A talk show may not be a natural place to talk about postpartum depression, but thankfully that didn't stop Hayden Panettiere from sharing her story.
During a sit-down on Live! with Kelly and Michael, the Nashville star got real about her experiences with the debilitating depression and how it encompasses far more than a few common symptoms. "When [you're told] about postpartum depression you think it's, 'I feel negative feelings towards my child, I want to injure or hurt my child,'" she explained. "I've never, ever had those feelings. Some women do. But you don't realize how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on."
Amen to that! Though I didn't struggle with PPD, I watched as a dear friend of mine grappled with it. She had a number of the classic symptoms—intense feelings of detachment, sadness, fear, and guilt—but she discounted PPD because she never wanted to harm her baby. In fact, until she sought help—and received the PPD diagnosis—she just assumed she was a terrible mother and, worse, a terrible person for not wanting to be more involved in her baby's life.
My friend is hardly alone. Though some parenting classes touch on postpartum depression, confusion still exists over when the so-called "baby blues" are really a sign of something deeper. (For starters, PPD is more common than we think, it can last well past the first year, and even dads can struggle with it.) It sounds like Panettiere knows this all too well. "There's a lot of misunderstanding—there's a lot of people out there that think that it's not real, that it's not true, that it's something that's made up in their minds, that 'Oh, it's hormones,'" she said on the show. "They brush it off. It's something that's completely uncontrollable. It's really painful and it's really scary, and women need a lot of support."
This need to raise awareness and offer some comfort to other struggling new moms may explain why the actress came forward with her very personal story. She told Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan that PPD is "something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they're not alone, and that it does heal."
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.