Asking for help for PPD: Fierceness not failure

Asking for help for PPD: Fierceness not failure

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At least 40% of moms never get help for postpartum depression. That's what a new our site survey found when it asked mothers about their experience with PPD. There were many reasons why they didn't reach out; they included feeling embarrassed asking for help, not thinking their symptoms were serious enough and believing they should be able to get through PPD on their own.

This hurts my heart. One in every seven women will get PPD each year, which means several hundred thousand women in the US alone are struggling mightily right now, trying to white knuckle it through what is probably one of the worst experiences of their lives without any help.

What's more, these moms probably don't know that avoiding help is likely to make their PPD last longer and become more severe, and in that time it can hurt both them and their babies in a way that will have a lasting impact. Did you know that untreated postpartum depression can lead to cognitive and developmental problems in children, and aggression and poor school performance in elementary-aged and adolescent kids?

Ladies, I've been there. In 2001 I had a devastating experience with postpartum anxiety. I sat alone in my family room sobbing and thinking there was no way out. I believed I was a horrible person and that I had no business being a mother. I was sure that no one could help me with whatever was wrong with me. And besides, if I did ask for help, what would people say? What would they think of me?!

I was caught between a rock and a hard place, between my illness and my fear of what the world would think of me for having it, and that's a very scary place to be. It feels hopeless.

Eventually I gave in and called a doctor, mainly because I got so sick that I felt I had no other option. It was the best thing I ever did. I spoke with people who explained exactly what was wrong with me and why it wasn't my fault and how there was something we could do to fix it. What a relief! I wasn't a defective mom after all. I just had a very common illness that needed treatment, and so I started on that treatment and I recovered. I'm back.

Since then I founded a nonprofit called Postpartum Progress to help other moms who have PPD and postpartum anxiety/OCD and psychosis, because I know how important it is for new moms to be healthy. Motherhood is a super hard job, but it is made almost impossibly harder when you have PPD. The key is to get yourself the help that will get you better. I know it's hard, believe me. Asking for help sucks. It feels like when you ask for help you are somehow accepting defeat or admitting that there's something wrong with you.

I can tell you, though, that I learned the opposite is true. It may go against every thing you are thinking inside your head right now, but asking for help is a huge show of strength and courage. It means you are setting aside every fear you have, every worry about what comes next, every voice inside that is telling you that you are a bad or weak mom, every anxiety about what others will think, and instead you are standing up for the health of you and your baby.

If you ask for help it means you've decided that what matters more than anything is that you and your baby get a strong start. That right there is the sign of a great mom, if you ask me.

I'm so excited to be working with our site now so that I can talk to you regularly about postpartum depression and maternal mental health. We know there are a lot of great people out there ready to help you. You will get better and get back to the job of being an awesome mom.

photo credit: © James Thew -

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.


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