Tag: myths about Postpartum Depression

Postpartum PTSD: When moms experience trauma during childbirth

child birth experience

Every birth experience is unique. Many new moms look forward to the end of pregnancy and the beginning of a new journey as they enter motherhood. Some moms will, however, experience trauma during childbirth, sometimes leading to Postpartum PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

After delivery, many moms may feel fearful, disappointed and even angry that their birth experience did not go according to plan. There are many reasons why a birth experience may be difficult or traumatic. To understand this better, it is important to define what birth trauma is, and how it affects new moms.

What causes trauma during childbirth?

When Moms Experience Trauma during childbirth

Trauma is defined as the result of an extremely distressful event that interferes with an individual’s ability to cope with daily living. According to a 2013 News Release by WHO, trauma may result from experiencing violence, accidents, war and loss among others. WHO estimates that up to 3.6% of the global population has experienced PTSD in the years preceding this release (link).

Read More: When moms are unable to bond with their infants

Researchers define Trauma during childbirth as the perception of threatened or real injury or death to the mother and/or the baby. A different school of thought opines that childbirth trauma should only be defined by the women going through it.

A 2017 study conducted to explore the experiences of women who have had traumatic birth experiences indicated the following findings: Many of the responses included extremely severe physical pain, the lack of support, the lack or loss of control over the birth experience as well as fear for the baby’s health.

What then makes certain birth experiences difficult?

Some moms will experience births that look really difficult to the outsider, yet, the moms are able to process the experience and feel optimistic about it. Others on the other hand, present what looks like a perfect birth experience, and remain deeply distressed in the postpartum period. For a number of moms, the birth experience brings them close to death, and affects them for years to come.

Read More: 9 Myths About Postpartum Depression

To further understand these dynamics, it is important to define what constitutes a good or bad birth experience. Research provides four objective parameters for this:

  • The duration of labour
  • The use of medication to relieve pain
  • The type of delivery
  • Medical intervention

Sudden birth experience

These four parameters shed some light on trauma during childbirth. For instance, some moms experience early labour so that they feel that everything happened too fast. In such scenarios, there is the lingering thought that the birth process did not go to plan. One of our moms once reached out and shared how, despite having hoped and planned for a vaginal birth experience, her baby was not progressing as expected and she ended up getting a CSection. In her experience, everything was moving too fast and this proved to be traumatic.

“I feel like my body failed my baby,” she shared with us.

Too overwhelming

Some moms will feel so taken up by the whole process that they feel disconnected from what is happening (without the use of anaesthesia). One mom explained how the birth process felt like ‘an out of body experience’, like she was an outsider looking in and completely swept away by the procedures.

A matter of life and death

For moms whose birth experience is a medical emergency, there is always the risk of trauma. Whether it is failed anesthesia, baby developing complications and/or staying in NICU, or the mom experiencing heavy bleeding, an experience that places either mom or baby in danger can prove to be traumatic. This is also seen in moms who fear that their babies may die after birth.

Read More: #PostpartumDepression – The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

PS: This study also indicated that for many moms, a traumatic birth experience can be traced back to actions by health care providers. When a nurse is unkind, or breaks sad news without empathy, new moms tend to feel ignored and that their needs do not matter.

“In some cases, care providers used lies and threats to coerce women into complying with procedures. In particular, these lies and threats related to the wellbeing of the baby. Women also described actions that were abusive and violent. For some women, these actions triggered memories of sexual assault”

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2017)

As such, it is important to note the extent to which care providers can influence a woman’s experience of trauma during birth. Other risk factors for a traumatic birth experience include a history of mental illness, previous sexual abuse and trauma in previous births.

Postpartum PTSD is different from Postpartum Depression

Many moms will often confuse Postpartum PTSD with PPD, but the two maternal mental disorders are very different. Mothers with PPD will typically experience difficulty bonding with the baby, weepiness, loss of appetite, inability to enjoy activities they previously did, and in some cases, suicide ideation. Read more about the symptoms of PPD in this post.

In Postpartum PTSD however, moms experience the following symptoms:

  • Intrusive thoughts relating to the process of childbirth
  • Nightmares or flashbacks that are too real
  • Anxiety/ Panic attacks
  • The avoidance of things that relate to the specific birth experience such as details of the hospital and the thought of labour and birth
  • Inability to talk about the birth experience because it is painful and may lead to panic attacks

Postpartum PTSD is treatable, and if you think you may be suffering, it is important to get help. Postpartum PTSD arising from childbirth trauma is NOT your fault. Please get in touch with us and we will link you to professionals who can help.

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9 Myths about Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is one of the most common maternal mental illness, as it affects 1 in every 5 moms. Yet, it is also often misunderstood, and this only adds to the stigma that makes it harder for moms to reach out for help. Affected moms will typically hear nasty things said to them about having a mental illness – from family, friends, co-workers and even ignorant healthcare providers. This creates myths which portray affected moms in bad light and leads to shame that prevents moms from speaking out.

The truth is that there is no shame in having a mental illness. Postpartum Depression is a treatable condition; it is temporary provided a mom gets professional help. This is what makes it important to sift through the myths and understand facts about PPD while encouraging moms to get professional help. Advocating for maternal mental health goes a long way in sensitizing the community and reminding moms that they are not alone.

Below are some myths that moms need not here anymore, alongside facts that every one needs to know about.

1.Myth: PPD is a visible illness

Fact: PPD is NOT a visible illness & while some moms may not be able to get out of bed, bond with baby or even clean the house, not all moms present this way. Some moms appear well put together on the surface, but may be struggling on the inside.

Read More: What are the symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

2. Myth: PPD occurs immediately after birth

Fact: Upto 80% of new moms experience baby blues, a mild condition characterized by moodiness, crying episodes, difficulty sleeping and worries. This typically lasts up to 2 weeks; since the condition is mild, it tends to resolve on its own without requiring treatment. PPD however, is more severe, lasts longer and requires treatment. The most important thing to note is that PPD symptoms can appear at anytime during the first yr after birth. Many moms are confused when they start to notice symptoms of PPD months later, yet PPD may occur at anytime in the first 12 months.

3. Myth: PPD is a mom’s fault/ happens because of something a mom did

Fact: PPD is a real mental illness and NOT something a mom chooses to have. Affected moms often blame themselves foe having PPD when they cannot experience the mythical magic of motherhood. The truth is that PPD is caused by a number of factors (hormonal, psychological and social), all of which a new mom has no control over. To say PPD is a mom’s fault is grossly inaccurate and unfounded. PPD is not a mom’s fault.

4. Myth: PPD is a sign of weakness/laziness/bad motherhood

Fact: There is no truth in this. PPD is NOT a measure of strengthor how hard working a new mom is neither is it a reflection of her mothering skills. PPD is a mental illness for which professional help is available

5. Myth: Pregnant women cannot get depressed

Fact: 1 in 10 expectant women will get pregnancy depression. Pregnancy in itself, does not mean that a mom-to-be cannot get depression. Just like PPD, there are many risk factors associated with this form of depression (also known as pregnancy depression).Left unchecked, pregnancy depression almost always leads to PPD

Read More: Depression during pregnancy and what you need to know

6. Myth: PPD will go away on its own/ is something you can snap out of

Contrary to popular belief, PPD (and other maternal mental illnesses) is not something a mom can ‘just get over’. If it were that simple and straightforward, so many moms wouldn’t be suffering in the first place. This is a common, yet inaccurate statement affected moms hear. The truth is that telling someone to snap out of PPD implies weakness and only silences moms who would otherwise need help. Silence makes it harder for moms to get help & adds to the stigma thereof

7. Myth: You can recover from PPD if only you got more sleep

Fact: Granted, new moms will experience sleep deprivation and fatigue in the first few months after childbirth. This exhaustion does contribute to PPD, but getting adequate rest ALONE will not treat PPD.

8. Myth: PPD means a mom does not love her baby

Fact: A common myth that couldn’t be further from the truth. PPD is not a measure of how much/how little a mom loves her child. Depression affects a mom’s ability to bond with her baby, but this is not because she does not love her baby

Read More: When postpartum bonding is not automatic

9. Myth: Moms with PPD cannot make a full recovery

Fact: There are treatment options available for PPD, and that makes recovery possible. The earlier a mom gets help the PPD, the faster she is able to recover. We have had moms in our support groups make a full recovery, and continue to provide psychosocial support both online and offline for affected moms.

Disregarding these myths and providing factual information about maternal mental health is part of our advocacy work. If you suspect you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression, please get in touch with us using this Contact Form and we will link you with professional help. And for the mom with please know:

– You are not alone

– You matter

– You can get help

We understand and we would love to help you.

This topic was the sixth in our series of bi-monthly tweetchats. If you missed it, or would like to see other topics we have covered, click this link.

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