“Some people think that when women have babies that they are endowed with superpowers, but really that’s when they become their most vulnerable.” — Valencia Robinson Avery
These words were said to me during a conversation I had with a mother of two toddlers. Her thoughts about postpartum depression were quite clear: women need more support immediately after giving birth to their babies and how this is a time filled with mixed emotions that can be confusing.
In my first blog, “Trauma in the womb,” I mentioned how the mother’s emotional and physical health can have a tremendous influence on the overall health and development of her baby. For most women, becoming a mother can be one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs that they will ever have.
The term “postpartum” refers to the time period following labor and delivery. During this time, it is possible for some mothers to feel overwhelmed, fatigue, tearful, anxious and even depressed. If these symptoms occur, then it is typically known as postpartum blues; which can last up to two weeks. When symptoms progress longer, then it is considered postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety and in more severe cases, postpartum psychosis.
Women experiencing these changes in their emotional health are not alone. There are up to 20% documented cases of mothers who have self-reported symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety. Due to the shame shrouded around postpartum depression, most women stay silent about their symptoms. So, the documented 20% may be an under reporting of such a common experience among women after childbirth.
Small tribe, big tribe
Mothers talking to their partners, and opening up about their postpartum emotional health is a great start towards deflating the air out of the “blues balloon.” My friends, who have gone through their own postpartum blues, have been intentional in creating their own “tribe” of mothers and friends who are supportive, understanding, empathizing and who have a calming nature. Being around people who have a calming affect or who are upbeat and happy can help the mother to feel better; thus creating the emotional contagion effect. When we are around others whose mood is more upbeat or calming, we naturally begin to feel in a similar way.
How to get help
On the phone
The ACE Awareness Foundation, in partnership with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, recently launched a “WarmLine,” which offers a free guidance and support for parents. If you are experiencing postpartum blues, or need any kind of parenting guidance, you can can call the WarmLine (toll free) at 844-877-9276.
In a group
Also, studies have shown that women who are experiencing postpartum depression show great improvement through support groups. If you are in the Memphis area, there is an upcoming postpartum depression support group staring on August 23rd from 12-1pm and another round starting on November 1st at the Universal Parenting Place Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women; call (901) 227-9558 to reserve your spot.
Along with connecting with a support group, parents can take advantage of free, in-person counseling services at the Universal Parenting Places.
Ebony K. Bailey, LPC MHSP Ebony K. Bailey, LPC MHSP has been practicing psychotherapy since 2005. She currently serves at the Clinical Coordinator of the Universal Parenting Places for the ACE Awareness Foundation. On a regular basis she meets individually and in group with the UPP site directors to discuss clinical programing that primarily focuses on mitigating adverse childhood experiences through family systems therapy.
Emotions are Contagious, Psychology Today
The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (in Plain Mama English), Postpartum Progress