Speak out: Postpartum Depression
Speaking Out About Postpartum Depression

All around us, the world tells new parents they should be filled with joy at the arrival of their new little one. The birth of a child is a vastly life-changing experience, but all too often, new mothers struggle with the challenges of new parenthood, including postpartum depression (PPD). Celebrity mothers aren’t immune from postpartum depression, which is why Cardi B, Chrissy Teigen, Gwyneth Paltrow, and other celebrity moms are using their platforms to raise awareness about their experiences with postpartum depression.

Postpartum Depression by the Numbers

While postpartum depression can feel very isolating, you’re not alone. Many women face the same emotions and difficulties after becoming a mother. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that at least 1 in 9 mothers suffer from postpartum depression, though in some areas these numbers can be closer to 1 in 5 mothers. Considering the number of clinically recognized pregnancies (6.4 million pregnancies a year, according to the National Vital Statistics Report), these numbers mean that as many as 950,000 mothers a year face postpartum depression. Researchers think these numbers are actually lower than reality, though, since many women feel uncomfortable reporting their condition.

Every year there are more cases of postpartum depression among women than diabetes among women (800,000 new diagnoses each year), deaths among women caused by heart disease (approximately 290,000 deaths in 2013), or even breast cancer among women (230,000 new cases diagnosed annually). It is clear that postpartum depression is an epidemic, and yet many women who face PPD may not know the prevalence of their condition or feel safe voicing their struggles to care providers.

Using Their Platforms with a Purpose

A number of celebrity moms are working to raise awareness about postpartum depression and encourage other mothers to seek out the help they need by sharing their personal experiences with PPD.

Musician Cardi B recently spoke with Harper’s Bazaar about her experiences with PPD following the birth of her daughter, Kulture Kiari Cephus, this past July. As she told the magazine, “I thought I was going to avoid it . . . But out of nowhere, the world was heavy on my shoulders.” She also talks about the physical changes her body has gone through after her pregnancy, explaining how her balance is different and she feels fatigued at times even though she’s thinner now than she was before having her baby. Cardi shares how her mom helps her with her daughter, nicknamed KK, and how her daughter helps her focus more on what’s important.

“Sometimes I’ll see something online and it’ll piss me off, and then my baby will start crying or something, and it’s like, ‘You know what? I’ve got to deal with the milk. Forget this.’” Cardi tells Harper’s Bazaar.

Her message is a good reminder for moms everywhere—pregnancy is a time of huge physical, hormonal, and life changes, and recovery takes time and support.

Model, author, and designer Chrissy Teigen is another celebrity who is opening up about her experiences with PPD following the birth of her daughter, Luna, in April 2016. She talks candidly about the birth of her daughter and the darkness that follows in an essay she penned for Glamour.

“I had everything I needed to be happy. And yet, for much of the last year, I felt unhappy. What basically everyone around me—but me—knew up until December was this: I have postpartum depression. How can I feel this way when everything is so great? I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with that…” Chrissy writes, before detailing with her trademark raw honesty the months she spent battling postpartum depression:

“But I was different than before. Getting out of bed to get to set on time was painful. My lower back throbbed; my shoulders—even my wrists—hurt. I didn’t have an appetite. I would go two days without a bite of food, and you know how big of a deal food is for me. One thing that really got me was just how short I was with people . . . My eyes would well up and I would burst into tears. My makeup artist would pat them dry and give me a few minutes. I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy. I blamed it on being tired and possibly growing out of the role: ‘Maybe I’m just not a goofy person anymore. Maybe I’m just supposed to be a mom.’.”

It can be easy to dismiss postpartum depression as “in your head” or to assume, as Chrissy did, that only women who didn’t want to have children suffered from PPD. Her story, like Cardi’s, also highlights the physical symptoms that can accompany PPD.

Chrissy also dives into why many women with PPD continue to face their condition alone, writing, “I have a great life. I have all the help I could need . . .  But postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling. Sometimes I still do.”

Postpartum depression affects women from all walks of life, and it can be challenging to speak up and admit that something is wrong. Some women may feel that they really have no reason to feel this way or may feel admitting something is wrong makes them a less-than-perfect mom. Others may worry that they will face consequences for speaking up or simply don’t have access to resources to help them. PPD is the most common complication of childbirth, but it doesn’t receive the attention and research it should. We can only hope that celebrities will continue to shine a light on this incredibly important issue and help other women find the help and support they deserve while facing the challenges of postpartum depression.

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Article By: Chris Howard
Director of Community Outreach & Education Chris Howard has been working in the mental health field since 2010 after seeing the long-term effects of mental illness within his own family. He is a graduate of UCLA where he received his B.A. in Psychology. Having worked closely with those struggling with addiction, Chris considers the concept of community to be an essential part of treatment and advocates for wellness approaches that integrate both leading conventional therapies, as well as holistic practices like yoga and meditation.