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On Postpartum Depression

On Postpartum Depression

As expecting mothers, we may be filled with excited anticipation about the new life that
will enter and, ultimately, change our world. For those of us far from home, this incredible
period takes place far from the normal comforts of our native home surrounded by a
different language and possibly different practices or customs.

In speaking to this, as an American expat in Paris, I can best describe my first six months
as a mother in three words: anxiety, fear and desperation. Unfortunately, I was hardly an
anomaly. At that time, I was not aware that I was experiencing the symptoms of
postpartum depression (PPD). According to the American Psychological Association, 1 out
7 women may experience postpartum depression after giving birth. This condition may be
confused with short-term “baby-blues” and assumed to depart after a couple weeks.
However, as was my case, postpartum depression lingers far longer and, sometimes, to
disastrous results if not addressed.

As so many other women, when I found myself pregnant at 33 years old, I was thrilled and
felt ready to embark on the adventures of motherhood. For as long as I could remember, I
had always wanted to have children as my own mother spoke about the experience in such
glowing terms – I am sure this is not new to other women. I did not anticipate what
awaited me, nor was I or my husband prepared with the tools to address it. Postpartum
depression not only took a toll on me personally, but almost resulted in the loss of my
marriage. I should also note that men might also experience a form of postpartum
depression, which is, essentially, never discussed.

In the end, I was fortunate that, though I found myself lost in an emotional storm during
those first six months of my daughter’s life, it did eventually lift with the comfort and
support of family and friends. Following that period, I decided to learn more and
discovered that I had been a prime candidate. Nonetheless, during my prenatal and
postnatal care with doctors and medical staff, no one evaluated my psychological history
as part of regular treatment. It’s alarming to me that with depression being the most
common complications affecting women following birth, there is not greater emphasis on
screening and educating women during or as part of the prenatal and postnatal care.

According to the American Psychological Association, a few signs of PPD may include:

 Losing pleasure in things you once enjoyed
 Constant anxiety or panic attacks
 Fear of failing as a mother
 Sleeping complications
 Fear of being left alone with your newborn

If you are a recent or expecting mother far from home and experiencing depression, please
know that you are not alone. As expat moms, we can easily isolate ourselves, which often
worsens the situation. Reach out to family and friends close by or through one of the
various communication platforms to share what you are experiencing. In Paris, there are also a number of English-speaking counselors with whom you could speak, as well as
religious institutions such as the American Church in Paris or the American Cathedral
where community support is offered. You can also seek groups such as Blisshood, which
offers space and events for mom and kids to interact and meet with families much like
your own.

We would love to hear your experiences with postnatal depression and how you came
through it. This is a community space where you may feel comfortable to speak up and be
heard. Wishing our fellow mothers wellness and authenticity!

Other resources on PPD:

  • American Psychological Association:

http://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression.aspx

  • Postpartum Progress:

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/how-many-women-get-postpartum-depression-the-
statistics-on-ppd

  • MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health:

https://womensmentalhealth.org/posts/interventions-for-the-prevention-of-postpartum-
depression/

  • Pediatric News:

https://www.mdedge.com/pediatricnews/article/152573/neonatal-medicine/screening-
postpartum-depression-essential

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