Postpartum depression among birth moms: How women are breaking the stigma


Giving birth to a new baby and welcoming a precious little human being into the family is a joyous, life-changing experience. It can also bring mental health challenges for new mothers.

In this month of May — which is Mental Health Awareness Month, observed in the United States since 1949 — it’s worth noting that new moms will often experience strong emotions of sadness, anger or grief after giving birth, which is not what they expect. These things could be signs of a postpartum mood disorder.

While such a diagnosis may seem scary and even shameful to some people, Mayo Clinic certified nurse midwife Julie Lamppa, APRN, told Fox News Digital that the disorder is more common than people think. 

“Most women will experience some sort of postpartum blues,” she told Fox News Digital.  


Often, symptoms are mild and will self-resolve — “80% of women will have that,” she said.

Meanwhile, 15% to 20% of women, or one in every seven, will continue to experience severe moods after the two-to-three-week postpartum period, which could be labeled as postpartum depression (PPD).

A 2022 Journal of Psychiatric Research study revealed that self-reported postpartum depressive symptoms increased overall across the nation from a pre-pandemic period to the pandemic time period.

States such as Maine and Wyoming even saw a whopping 90% spike in cases among residents, according to the report.

What is PPD, exactly?

PPD is an intense mood disorder that is most likely to occur within the first four months after a baby is born until the child’s first year, Lamppa said. 

“Even if [new moms are] doing really well at six weeks postpartum, that has the possibility of changing,” said the Rochester, Minnesota-based midwife and “Obstetricks” author.

The major signs of PPD aren’t much different from the symptoms of anyone else experiencing typical anxiety or depression; the signs can include feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, withdrawn, uninterested and overly worried. 

Women can also experience issues with sleep, eating, irritability, low energy and feelings of guilt.

On top of those issues, Lamppa added that new birth mothers are now juggling the pressures of nurturing a tiny infant while simultaneously healing physically from the baby’s birth.

“It’s a more challenging time to be able to cope with all of those feelings compared to somebody who’s having depression or anxiety [and] not in the postpartum timeframe.”

PPD likely occurs, said Lamppa, due to the female body’s major hormone shift, as well as the lack of sleep and the worry that comes with being a responsible parent.

“I cannot stress sleep enough,” she said. “When people get good sleep, their moods are elevated.”

People who have a history of depression or anxiety are at the biggest risk of experiencing such issues postpartum, especially if these mood disorders persist while pregnant.

“It’s a really big goal while you’re pregnant just to really hone in and optimize moods as much as possible,” she said.

Lamppa mentioned that other factors such as a lack of support, financial stress and breastfeeding problems can trigger PPD symptoms.

Women who are experiencing PPD can help themselves first by focusing on self-care. This can include spending time outside and troubleshooting how to achieve adequate sleep, spiritual care, exercise and nutrition.

“Probably some of the closest people in your world have suffered in silence from this and have never wanted to admit it.” 

On top of a self-care routine, which Lamppa said should “always be done,” women should also consider counseling and talk therapy.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you take some of those negative thoughts and turn them into something more functional,” she said. 

Various medications can be prescribed by health professionals — providers tend to feel “very comfortable” with this scenario, said Lamppa. 

Specific prescriptions vary case by case.

Lamppa noted that a “high percentage” of women who are weaned off medication during and directly following a pregnancy tend to be re-prescribed.

How can people break the PPD stigma?

Lamppa, who has helped birth moms since 1994, described the postpartum period as a “very vulnerable time” for women who may feel embarrassed or afraid to admit they’re suffering from it.

“Probably some of the closest people in your world have suffered in silence from this and have never wanted to admit it,” she said. “And when people don’t talk about it — it makes it feel like you’re so alone.”

Mayo Clinic nurse practitioner Caroline Scherbring struggled with PPD herself after the birth of her second child — and made the decision to break the shame stigma by reaching out for help.

“PPD blunted my ability to bond with my newborn — and I felt like I could make up for this by doing it all.”

Scherbring’s new baby, Ruth, was born in February 2022. 

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Scherbring shared how she started feeling more sad than happy after welcoming baby Ruth, something she didn’t experience with her first daughter, Claire. The second-time mother also found it difficult to allow others to care for the new baby.

“I struggled to turn over control of newborn activities, often pushing myself to an overwhelming state of exhaustion,” she said. 

“PPD blunted my ability to bond with my newborn — and I felt like I could make up for this by doing it all.”

After her husband suggested she talk to a professional about her mental health, Scherbring began seeing Lamppa, who prescribed her Lexapro, which is used to treat depression and anxiety. Lamppa also suggested she attend group counseling. 

“When you feel like you’re struggling, it’s OK to ask for help.”

But what helped Scherbring the most, she said, was talking to other mothers who were struggling with PPD as well.

“What worked best for me was kind of a combination approach of counseling and medication,” said Scherbring. “But I found that the most effective thing for me was just talking to other moms going through the same thing and finding out that this was far more normal than I had realized before, to be experiencing things like I was.”

Scherbring stressed how important it is for other women to know that PPD is common — and that there shouldn’t be any shame in taking medication or reaching out for help.

“When you feel like you’re struggling, it’s OK to ask for help,” she said.

“And whether that struggle means that you do have PPD or whether it just means you need some additional support, I think just knowing that you’re struggling is the best place to start.”

Scherbring’s best advice for other mothers is to express how they’re feeling to their network of supporters — spouses, friends and doctors included — since that’s the “first step” to getting help and being a better mom.

“This is something that we should be able to talk about openly and not feel any kind of shame or like it needs to be hidden,” she said. “I think getting the help that you need ultimately makes you a better mother.”

“I think that’s all of our goals when we have kids — just to be the best mother that we can be.”

Scherbring is doing “much better” these days and her two daughters are healthy and happy.

Lamppa reassured any woman who’s struggling with PPD that this experience is a “temporary bump in the road.”

“This is not anything that you’ve done wrong,” she said. “This is not your fault. You are not alone.”

PPD sufferers should also note the available resources, such as Postpartum Support International (PSI) and the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255.