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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Statement from Susan Dowd Stone about The MOTHER’S Act


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Republicans Bail on Advancing American Priorities Act,

but there is still encouraging news!

Despite yesterday’s senate vote not to consider The Advancing American Priorities Act at this time – which included The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act , the bill will come up again sometime soon.

The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act is not “dead” nor was it “defeated”. While Republicans except for Senators Warner, Coleman and Smith continued their obstructionist ways and chose not to move forward on yesterday’s package of bills, The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act actually has garnered broad bipartisan support. Yet its lead Republican sponsor – Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine – yesterday voted against this package of non controversial bills. I have begun the process of requesting statements from all senators whom voted NAY and I will share them with you.

Meanwhile, click on this link to see how your state senators voted. Then call them with your thanks, or let them know their vote was unacceptable!

But there is good news! The inclusion of The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act in this package generated unprecedented coverage by major press agencies resulting in even more attention and awareness of the need for its critical initiatives for mothers, infants and families. We have been deluged with requests for information about the bill, emailed and faxed hundreds of copies taking full advantage of this current national platform to solidify ever wider, bipartisan support for this “no brainer” bill.

We are thankful to Senator Robert Menendez and Senator Harry Reid for including this bill in The Advancing American’s Priorities Act and their determination to end the public health crisis of untreated maternal depression. We applaud their efforts and that of every senator who voted to end needless suffering. The vote was very close. The current national spotlight also refocuses attention on legislative obstructionists responsible not only for suspension of the bill’s progress, but for the lowest Congressional rating in history. The failure of our elected officials to recognize and adopt an initiative as basic and indisputable as supporting the mental health of America’s new mothers and their infants suggests a legislator/constituent divide that might only be healed through an election cycle bringing new blood and energy to an impotent Congress.

While disappointed in yesterday’s outcome, we remain encouragingly galvanized by our widening circle of support, this week’s national attention on our issue and an election which promises to shake the status quo to its core.

Meanwhile, THANK YOU to the 20,000 plus individuals who have written letters, signed the petition and verbalized their support. Thank you to the community of bloggers, who have helped spread the urgent message to mothers and families nationwide. Thank you to the national media outlets who now offer their support for the bill’s adoption and join us in expressing outrage at its further delay. We continue to prepare for the next presentation of The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act with a growing force of American families who have waited too long and long enough.”

Warmly,

Susan