I am an avid Chrissy Teigen fan, whether it be her twitter feuds with Donald Trump, her hilariously adorable drunk videos with her husband John Legend, or, her delectable recipes – I am all about it. I find her so relatable. She is down-to-earth and brutally honest. Teigen is one of those celebrities that despite her amazing looks and blessed life, just seems real. So, when she broached the subject of postpartum depression, I was all ears.
Earlier this year Teigen penned essay for Glamour Magazine in which she detailed her struggle with postpartum depression. She is not the first celebrity mum to publicise her struggles postpartum and surely, she won’t be the last. See Buzzfeed’s “17 Celebrities Who Have Spoken Up About Their Postnatal Depression” for more celebs who have voiced their struggles. These A-list mum’s have all the support (and resources) in the world and yet, they are affected by the post baby blues or postpartum depression.
“I’m speaking up now because I want people to know it can happen to anybody and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone.”
However, it is Teigen’s online and social media presence that has shed a new light on post-partum depression and sparked a public conversation on a previously “silent” issue with numerous online news sites, gossip sites and magazines running stories on her experience with postpartum depression. Teigen’s voice and experiences have laid the foundation for men and women to engage in open and meaningful conversations around their post-baby life.
“… just saying it. It got easier and easier to say it aloud every time. (I still don’t really like to say, “I have postpartum depression,” because the word depression scares a lot of people. I often just call it “postpartum.” Maybe I should say it, though. Maybe it will lessen the stigma a bit.)
I am not mum, but someday I hope to be one, and to be honest I am little scared. My mother had postpartum depression after I was born and I am worried I will struggle with the same issues. My mum, like many other women who struggled with postpartum depression, got through it with the support of her family and friends. But the thing is, to get the help, you actually need to admit you need help. Post-partum depression like many other mental illnesses has a stigma attached to it. Teigen addressed her previous conception of post-partum depression saying:
“Growing up in the nineties, I associated postpartum depression with Susan Smith [a woman now serving life in prison for killing her two sons; her lawyer argued that she suffered from a long history of depression], with people who didn’t like their babies or felt like they had to harm their children.”
But no, the above are not necessarily outcomes of post-partum depression. Raising Children Australia states that “society makes it difficult for a woman to acknowledge that they she might be experiencing PND.” New parents are bombarded with messages of joy and bliss and there is little mention of the challenges new parents face in adapting to their new roles. Compound this with any type struggle to conceive and you have a powder keg of guilt. The feelings of guilty and inadequacy is one of many symptoms of postpartum depression. Around 15 percent of new Australian mums and 10 percent of new dads develop postpartum depression. This translates into 1.5 women out of every 10 and 1 out of every 10 new dads. For me, these are surprisingly high statistics. I wasn’t even aware that men could suffer from postpartum depression. I thought pospartum depression was borne out of the hormonal changes women go through from pregnancy, childbirth and into breast-feeding.
Signs and symptoms generally develop in weeks or months during the first year after birth. The thing about postpartum depression is that is does not discriminate. As Teigen found out, even when you can seemingly have the perfect, husband, baby, family and support – it can still be present.
I also just didn’t think it could happen to me. I have a great life. I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny. But postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling.
So now to a few of the warning signs:
- Panic attacks
- Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on fears for the health or wellbeing of baby
- The development of obsessive behaviours
- Changes in appetite
- Constant sadness or crying
- Withdrawal from friends or family
- Fear of being alone with the baby
- Sleep problems unrelated to the baby’s needs
Teigen writes that she had everything she needed to be happy and yet she felt unhappy. “How can I feel this way when everything is great?” It’s question I am sure many new parents ask themselves. Zauderer in the Journal of Perinatal Education notes that although the birth of a new baby is meant to be a joyful milestone in a woman’s life, this is not always the case. It is important for new parents to overcome the unfair stigma attached to postpartum depression. Many men and women suffer from adjustment issues once that little bundle of joy enters this world. In fact an American study reveals that a majority of women who suffer postpartum depression choose to suffer in silence. Amazingly, more than half of the women with postpartum depression go undetected and undiagnosed because the new mother may be unwilling to reveal how she is feeling to her health care provider or close family members, including her partner.
New parents need to know that it is okay to admit you’re struggling. In most cases this is the first step to getting better. So, go see your GP, talk to your partner and your friends – get the support and the help you need to fully enjoy this new chapter of your life!
For more information or support, please visit PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia).