Overcoming the stigma surrounding postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is a very real and serious issue.  According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 8 and 19 percent of women have symptoms of this mental health disorder after they’ve given birth to a child.

But for some reason, postpartum depression continues to be misunderstood and misdiagnosed.  Karen Kleiman, a social worker and author of This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression spoke with Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor for FoxNews.com, about her experience with depression and how women can deal with their symptoms.

According to Kleiman, the treatment of postpartum depression has changed a lot over the past 20 years – in regards to legislation, new research and medications.  However, she said there is still a long way to go when it comes to overcoming the stigma surrounding the disorder.

“We live in a culture that doesn’t embrace a woman saying out loud, ‘You know what? I don’t feel like being a mom right now,’” Kleiman said.  “…Our society doesn’t really support women the way they do in other parts of the world, quite frankly.  [You] are expected to have your baby, get up, go back to work or make dinner, keep going.  We don’t really have a postpartum culture that’s very well developed here.”

Kleiman said that this stigma prevents women from expressing how they really feel, which can ultimately worsen their depression symptoms in the long term.  Common characteristics of postpartum depression include:

- Not feeling like yourself
- Having trouble sleeping
- Change in appetite
- Suffering panic attacks
- Having suicidal thoughts

Treatment options for women often include combinations of antidepressant medications and talk therapy.  Kleiman said that newer therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy have been shown to be successful as well.  Additionally, for minor cases of postpartum depression, small things like exercise and a good diet may help to treat symptoms.

In order to help women suffering from this mental health disorder, Kleiman has founded The Postpartum Stress Center – an outpatient mental health facility that helps to treat and train women on how to overcome their depression.

To learn more about the The Postpartum Stress Center, visit http://postpartumstress.com/.