352-368.http://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2006.15.352
Published in Volume: 15 Issue 4: May 25, 2006
In using this source my hope is it will reach out to the mothers who struggle with PPD. There are a lot of methods to soothe yourself during the PPD episodes. One of the best tools is venting and letting women know that there are others out there with the same problems they are facing can make a huge impact for some women.