Some moms do their best to hide the symptoms because of the cultural stigma that prevents women from discussing motherhood in less than prideful terms. This contributes to the fact that about 50 percent of postpartum depression cases go undetected and untreated.
When Lupe, 19, started to feel sad a few days after delivering her daughter, her mom told her she was going through the “baby blues,” a condition that is not uncommon among women who recently had a baby. She made Lupe drink te de manzanilla to calm her nerves.
Lupe would stare at her newborn with tears in her eyes, saying, “pobrecita, pobrecita.”
Lupe’s father had been distant and upset at Lupe since he learned she was pregnant, because this was an out of wedlock baby. Lupe was not getting married and she was still living at home. He was not very happy about having to support her financially. However, Lupe’s father thought Lupe being so sad was something “really silly”! The baby was beautiful and healthy and Lupe had had an easy delivery. Why would she be unhappy now?
When after a couple of weeks, the symptoms did not dissipate, Lupe’s mother started to be concerned. Having a child was supposed to be a happy event! What was wrong with Lupe? Lupe continued to feel overwhelmed, was crying uncontrollably, neglected her personal appearance, was always moody, couldn’t sleep, and didn’t want to be left alone with the baby.
- Not the blues…
When they finally took her to the doctor, the physician confirmed that Lupe was not going through the baby blues but instead, postpartum depression (PPD). She explained that it was very important to give her treatment because depression could affect Lupe’s bond with her daughter and get worse over time.
Children of a mother or father with PPD are at risk for emotional challenges.
Lupe’s parents were immigrants from Mexico, both on minimum wage and could not afford paying for mental health counseling. They opted for medication because it was included in Lupe’s Medicaid services. Since medication was a potential risk for the infant, Lupe had to discontinue breastfeeding.
Postpartum depression most often affects mothers under 20 with unplanned pregnancies, and specially those who had had problems with substance abuse, tobacco use and a family background of depression or anxiety. It is also more likely to appear in those mothers who have a poor relationship with their child’s father, have financial problems and little support from family or friends. However, most PPD are attributed to the sudden changes in hormone levels occurring after delivery. Research is not conclusive.
- Postpartum depression growing among Latinas
Postpartum depression can happen to anyone, even the rich and famous, and can be related to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Among the celebrities who have suffered postpartum depression are Brooke Shields, Courteney Cox, Marie Osmond and Gwyneth Paltrow.
In some cases new moms experience a severe form of depression called postpartum psychosis, where they can experience delusions and hallucinations, and can become a danger for themselves and the baby. The sooner these moms receive treatment, the better.
About 13 percent of all women develop postpartum depression and recent studies have shown that rates of postpartum mental health illness among Latinas in the United States are rising, while the resources available for this population are not growing accordingly.
The new Latina immigrant often faces more stress than the more acculturated Latinas, while they struggle to settle into their new life in the United States. With postpartum depression comes feelings of guilt and shame for not being able to take proper care of the baby. Unfortunately, reports show that Latinas are less likely to receive proper care for depression than other ethnic groups.
If you or someone you know might be suffering from postpartum depression, consult with a physician. To start, take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is a 10-question screening tool that health care providers sometimes use.