Postpartum Depression Is Real

Individual Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

Are you pretty good at spotting a new Mom? You know — she’s the young woman who looks like she hasn’t slept in days, giggles for no reason and then suddenly runs off with a frantic look to take care of some crisis she just remembered. Or, maybe you’re that young woman. Which means that description is not so funny.

That behavior is actually pretty typical for new mothers. Giving birth and adjusting to life with a new human to care for is a complex process, and it involves dealing with a lot of stress. There is, in fact, a general name for the state that many women find themselves in: postpartum depression.

Although it might be a bit linguistically confusing — unless you know the exact definition —  postpartum sounds like it means after (post)-parting. In fact, partum comes from a verb related to childbirth. So postpartum depression simply refers to the time after giving birth. And what a time that can be.

If you spend hours with colleagues on the job, “Odds are, you may work with a new parent going through postpartum depression, or PPD, at some point in your career,” writes Monica Torres for Huff Post. “Postpartum depression is the most common childbirth complication, affecting 1 in 8 new mothers. PPD can last months or years after giving birth, long after most parental leaves in the U.S. end and postpartum employees are back to work.”

Although PPD is common, there’s no single symptom that identifies the condition. A new mom might just think it’s a continuation of pregnancy brain — the flood of hormones women experience during pregnancy causing anything from poor concentration to absentmindedness.

Torres quotes a non-profit (Postpartum Support International) that provides a list of symptoms:

  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Lack of interest in the baby
  • Appetite and sleep disturbance
  • Crying and sadness
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself

All of these symptoms, though, may be subtle, which may make them hard to notice in the workplace. On the plus side, well-informed managers are becoming more likely to accommodate someone with PPD. At the top of this list is the necessity to create a private place for breastfeeding mothers to pump. Beyond that, accommodations vary widely from company to company. New mothers are advised to be upfront with managers and simply ask about company policy. You may be pleasantly surprised. On the other hand, if you run into a stone wall, be aware that the Federal government passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act late in 2022, and it went into effect in June of this year, requiring companies with more than 15 employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers, including:

  • The ability to sit or drink water
  • Flexible hours
  • Additional break time
  • Closer parking

For a new mother experiencing PPD, the most important assistance might also be the simplest — simple acknowledgement from a co-worker that having a baby is tough and not always the blissful time some people imagine it to be. Offering a non-judgmental ear to listen can do wonders.