The Misnomer of Postpartum Depression


Not terribly long ago, Katherine Stone wrote a beautiful diatribe directed at the media regarding the misuse of the term Postpartum Depression.

Just like Katherine, I too have Google Alerts set to scour the web for anything Postpartum or Perinatal related and blessedly I get about 10-15 emails every day. (I LOVE Google!) I must admit that I found myself highly irritated when people misuse the term Postpartum Depression. One particular post used the term Postpartum Depression to describe how the author felt after seeing his car driven into a car wash. Really? REALLY? Then there’s the CNN story Katherine mentions in her post, What do you do about post-election blues? What DO you do when a reputable agency such as CNN misuses the term? Are you glad the term is on their radar at least? Or do you get frustrated about the application and trivial way in which our experience with hell has now been marginalized? Or do you settle on somewhere in between? I had done the latter until yesterday.

What happened to change my mind?

I received an email as a result of my Community Leader position for the Postpartum Depression board over at iVillage. Hidden away in my Spam folder, it went unnoticed for a couple days but finally got read last night.

The email started out innocently enough and asked for casual conversation off-board, something I do quite often for the ladies there because I am all too familar with the stigma and the possibility that there may be some things they don’t want to lay out in public. The sender went on to describe a pretty difficult situation and as I read I kept waiting for the baby to pop into the equation. When I got to the end of the email, there was no baby and now I was expected to share some advice. I re-read the email a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and became confused as to why I had been chosen as a recipient.

I emailed her back with instruction to speak with her mental health caregivers and some general advice. I apologized that I didn’t quite understand why she had emailed me in the first place.

This morning I had a response.

The response made me drop my jaw in awe.

The sender legitimately thought Postpartum Depression was the term for what one feels after experiencing any big event. To steal a line from Hannah Montana, “Mama Say What?”

How could I be upset with her about this? I emailed her back with a brief description of Post-Traumatic vs. Postpartum Depression and promptly came here to blog about the experience.

Let me make this CLEAR.

  • Something traumatic happens to you that DOES NOT INVOLVE BIRTH and you have issues afterwards. This is Post-Traumatic.
  • YOU GIVE BIRTH and feel sad, anxious, panicked, etc, at any time during the first year after giving birth and that is POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.
  • Your car is driven into a car wash and you feel a tug at your heart. This is just SAD or wistful. It is NOT depressed – not plain depressed, not depressed with a dose of postpartum on top, not depressed with other co-existing conditions. It is just SAD.
  • The campaign is over and you don’t know what to do because you have to unplug from CNN. Time to find a new hobby, not time to claim you have Postpartum Depression.

Media, general public, bloggers, medical professionals, nurses, and whomever else I have missed, please take note of this. Don’t marginalize the hell those of us who have suffered from Postpartum Depression have been through and have miraculously managed to claw our way into the light. My hands are still dirty from that journey and I don’t think they’ll ever get really clean. And no, I’m not ashamed of my “dirt.” I just don’t want anyone else playing with it.

(Addendum here – I’ve started a feature called PPD Misnomer Sightings. The link is over to your right under the Pages section. If you come across any misuse of the term, please email it to me to have it posted there. I’ve already had one sighting today. Infuriating, isn’t it?)

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3 thoughts on “The Misnomer of Postpartum Depression

  1. Pingback: Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression Causes and Treatment

  2. Oh my – I can not believe that Lauren! Thank you for this post… and I will definitely be on the look out for any misnomers!

    Since dealing with depression, I do not like when people use the word depression loosely. When I’m in conversations with people and they use the word flipantly, they look at me like – oops, I’m sorry. Kind of like swearing in front of the pastor! UGH! But, I’m getting over it!

  3. Pingback: Out of the Valley Ministries » Blog Support and PPD “Definitions”

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