It's a serious issue.
One out of 10 women suffer from post-partum depression in the U.S. according to the CDC.
As Jill Krause, mother of two and founder of Baby Rabies, put it:
Before I had my first baby, I had quite a few fears about motherhood. Having postpartum anxiety was never, ever one of them. First of all, I didn’t know postpartum anxiety was even a thing. And second of all, I was just not the kind of person who would become the kind of mother who needed medication to deal with motherhood. Except I was. I am.
Anyone who has gone through postpartum depression knows that help and medication matter. Anyone who suspects that they may have postpartum depression should get information and help. Jill recommends the Postpartum.org website which has a “Tools” section that provides lists of symptoms and free mental health checklists and for anyone who suspects they may have postpartum depression.
Maternity leave can be a wonderful time, but it can also very tough. No experiences from your previous put-together, professional adult life can prepare you for it, particularly the first time around.
Because there are so many hard moments where you may feel exasperation, frustration or just get a case of the blues, it can be very confusing to sort out what is normal baby-shock and fatigue and which feelings are more alarming and require medical attention.
Longer maternity leaves have been shown to correlate with fewer symptoms of postpartum depression, but that doesn’t mean that postpartum depression neatly wraps up in time for you to go back to work.
What if you’re still feeling symptoms when your maternity leave is up? Depending on your situation, medical condition and relationship with your boss, you may have to consider telling them about it. It will feel hard, and probably much harder than any anxiety you experienced when you told your boss you were pregnant all those months ago.
As one mother, Jamie Harker, recounts telling her manager:
I trembled and fought back tears as I confided to her what I was going through. I was blotchy and red-faced as I asked her to allow me to work from home one day per week beginning in January. I explained that being at home with my son one day in the middle of each week would help me as I tried to recover from my PPD/PPA. I outlined the type of work I would do on that day (tasks that were easy enough to do at home), and I explained that my sister, who was in college, would spend the day at my house so I could focus on my work and stop only when I was really needed. I said I would continue to see my therapist, and I told my boss I was confident that with this extra help I would be OK,
Not sharing your condition is at work may negatively impact your work performance, but it may also prolong it. As Jenna Hatfield writes in her piece, “Don’t Be Silent: On Returning to Work with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety,”
After the births of each of my sons, I returned to work with postpartum depression and anxiety. Each time it looked and felt different. Looking back at both of them, it’s evident how my silence only prolonged my suffering when returning to work.
Hang in there and remember to get support and be gentle to yourself.