Killing Moms Softly in America

Postpartum Depression: Killing Moms Softly in America
Over the past two decades, many Americans have encountered numerous tragic and horrific stories on the daily and nightly news, most involving mothers who suffered silently with postpartum depression and ultimately did the unthinkable: took the lives of their children. The most unforgettable story in American history has been that of Andrea Yates, who, like many mothers, suffered with postpartum depression and did not receive proper treatment. Andrea came to a breaking point and drowned all five of her young children in the bathtub. One way that postpartum depression can be defined is as an “abnormal” mental state that involves feelings of “extreme sadness,” worthlessness, and hopelessness after giving birth (Mosby, 2009, p. 531). Another source describes it as a condition in which the mother who has given birth experiences “anxiety, mental confusion, low maternal self-esteem, a limited sense of self-efficacy with regard to parenting, and intense shame and guilt surrounding one’s experience of depression” (Paris, Bolton, and Weinberg, 2009, pp. 309-310). Many moms in the United States suffer from postpartum depression due to hormonal changes and many life stressors. The incidence of postpartum depression in the United States can be reduced by monitoring the mother’s mental health throughout pregnancy, getting the family actively involved during the pregnancy as well as after childbirth, and helping the mother find support groups.
The Existence of Postpartum Depression and Its Causes
The incidence of postpartum depression in the United States is steadily rising. According to Field (2010), 20{0e601fc7fe3603dc36f9ca2f49ef4cd268b5950ef1bbcf1f795cc00e94cdd119} to 40{0e601fc7fe3603dc36f9ca2f49ef4cd268b5950ef1bbcf1f795cc00e94cdd119} of mothers who were a part of a large study sample reported having postpartum depression. In addition, Tracy (2012) states that “400,000 children are born to depressed mothers every year,” which is an alarming statistic due to the danger that the mothers and the children may face. Fluctuating hormone levels and many life stressors are the main causes for the development of postpartum depression. The development of postpartum depression is due to a combination of “biological vulnerability, psychological factors, and life stressors” (Harvard Medical School, 2011, p. 1). Life stressors include fatigue and lack of support from friends and/or family. There have been many research studies conducted on postpartum depression, and statistical data suggests that postpartum depression tends to be underreported and misdiagnosed. When postpartum depression is not properly treated, it poses a major threat to the life of the child and mother.
Fluctuating Hormone Levels
A woman’s hormone levels tend to fluctuate depending upon the monthly menstrual cycle as well as with pregnancy. Two main reproductive hormones focused on during pregnancy are estrogen and progesterone. According to Harvard Medical School (2011), a dramatic rise in the levels of estrogen and progesterone occurs during pregnancy. Estrogen and progesterone help the uterus expand to allow the baby room to grow, keeping the lining of the uterus intact, and helping to preserve the placenta (Harvard Medical School, 2011). Forty-eight hours after childbirth, estrogen and progesterone levels plunge fairly rapidly (Harvard Medical School, 2011). This can lead to emotional instability in the mother, which can lead to the development of postpartum depression.

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