This Is How Many New Mothers Actually Experience Mental Health Issues

Illustration: Louisa Cannell
Postpartum depression is well known to be a common struggle in new motherhood; celebrities from Chrissy Teigen to Adele have used their limelight to be sure other women out there know they aren't alone. What's discussed far less frequently is that there are other mental health difficulties one can face after giving birth.
Conditions such as acute stress and severe anxiety join PPD in the pantheon of problems that make new parenthood difficult, and according to new research, a very sizable chunk of mothers in the U.K. are suffering in this way. BBC Radio 5 and YouGov surveyed 1,800 British parents and found that more than a third of mothers had dealt with mental health issues related to motherhood, the BBC reported, compared with just 17% of fathers.
Of the women who had experienced difficulties with conditions such as acute stress, severe anxiety and postpartum depression, more than two thirds sought professional help, although it's unclear what proportion had actually received treatment.
Meanwhile, the CDC reports that an estimated 1 in 9 women in the United States experience postpartum depression, which is about a third as many as the U.K. research has found. Though clinicians suspect the highly stigmatized (and somewhat nebulous) disorder is largely under-diagnosed.
Reassuringly, more than half (60%) of women in the YouGov survey said they had turned to their friends for emotional support, while 56% had sought it from their partner and 18% went online for help. However, a worrying 15% of mothers and a larger proportion of fathers (25%) didn't receive any emotional support as parents. The issue of motherhood and mental health isn't anything new, but this new study makes clear how much further we have to go before parents — the world over — feel supported in what can be a very challenging time.
Game of Thrones actress and mother of two Lena Headey, who has spoken publicly before about her battle with postpartum depression, described motherhood to BBC Radio 5 as more challenging than anything else she'd experienced, and nothing like what she'd expected.
“I would say you’re doing a brilliant job," Headey reassured listeners. "I would say trust yourself and ask for help. Don’t be ashamed to say you yell or you feel down, or it’s getting overwhelming. It is the hardest, hardest job in the world. It is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced."
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids right now or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
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