It’s estimated that worldwide, some 10 to 15 per cent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. According to studies, having a strong social network – both online and in real life – can help mothers cope with this common medical concern.
A DARKER SHADE OF BABY BLUES
Postpartum depression is not to be confused with what’s come to be known as the postpartum “baby blues”, which is common to 80 percent of women after giving birth, usually beginning within the first three days after delivery and sometimes lasting as long as two weeks.
The baby blues are typically characterized by mood swings, anxiety, crying spells, irritability and insomnia, and while undeniably unpleasant, the condition is temporary, very common, and doesn’t present any long-term health concerns.
Postpartum depression, however, is a different story, being a more severe, long-lasting affliction linked to the chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby. While similar to the baby blues, its symptoms are considerably more intense and can eventually interfere with a mother’s ability to take proper care of her newborn or simply perform basic daily tasks.
When I met Johnson at WMN Space, my first question was how, exactly, she started doing this kind of work in the first place. (I mean, it’s not something you can major in at college.) The former yoga instructor and bodyworker told me she found her calling while dealing with a seriouspelvic-floorinjury brought on by childbirth.
“I started researching [treatment], and all I could find were tens of thousands of entries onpostpartum depression,” she recalls. “But I was like, ‘Of course I’m depressed.’ I was pooping in my pants, sex was impossible, my low back was killing me all the time—and I’m someone who was totally fit and healthy [before giving birth.]
(Click to read about pelvic floors on wellandgood.com)
Other mothers have gone before you. Other mothers will come after you. There is a sisterhood in our postpartum experience. If we allow it, our lives will be forever changed. You are not alone. You are never alone.
When the balloons have deflated. When the flowers have died. When everyone has gone home. Then what?
Postpartum. It’s sometimes called the fourth trimester, but if you’ve never had a baby, or you’ve never been in my social circle, you might not know that.
I often see or hear of women pushing themselves to return to normal as quickly as possible after birth. In a hurry to get their life and body back they jump into a myriad of activities at warp speed, often just days after giving birth. Riding on the birth and baby high, pumped full of adrenaline yet restless from the last few weeks of pregnancy, particularly if they felt like a watched pot, these women fill their schedule, attack their house, and find new projects determined to not be slowed down, impatiently trying to control and master this new version of normal. These women are often viewed with admiration and awe and the media highlights celebrities that are back to their prepregnant weight by 6 weeks or were spotted out jogging at 3 weeks or were back on the set of their TV show at 10 days. This is held up as the epitome of a strong woman, give birth, bounce back, conquer world. After all, women in China squat in a rice field, push their baby out and throw them on their back then return to work, right? It’s as though we’ve forgotten to celebrate. We’ve forgotten how important it is to rest after a hard work and enjoy the fruit of our labors. We’ve forgotten that while pregnancy and childbirth may not be an illness our bodies still need to recover from the taxing physical and emotional demands of the endeavor. Pregnancy, labor and childbirth may be a normal part of life but it is anything but easy. The change a woman’s body goes through are massive to say nothing of the emotional journey as well. Ignoring this reality can have serious consequences for our bodies, our emotional health, our breastfeeding relationship with our baby, our mothering, and our families. Do not underestimate the potential for damage if we neglect our postpartum healing. (click link above to read a fantastic blog about postpartum recovery)
More about Postpartum Recovery in the Postpartum section.