Why Is It So Hard for Christian Women Suffering from Postpartum Depression to Seek Help?

Mattea Photography
Mattea Photography

When I brought my fifth baby home from the hospital, I never imagined writing a suicide letter or ending my life by running into oncoming traffic. My husband never considered planning a funeral for me and one of our babies or raising our five children alone. And, thankfully, my family will not be left to wonder why I took my own life—because, instead, I found help for my Postpartum Depression (PPD).

Allison Goldstein’s family learned about her battle with postpartum depression the day she dropped her four-month-old daughter off at daycare, drove down a dirt road, and committed suicide. A panic attack caused by postpartum anxiety led Emily Dyches, a fellow mother of five, to jump from her father’s car and run into traffic, ending her life. Postpartum psychosis (a variation of PPD causing hallucinations and a break from reality) caused Charlene Ventanilla to take not only her own life, but also the life of her eight-week-old baby. Their grieving families are now trying to raise awareness, aiming to help others understand and recognize the dangers of PPD before it’s too late.

I remember the day my OB asked me how I was feeling after the birth of my fourth baby. I burst into tears, confessing I spent the majority of my days wanting to hide in my closet because of my anxiety. She heard me, took me seriously, and put a plan of action in place before I left the office that day. After the birth of my fifth baby, I began to have full-blown panic attacks. My anxiety caused me to be overly irritable and short-tempered. This dark valley was more physically painful and threatening than any I’d previously experienced. Forget enjoying my family and life in general—I felt like an empty shell of a person. I knew I wasn’t myself, but no matter how much I prayed, read Scripture, or tried to get better, I couldn’t snap out of it.

PPD: Body and Soul

Postpartum depression is the number one complication of childbirth; the CDC reports that it affects one in eight women. PPD differs from the “baby blues” that affect 80 percent of mothers because it lasts longer and is more severe. The National Institute of Mental Health describes postpartum depression as “a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth,” explaining, “Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.”

While PPD is common, it often goes undiagnosed. According to new research out of Canada, postpartum women actually experience anxiety more than they experience symptoms we’d typically associate with depression. This was certainly the case for me. Because not every mother’s symptoms are the same, it can be easy to overlook or dismiss warning signs. According to the American Journal of Clinical Medicine, “the majority of undiagnosed cases are probably due to the social stigma of being labeled an ‘unhappy mother,’ not to mention the public image of PPD.”

For the Christian mom, there can be an additional barrier to seeking help.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Lindsey Carlson