As we advocate tirelessly for better postpartum care and support for mothers, new information from North Carolina State University says that more than one in five women with postpartum depression hide their depression and anxiety from others, leaving them even more vulnerable at such a fragile time.
Related: Mom's Facebook Post Shows Reality of Postpartum Depression
Lead author Ms. Betty-Shannon Prevatt, M.A., says that the study found women who could be receiving postpartum support and help are not because they are hiding their anxiety and depression from their support systems. Dr. Prevatt says that half the women of the group who hid anxiety said that they simply felt that asking for help was extremely difficult or even impossible.
Ms. Prevatt said that it's important that we as society empower women to talk about their mental health, and not hide it because of lack of social support, in order for them to have better care for themselves and their families.
The study looked at 211 women who had given birth in the last three years, and their answers to questions they gave when they completed an online survey. The survey asked if they'd experienced symptoms of postpartum depression, and if they had, whether or not they confided in a health care provider. For the survey, a health care provider was a birth companion, nurse, doctor or lactation consultant.
The researchers found that over half (51%) of the respondents had indeed reported postpartum depression symptoms, but at least one in five kept that information to themselves. Almost half of the women who'd suggested they had postpartum depression symptoms said that there was at least one barrier that made confiding the information extremely difficult or even impossible.
Related: Postpartum Depression Distinct From Other Mood Disorders
Over one-third of the respondents said they just didn't have adequate social supports, and felt they had no real place to turn to share their symptoms. More, women who had histories of mental health issues or were unemployed were even less likely to share, fearing they'd be judged.
Ms. Prevatt said that their research is important because it shows that women are still suffering in silence, and the need to normalize the possibility of mental health difficulty after childbirth is great.
She said women need to feel comfortable talking about their mental health after birth, without fear of judgment or harsh consequence, and that working with new mothers and their networks may be the key to empowering all women in their health care needs.