Postpartum depression is everyone’s problem

October 4, 2013

There has been a lot of chatter today about whether Miriam Carey was suffering from postpartum depression — and a constellation of other issues. But other than the horrific vision of her terrified baby during the car chase and subsequent shooting, it is the possibility of postpartum depression that has been the gut punch for many women.

Friends and neighbors this morning, including those who had spouses in lockdown on the Hill Thurdsay, said things along the lines of “I almost get it” and “We’ve all been there.”

Luckily, for the mothers chatting about it over coffee or at school dropoff today, the operative word is almost.

It is, even for those who haven’t experienced serious postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, almost conceivable how a woman could find herself driving like a madwoman, thinking the president is communicating with her, based on lack of sleep alone.

It seems likely that Carey had several problems that led to yesterday’s chaos. But the fact remains that postpartum depression is a serious issue that affects new moms in a multiplicity of ways — the spectrum runs from teary and couch-bound to trying to end their lives.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry in March of this year stated that 14 percent of new mothers experienced depression during their first year after giving birth.

For many women, support systems and good insurance offer some promise of getting out of the tunnel. For others, the depression remains untreated and the worst can happen. Remember Andrea Yates?

I don’t claim to know what Carey was fighting inside her head and heart. But the fact remains that postpartum depression is real. And it’s huge. And perhaps, even if it was just one of many factors that caused this woman’s life to end as it did, the condition will finally get some serious notice.

Can we help new moms? Before they leave the hospital, before their doula goes home, before they end up in a state they could never have imagined, there should be a depression screening with follow-ups. They and their partners should be given as much information on postpartum depression as they are given on infant CPR and breastfeeding.

Simply put, there should be a way to help.

Amy Joyce is the editor and a writer for On Parenting.
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