While I always encourage raising awareness about postpartum mood disorders, I was saddened that it took a women being shot to death in front of her baby to get the topic in the media. As you probably know, last week Miriam Carey was involved in a chase with Washington D.C. police, leading to her crashing through the gates of the White House and ultimately being killed by police 16 blocks away in Capitol Hill. Carey’s mother stated that her daughter had been suffering from postpartum depression since giving birth in August 2012. However, after hearing the details of the case, including that Carey was experiencing delusions, my guess is she was suffering from postpartum psychosis, a rare postpartum illness affecting 1% of new mothers.
What this event teaches and reminds us is that postpartum mood disorders such as postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis are very real and should not be taken lightly. 80% of new moms experience the baby blues. Caused by extreme fatigue, rapid hormone changes, and stress, the baby blues leave moms feeling irritable, anxious, weepy, and dependent. If symptoms last longer than 6 weeks, it may warrant a diagnosis of postpartum depression. 20% of new moms will suffer from postpartum depression.
If you notice a new mom not acting herself, or maybe she is more weepy than you would think normal, don’t wait, please offer your support and get her help. New moms often feel shame or guilt for having negative feelings after birth, when they are told in our culture that they should only be feeling elated and over the moon. This notion leaves moms feeling even more isolated and afraid to ask for help.
We support moms through pregnancy and birth, but the journey does not end when the baby is born. They also need and deserve our support throughout the fourth trimester when they are healing from childbirth, learning to breastfeed, and transitioning to the new role of mother. Let us not forget our postpartum mothers and lift them up during a time they need it most.