Call 416.820.8588

Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Why New Mothers Often Suffer in Silence

by Andrea Skitch, MSW RSW

postpartum depression

A lot has been researched about the reasons for postpartum depression or anxiety, and what helps a woman to feel better. However, not a lot has been researched about why so many women suffer in silence.  Or take a long time to access support. I’ve compiled a list of a few reasons that I believe might be barriers for women in accessing much needed support after the birth of their babies.

Barriers for new moms

She may not know what postpartum mood issues look like and therefore may not be aware that that is what’s she’s experiencing.

Many new mothers feel anxious, overwhelmed, and scared following the birth of their baby. This is understandable given the changes involved in becoming a new parent. However, for some women, the level of anxiety or depression is so severe that it interferes with their daily lives and demonstrates a change in normal character and functioning.

She may feel embarrassed or frightened that if she reveals how she feels to others, she may be judged as an unfit mother, or a mother who does not love her child. Or she may fear that other people in her life won’t listen or really understand her struggle, leaving her feeling further isolated.

She may believe her feelings are just part of what new motherhood looks like for everyone, when in fact she may be struggling more than others.

Postpartum depression is estimated to affect between 13 – 25% of mothers.  And if she’s a first time mother, she doesn’t have another experience to compare to.  Therefore she may not know if she is simply adjusting to the overwhelming change. This is why regular screening by doctors, and input from partners are important in helping to identify mothers who are struggling as early on as possible.

Fear of the unknown

A new mother may be frightened that if she talks to a professional about not feeling well.  She might be advised to use mood altering medications which she may not want to take.

In some cases, a woman will do well to use medication. However, there is a new perspective which reframes postpartum depression as postpartum depletion. This takes into account her physical needs, emotional and spiritual all at once. 

Culture of motherhood in today’s society

Our society seems to have a difficult time accepting that mental health fluctuates just like physical health.  Also, that people who are struggling are not to be feared or judged, but need to be heard and supported by the people they love, and society at large.

Current culture doesn’t support women with postpartum mood issues. We live in an information overload society with a ‘how-to’ rhetoric, rather than a supportive one that says ‘‘isn’t this wild? and we’re all in it together for the good, bad and ugly!’

While it’s fantastic to have a lot of information to help educate ourselves about parenting.  We usually get this information from the internet, or from friends or family who have read things on the internet. At least that has been my experience. Information is usually most helpful when it’s tailored to a particular child or family, and carefully and thoughtfully shared by people or professionals with experience. It can be easy to feel like you’re doing things wrong, and feel like a failure when your child doesn’t do what he/she ‘should’. Keep in mind that parents are all trying their best with what they’ve got.  Not all children are alike. There are many different ways to parent. Not one method is better for all children than another, so long as children are safe.

Readiness to accept support or consider change

A new mother may not feel ready yet to share her struggles with other people. Due to a strong desire to figure things out on her own and master this new and challenging task.

Everyone experiences stages of change before taking action to improve their health. Just think about the steps you’ve taken to change your diet, begin exercising, quitting addictive substances or behaviours, etc. In most cases it takes time and many conversations along the way for a person to take action. Mothers are no different. This is why conversations with loved ones and professionals are so important.  We can continue to help a woman move towards her own optimal health.

How we can help a mother (or father) with postpartum mood issues

I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list as to why mothers suffer in silence. But let’s celebrate all mothers, and remind them what a wonderful job they are doing!  Help to combat isolation by staying connected with them and showing support. There are many ways to access support of various kids. Mommy groups can be hugely important for sharing grief and joy, and validating each other’s experiences. And professionals such as a knowledgeable therapist, naturopath and postpartum doula (to name a few) can make a huge difference in a woman’s recovery after childbirth, sometimes years after. Finally, partners can make sure they’re accessing the support they need as well.  Both parents can be affected by postpartum mood issues, and recover well when they have an effective plan and the right support.

Feel free to inquire further about treatment for postpartum depression by emailing therapy@ohanawellnessclinic.com or visiting Our Team page.

Book an Appointment