Friday, August 15, 2014
7 Facts about Maternal Depression
1. Maternal depression does not have a timeline.
We hear most about "postpartum" depression occurring in the early weeks and months after a baby is born. But depression can occur during pregnancy, early in the postpartum period, and after the baby is older. Any mother showing signs of depression needs to seek help and she should not wait to see if she "gets over it."
2. Depression is not the same thing as sadness.
Because "depression" is used so freely to refer to everyday feelings of sadness or low energy, people can be confused and expect that mothers who are depressed must cry everyday. It is important to consult the resources below if you are unsure of what it means to be depressed.
3. Maternal depression is not a choice or something that women can be "strong enough" or "brave enough" to avoid.
For so long, mental health disorders have carried a stigma because they were so poorly understood by those who had no personal experience to draw from. Because there are people who write about "beating" their mental health issues on their own, there can be an expectation that it is a matter of strength or perseverance. Don't believe it and don't wait to get help for yourself or any mother you love.
4. Maternal depression can happen to anyone but is more likely to occur among women with a history of depression.
If you or a mother you love has had a history of depression or other mental health disorders, it is important to have a plan or step in sooner should you become concerned. Having challenges earlier in life does not always mean that you will have a recurrence during or after pregnancy but the risk is high enough that you want get the resources in place so you can get help quickly if you need to. Tell your doctor, get informed, and make a plan.
5. Depressed mothers may not ask for help.
Depression is so disempowering that those who suffer most are least likely to seek help for themselves. If you are concerned about a mom you love, don't assume that you should give up if your offer for help is turned away. Use the resources below to get better informed and strategies to support moms who can't yet see that anything can help them.
6. Treatment takes time and may take multiple efforts.
Every human being is biologically unique. There is no one medication, treatment, therapy, or experience that turns depression on or off. Be prepared that recovery can take time and several different strategies. Any person going through this process needs support by people who are well informed and prepared to make sure that giving up is not an option.
7. Helping moms with depression, can have a huge impact on children's lives.
You may have wondered why the "Secrets of Baby Behavior" has a blog post about maternal depression. It is because there is no doubt that maternal depression can have a terrible impact on babies and young children. In homes where trusted and loving adults are supporting moms who are struggling and making sure that babies and young children get the care they need, many of the negative outcomes can be prevented. Helping families in these situations is not easy but the right support can change children's lives.
Special Note to Moms and Friends and Family: There are excellent online resources for anyone seeking more information about maternal depression (see below), but we think it is really important that you talk to a qualified person if you are worried about yourself or someone else who might have depression. Start with your health care provider, a qualified therapist, or a community helpline. If calling one of these resources seems overwhelming (and that is not strange or being weak) ask a trusted friend or family member to do it for you, but you will need to be close by to verify that you are seeking help.
More is known now about depression and other mood disorders than ever before. Reach out, now.
Mayo Clinic - Basic Information
Office of Women's Health - Answers to Questions
Information for Dads and others supporting mothers at risk
Postpartum Support International - dedicated website and helpline