After having a baby, most women anticipate feeling an instant bond with their child and an overwhelming sense of love and elation. When they feel mixed emotions instead, it can be devastating. In Brooke Shield's compelling memoir, Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, she writes: "Here I was, finally the mother of a beautiful baby girl I had worked so hard to have, and I felt like my life was over. Where was the bliss? Where was the happiness that I had expected to feel by becoming a mother?"
The reality is that up to 20% of new moms will suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), a major depressive illness that can happen any time within a year of childbirth. Warning signs include:
- A period of sadness that lasts for more than two weeks.
- Poor concentration, memory loss.
- Low energy, fatigue, exhaustion.
- A change in appetite and sleep habits.
- Lack of connection between mother and child.
- Obsessional thoughts, including fears of hurting oneself or one's child.
Unfortunately, some women hesitate to reach out because of the stigma that is often associated with PPD and its treatment: 59% of child.com readers say they, or someone close to them, have felt its sting.
Making matters worse, actor Tom Cruise has publicly expressed opposition to medical treatment for PPD. But experts wholeheartedly disagree. Recently James H. Scully Jr., M.D., medical director of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), set the record straight: "We know that treatment works. And since safe, effective treatments are available, Americans can have what everyone wants -- healthy minds and healthy lives."
The APA urges women who think they may have the condition to seek help immediately, as did Shields. If you or a loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, please read the following Child articles and contact your physician without delay.