A few days ago, the US Preventative Services Task Force announced a recommendation for healthcare providers to screen pregnant women and new mothers for depression. The Task Force shared the following statistics: 9% of pregnant women and 10% of new moms will go through a major depressive episode. The recommendation also stated that women who were diagnosed with perinatal access be given access to resources and effective care.
A well-known author took to social media and claimed that the recommendation above was nothing more than a plot to sell more drugs. Rather than take medication, she suggested that women diagnosed with postpartum depression meditate, pray, and eat better. She said that these are normal hormonal changes and mood changes postpartum. Telling a woman who is trying to make sense of her feelings, "oh honey, it's nothing. Just try to eat better," is patronizing and dangerous. She will be less likely to seek help for fear of judgement and shame.
Meditation, exercise, diet, fresh air, therapy, and prayer are great ways to treat PPD, but sometimes they don't work. No matter how much we meditate or work out or pray or eat clean or go outside, we still feel like hollow shells. The rage still boils over. The sadness and anxiety don't stop. Sometimes we need medication in addition. Medication is not failure. Medication is not the easy way out, selling out to big pharma, or anything in that nonsensical line of thinking.
To suggest that the recent recommendation to screen for perinatal depression is a way to sell more drugs is ludicrous. My children deserve a mother who isn't always angry. They deserve a mother who can leave the house. Backwards thinking does like the comments above do nothing to help mothers who are just trying to get through the day. We need to end the stigma surrounding perinatal mood disorders, not make women feel ashamed for choosing to medicate. No woman should suffer in silence. We need to support a woman's decision to treat her perinatal mood disorder in the way that works best for her.
So here's my story: I had postpartum anxiety and depression after the birth of my youngest son. I actually suspect my issues began during pregnancy - it literally went from low risk to high risk overnight. Postpartum I wasn't always sad, but I was very angry. I would go from normal to white hot anger. The ,people I loved the most were walking on eggshells. I was so lonely, but couldn't bring myself to leave the house because of the what ifs. I was struggling and I felt like I was drowning. With the help of my loving family, a good group of friends, and a phenomenal therapist, I'm on the other side and out of the fog.
To any woman reading this who thinks she may be 1 in 7, there is help out there. There are wonderful and supportive professionals who will listen and not judge. There are other women going through the fog and surrounded by darkness. You are not alone.