Postpartum Depression and the Myth of the Natural Mother

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Are you at risk for postpartum depression? Read on for information!

We live with the myth of the natural mother. The truth is that many social behaviors, including mothering, are learned behaviors. It might be easier to discuss communication and relationship skills within a marriage as a learned behavior than mothering.

If you grow up in an abusive or just non-communicative home, it is likely that when you marry, you will discover that you need some help in the how-tos of a relationship. It is the same type of thing when becoming a mother. You might need some some help about the how-to of parenting a newborn and developing your identity as a mother.

Remember, social learning comes from watching other people in our personal lives and from the larger culture, and we integrate this into our personality. Give yourself the gift of qualified education and assistance.

Breastfeeding and helping a baby to sleep is a learned behavior. There are many ways to be a good mother and no one size fits all. You can decide to have a natural birth, to safely bed-share, or to breastfeed, if this is the right decision for you. These might be perfect choices for you as an individual, or these decisions may be too difficult for a woman with a history of rape & abuse. You need to look at your individual situation, what your values are, what you can tolerate, and compassionately integrate the competing needs and feelings of yourself and your family. Be kind to yourself.

If you are feeling depressed after giving birth, remember that it is normal to experience the “baby blues.” 50% - 80% of new mothers experience the baby blues. The baby blues occur in the first two weeks of pregnancy and self-resolve, in other words, go away by themselves. The baby blues are not a mild form of postpartum depression.

After about two to four weeks after the birth, if you are still feeling depressed, you many be experiencing postpartum depression. You are not alone. Your ob/gyn, your pediatrician, your primary-care physician, your psychiatrist, your therapist, are all ready to help you. Use the medical insurance that you are already paying for to see these healthcare practitioners.

Sometimes postpartum depression can occur even four to six months after giving birth, particularly if there additional stressor is present, such as addiction in the marriage, an accident, a death in the family.

Remember, You Are Not Alone. There is help available.

Some of the risk factors for postpartum depression are listed below:

1. A personal history of a mental illness in your lifetime, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, bi-polar disorder. This could be undiagnosed or untreated through a personal decision not to take medication or seek treatment.
2. A history of depression or anxiety disorders in your family. These could have gone undiagnosed.
3. A personal history of premenstrual syndrome, perhaps indicating a heightened sensitivity to hormonal changes, indicating you may have:
4. A sensitivity to hormonal fluctuations of childbirth
5. Lack of social support
6. Trouble in the marriage relationship
7. Mental illness, such as addiction, in your spouse
8. Poverty is a an indicator for postpartum depression
9. Financial difficulties, such as the recession has brought to many households
10. Being in a abusive relationship, even “just” verbally or emotionally abusive
11. A past history of sexual abuse or sexual assault
12. Experiencing a past traumatic birth, such as a protracted labor involving multiple medical  interventions, even if they were medically indicated. Many factors feed into a woman feeling traumatized during her childbirth experience.
13. Having a infant born with a disability
14. Having a stillborn infant
15. Being the mother of a premature infant
16. Having had extensive infertility treatments
17. Feelings around a personal choice to terminate a past pregnancy
18. Unresolved issues from childhood regarding parenting and being parented
19. A previous episode of postpartum depression. A mother who has had a previous episode of PPD has a 50 to 80 percent risk of developing it again with her second baby (compared to a 10 to 20 percent chance without a prior episode).

Befrienders Worldwide is a a great organization to call if you are feeling you may harm yourself or if you need immediate assistance.

Postpartum Support International has information and support available as well.
The Organization of Teratology Specialists has free information and phone support regarding pregnancy, breastfeeding and medications.

If you liked this article, visit or the BirthTouch community for more information.


Kleiman, K. & Wenzel, A. (2011). Dropping the baby and other scary thoughts. Routledge:New York.
Nonacs, R. (2006). A deeper shade of blue. Simon & Schuster: New York.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.