The case against Andrea Yates, accused of drowning her five young children, is disturbing and horrible. Despite what you may think of Andrea Yates or the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of her children, her postpartum depression (PPD) defense will either serve to enlighten more people to the devastating affects of PPD or throw the study of this very real mental illness into the dark ages. While many doctors and psychologists have made great strides in understanding PPD and helping its victims, these same doctors and mental health professionals worry that bad publicity and ridicule could destroy PPD’s credibility and their efforts at gaining more funding and study of this disease.
For some women, PPD can be a nightmare. While her family and friends expect her to be joyous and elated over the birth of her child, a woman can be sinking into the darkest corners of despair, unable to cope with an infant, the biological changes surging through her body and the severe depression overwhelming her brain. As joyously anticipated as the birth of her baby was, a postpartum woman can become riddled with severe anxiety over her ability to care for her newborn, her self-esteem can plummet and her brain’s chemical changes can produce intolerable levels of panic. This is no one’s “fault.” It is a condition that can strike even the ordinarily soundest individual.
PPD is classified as a mental illness. Only a non-professional would categorize it as a character flaw or weakness. PPD is real, at times to the point of severe psychosis and should be treated as soon as the new mother begins to feel any mental or emotional changes that could affect her ability to care for her newborn. Even though some women will refuse to believe PPD is happening to them, her family, friends and especially her husband must be alert to the possibility of this condition. While you, I and most women we know might have breezed through the first year after the birth of our children with only occasional surges of panic or moments of near collapse, a significant percentage of women suffer more serious PPD. Only one percent succumb to actual psychosis leading to the tragic harm or death of babies and sometimes themselves The greatest threat is denial of their symptoms.
Early identification and treatment of PPD are the keys to successful therapy. If you or a new mother you know is suffering from even the slightest feelings of depression, anxiety or inadequacy, seek immediate help. The birth doctor will be able to identify the severity of symptoms and prescribe appropriate treatment.
About the Author
Rexanne Mancini is the mother of two daughters. She maintains an extensive yet informal parenting and family web site, Rexanne.com – http://www.rexanne.com -Visit her site for good advice, award-winning Internet holiday pages and some humor to help you cope. Subscribe to her free newsletter, Rexanne’s Web Review, for a monthly dose of Rexanne: http://www.rexanne.com/rwr-archives.html