Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common mental health issue that affects many new parents. However, there are still numerous myths and misconceptions surrounding this condition.
In this article, we will debunk some of the most common myths about postpartum depression, helping to improve understanding and raise awareness. In addition, by separating fact from fiction, we encourage those affected to seek the help and support they need without feeling shame or embarrassment.
Myth 1: Postpartum depression always occurs immediately after childbirth
Fact: Postpartum depression can occur at any point during the first year after a baby is born.
One of the most persistent myths about postpartum depression is that it always occurs in the first few months following childbirth.
In reality, the onset of PPD can vary significantly from one parent to another. While it is true that PPD commonly develops within three to four months after the baby is born, some people may experience symptoms as early as during pregnancy or as late as one year after giving birth.
It is important to remember that experiencing emotional mood swings in the first few weeks after having a baby is expected.
However, if these moods are severe, long-lasting, or worsening after several weeks, it may indicate postpartum depression.
Myth 2: Postpartum depression only affects women
Fact: Postpartum depression can impact both new mothers and fathers.
While PPD is more commonly associated with new mothers, it can also affect new fathers. Paternal postnatal depression, though less common, is an actual condition that can occur when fathers feel neglected, left out of the attachment process, or overwhelmed by new financial or work stressors.
In addition, hormonal changes, such as a drop in testosterone, can contribute to postpartum depression in men.
Fathers’ postpartum depression most commonly occurs three to six months after a baby is born.
Fathers are at an elevated risk for depression if their partner also suffers postpartum depression. Like women with PPD, affected fathers may feel sad, tired, anxious, and overwhelmed.
Myth 3: Women with postpartum depression harm their babies
Fact: Women with postpartum depression do not typically harm their babies.
There is a common misconception that women with postpartum depression are more likely to harm or kill their babies.
Postpartum depression and thoughts of harming a baby do not usually occur together. A woman is more likely to harm herself than her baby if the depression becomes so intense that she begins to experience suicidal thoughts.
It is essential to distinguish between postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, a rare and severe disorder where mothers experience psychosis and lose touch with reality, potentially causing them to inflict harm on their infants.
Postpartum psychosis affects a far smaller percentage of new mothers than postpartum depression. It presents with symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, and delusions.
Myth 4: Women with postpartum depression cry all the time
Fact: Not all women with postpartum depression cry all the time.
The symptoms of postpartum depression can vary significantly from one individual to another. While some women may cry outwardly, others may hold their feelings inside or express them differently.
Besides tearfulness, some women with PPD may experience numbness, irritability, anger, significant levels of anxiety, or mood fluctuations that interfere with their ability to bond with their infant.
Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, disrupted sleep patterns, trouble concentrating, and low self-esteem.
Myth 5: Postpartum depression means a mother doesn’t love her baby
Fact: Postpartum depression is unrelated to how much a mother loves her baby.
Another harmful myth about postpartum depression is that it indicates a lack of love for the baby. On the contrary, PPD is associated with chemical imbalances, hormonal fluctuations, and other psychological and environmental factors.
Depression during this time has nothing to do with the mother’s love for her baby. However, PPD can impact the bonding process between a mother and her baby, as mood instability and fluctuations may prevent secure attachment.
Myth 6: Postpartum depression will go away on its own
Fact: Postpartum depression will not go away on its own and requires treatment.
Many people mistakenly believe that postpartum depression will eventually resolve itself without intervention. However, PPD is a treatable mental health condition that requires professional help to manage and overcome.
Left untreated, PPD can have long-lasting and detrimental effects on both the parent and the baby.
Individuals experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression should seek treatment when these symptoms intensify, impact daily functioning, or include thoughts of harm to themselves or their baby.
Postpartum depression can be effectively treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.
Myth 7: If I take medication for postpartum depression, I cannot breastfeed my baby
Fact: There are medications used to treat postpartum depression that are compatible with breastfeeding.
Many new mothers may hesitate to seek treatment for postpartum depression due to concerns about the safety of medications while breastfeeding.
However, several antidepressant medications are considered safe for breastfeeding mothers. It is essential to discuss your specific situation and concerns with your healthcare provider and/or lactation consultant to determine the best course of action for you and your baby.
Myth 8: Postpartum depression can be prevented
Fact: There is no surefire way to prevent postpartum depression.
While certain factors may increase the risk of developing PPD, there is no guaranteed method for preventing the condition.
For example, parents with a history of depression or those who have experienced postpartum depression may be more likely to develop PPD.
In such cases, healthcare providers may screen for depression before the baby’s birth or recommend additional checkups afterward to monitor for signs.
Myth 9: You’ll know that you have postpartum depression
Fact: Self-diagnosis can be challenging, and the symptoms of postpartum depression may not always be apparent.
The changes in mood and behavior associated with postpartum depression may not be as apparent to the affected individual as they are to others.
In addition, it can be challenging to differentiate between new parenthood’s typical exhaustion and stress and the more severe symptoms of PPD.
If you are uncertain about experiencing postpartum depression, speak with your healthcare provider or child’s pediatrician to discuss your symptoms and receive appropriate guidance.
Myth 10: Postpartum depression only develops in the first few weeks after birth
Fact: Postpartum depression can develop several months after childbirth.
Although PPD can begin within the first few weeks following childbirth, it can also develop several months later.
Some studies have found that only a small percentage of individuals show signs of PPD at six weeks postpartum, while a significantly higher percentage exhibit symptoms at four months postpartum.
As with the onset of PPD, the timeline for symptom development can vary widely from one person to another.
Clearing up the myths about postpartum depression is crucial to improving understanding and encouraging those affected to seek help.
By dispelling these misconceptions, we can reduce the stigma surrounding PPD and ensure that new parents receive the support and treatment they need to overcome this challenging condition.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, do not hesitate to contact a healthcare professional for guidance and assistance.