Postpartum Depression in Birth Mothers: How Women Break the Stigma

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Giving birth to a new baby and welcoming this precious little human being into the family is a joyful and life-changing experience, but it can also pose mental health challenges for new mothers.

Mothers often experience strong emotions of sadness, anger, or grief after childbirth, which is not what they expect and could be signs of a postpartum mood disorder .

While such a diagnosis may seem frightening and even shameful to some people, Mayo Clinic certified nurse midwife Julie Lamppa told Fox News Digital that the disorder is more common than people realize.

“Most women will experience some sort of postpartum blues,” she said.

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She said often the symptoms are mild and resolve on their own – “80% of women will get them,” she said.

Meanwhile, 15% to 20% of women, or one in seven, will continue to experience severe moods after the two to three week postpartum period, which could be termed as postpartum depression (PPD).

Julie Lamppa, APRN, a board-certified nurse midwife in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., shared her insights with Fox News Digital on postpartum depression.
(Mayo Clinic/Julia Lamppa)

A 2022 study from the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that self-reported postpartum depressive symptoms increased nationwide from a pre-pandemic period through the pandemic period.

States such as Maine and Wyoming have even seen a whopping 90% spike in cases among residents, according to the report.

What is PPD, exactly?

PPD is an intense mood disorder that is most likely to occur within the first four months after a baby is born through the child’s first year, Lamppa said.

“Even though [new moms are] do very well at six weeks postpartum, that has the potential to change,” said the Rochester, Minnesota-based midwife and author of “Obstetricks.”

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The main signs of PPD are not much different from the symptoms of anyone else with typical anxiety or depression; signs may include feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, withdrawn, indifferent, and overly worried.

Women may also experience problems sleeping, eating, irritability, lack of energy and feelings of guilt.

A new mom cuddles her newborn baby.  PPD can be linked to major hormonal change in the female body, as well as lack of sleep and increased worry.

A new mom cuddles her newborn baby. PPD can be linked to major hormonal change in the female body, as well as lack of sleep and increased worry.
(Stock)

Adding to these issues, Lamppa added, new birth mothers are now juggling the pressures of feeding a small baby while physically healing from the birth of the baby.

“It’s a harder time to be able to deal with all these feelings compared to someone who is suffering from depression or anxiety. [and] not in the postpartum period.”

PPD likely occurs, Lamppa said, due to the major hormonal change in the female body, as well as the lack of sleep and worry that comes with being a responsible parent.

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“I can’t stress sleep enough,” she said. “When people sleep well, their mood is high.”

A new mum is pictured with her baby.  Professionals say moms — and everyone else, for that matter — need to prioritize their self-care.

A new mum is pictured with her baby. Professionals say moms — and everyone else, for that matter — need to prioritize their self-care.
(Stock)

People who have a history of depression or anxiety are most at risk of experiencing such problems after childbirth, especially if these mood disorders persist during pregnancy.

“It’s a really big goal while you’re pregnant just to really hone and optimize moods as much as possible,” she said.

Lamppa mentioned that other factors such as lack of support, financial stress, and breastfeeding issues can trigger symptoms of PPD.

What if you are struggling with PPD?

Women with PPD can help themselves first by focusing on self-care. This can include spending time outdoors and finding solutions for getting adequate sleep, spiritual care, exercise, and nutrition.

“Probably some of the closest people in your world suffered silently from this and never wanted to admit it.”

Along with a self-care routine, which Lamppa says should “always be done,” women should also consider counseling and talk therapy.

“Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you take some of those negative thoughts and turn them into something more functional,” she said.

An exhausted mother sits with her sleeping baby in the car.  Health professionals can prescribe medication for mothers with PPD.

An exhausted mother sits with her sleeping baby in the car. Health professionals can prescribe medication for mothers with PPD.
(Stock)

Various drugs can be prescribed by medical professionals — providers tend to feel “very comfortable” with this scenario, Lamppa said. Specific requirements vary on a case-by-case basis.

Lamppa noted that a “high percentage” of women who are weaned off medication during and directly after pregnancy tend to be re-prescribed.

How can we break the stigma of PPD?

Lamppa, who has been helping birth mothers since 1994, described the postpartum period as a “very vulnerable time” for women who may feel embarrassed or afraid to admit they have it.

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“Some of the people closest to your world probably suffered from it in silence and never wanted to admit it,” she said. “And when people don’t talk about it, it makes you feel so alone.”

Mayo Clinic nurse practitioner Caroline Scherbring battled PPD herself after the birth of her second child — and made the decision to break the stigma of shame by seeking help.

“PPD dulled my ability to bond with my newborn – and I felt like I could make up for it by doing all of that.”

Scherbring’s new baby, Ruth, who is now almost four months old, was born in February 2022.

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Scherbring opened up about how she started feeling more sad than happy after welcoming baby Ruth, something she didn’t experience with her first daughter, Claire. The second mother was also struggling to allow others to care for the new baby.

New mother Caroline Scherbring is shown holding her second daughter, Ruth, who was born in February this year.  (Caroline Scherbring)

New mother Caroline Scherbring is shown holding her second daughter, Ruth, who was born in February this year. (Caroline Scherbring)
(Caroline Scherbring)

“I struggled to regain control of newborn activities, often pushing myself into a state of overwhelming exhaustion,” she said.

“PPD dulled my ability to bond with my newborn – and I felt like I could make up for it by doing all of that.”

After her husband suggested she speak to a mental health professional, Scherbring began seeing Lamppa, who prescribed her Lexapro, which is used to treat depression and anxiety. Lamppa also suggested he attend group counseling sessions.

“When you feel you are struggling, you can ask for help.”

But what helped Scherbring the most, she said, was talking to other mothers who were also struggling with PPD.

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“What worked best for me was kind of a combined counseling and medication approach,” Scherbring said. “But I found the most effective thing for me was just talking to other mums who were going through the same thing and finding out that it was much more normal than I had realized before, to experience things like me.”

Scherbring stressed how important it is for other women to know that PPD is common – and that there should be no shame in taking medication or seeking help.

Mayo Clinic nurse practitioner Caroline Scherbring holds new baby Ruth next to her first daughter Claire.  (Caroline Scherbring)

Mayo Clinic nurse practitioner Caroline Scherbring holds new baby Ruth next to her first daughter Claire. (Caroline Scherbring)
(Caroline Scherbring)

“When you feel you’re struggling, you can ask for help,” she said.

“And whether that struggle means you have PPD or it just means you need some extra support, I think just knowing you’re struggling is the best place to start.”

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Scherbring’s best advice for other mothers is to express how they feel to their support network — spouses, friends and doctors included — because it’s the “first step” to getting help and being a better one. mom.

“It’s something we should be able to talk about openly and not feel any kind of shame or like it needs to be hidden,” she said. “I think getting the help you need ultimately makes you a better mom.”

Mayo Clinic nurse practitioner Caroline Scherbring holds her first daughter, Claire.  (Caroline Scherbring)

Mayo Clinic nurse practitioner Caroline Scherbring holds her first daughter, Claire. (Caroline Scherbring)
(Caroline Scherbring)

“I think those are all our goals when we have kids, just to be the best mother we can be.”

Today, Scherbring is doing “much better” and her two daughters are healthy and happy.

Lamppa reassured any woman struggling with PPD that the experience is just a “temporary problem down the road.”

“It’s not something you did wrong,” she said. “It’s not your fault. You’re not alone.”

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People with PPD should also note available resources, such as Postpartum Support International (PSI) and the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

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