During a guesting on ABS-CBN's Magandang Buhay, Alex Gonzaga recalled a conversation she and her sister Toni had about Toni's weight gain, dark skin spots, and lack of sleep. As Alex was closing the story, which she told in a light and teasing manner, Toni quipped that Alex caused her to experience postpartum depression (PPD).
If you scroll through the comments of those who carried the story of Toni's guest appearance, people responded negatively to Toni's PPD remark. She was overreacting, many said. Some moms insisted she didn't have PPD -- her post-pregnancy experience was what every woman goes through after childbirth. It was "normal."
Whether Toni experienced PPD or not, it doesn't mean she did not have some form of baby blues. (Alex's story seemed to suggest Toni did.) Clinical psychologist Dr. Theresa Castillo-Masilungan says PPD and baby blues share common symptoms but differs in the duration, the severity, and the cause. Often, hormones are the culprit behind baby blues, but that is not to say it is less of a concern.
PPD, however, is a serious issue. As explained by physician, psychologist and guidance counselor, Dr. Lucille Montes, it is a clinical diagnosis "closer to the category of 'Major Depressive Disorder and Peripartum Onset.'" One in eight new moms experience it, but there are cases where symptoms manifest before giving birth. It lasts longer including but not limited to the following symptoms:
feels sad, empty and hopeless
have excessive, inappropriate guilt
recurrent suicidal thoughts
Last month, a husband who lost his wife to PPD penned a heartfelt message: "For all the new moms experiencing low mood or anxiety, please seek help and talk about your feelings. You are not alone. You are not a bad mother," Kim Chen wrote.
When we shared the article on Facebook, it prompted many mothers to share their own postpartum state and what helped them cope.
"[My] husband managed to come home a week before I delivered our baby. I felt so alone even if he was there. Often, I found myself crying hard in the bathroom. I didn't understand [what was happening], but I felt like no one loved me, that I was so ugly, etc. I had all the reasons to [pity myself] and cried myself out. Luckily, with my husband’s support and a lot of prayers, I was able to overcome it... It isn't easy to be in that situation," shared Facebook user Ytrbil Plotena in the comments when we shared Kim’s story.
"When I gave birth to my twins prematurely three years ago, I was so depressed at the time that I almost jumped out of my window," Facebook user Enahs Zurc also wrote in the comments on our Facebook post. She said she felt like a voice was telling her it's okay to jump.
"The next day, I went to a psychiatrist because I knew it was not normal anymore, and I didn't want to hurt myself, especially my kids. My doctor gave me anti-depression and anti-anxiety meds since I had panic attacks, too. Giving birth is not easy especially when you get through with so much stress and problems," Enahs added.
Facebook user Rai Rai also wrote that the hardest part about having PPD is you expect someone else to pull you out of your depression. But then he or she is unable to give you the support, understanding, and care you need the most.
"Saying 'kaya mo 'yan,' 'you're thinking too negative,' or even doing reverse psychology were not enough," she said. “That’s why experts advice to see a psychiatrist.”
"I was pregnant, and I almost killed my eldest and myself. I was experiencing depression and too many anxiety attacks. It was a horrible experience, like a nightmare," Facebook user Akosi JeffLee wrote in the comments. After giving birth, she sought help from a psychiatrist and thought she would recover immediately. But it wasn’t that easy, even after the doctor prescribed a breastfeeding-safe medication.
"All I do now is pray and cuddle with my kids, and then cry. It's been five years since I gave birth to my second child, and I am still experiencing anxiety attacks and panic. I have not recovered. But, every day I always remind myself how I am not capable of hurting my kids, and that I love them more than my life," she added.
Gail Temporal experienced the same symptoms most of the moms who commented on the post had: crying bouts, feeling helpless and alone, and angry. “I got angry to the point that I spanked my baby. Hirap na hirap ako magpatulog noon tapos wala rin akong tulog almost every day," her comment read.
Gail said prayers and her husband's support helped her cope, and she kept in mind that not all women are blessed to have children. "Ang hirap and very challenging, lalo na kapag walang nakakaintindi sa 'yo. Sometimes even people close to you are easy to judge," she added.
(The above comments were edited for clarity. To read more, click here or click the Facebook box above.)
Talk to any mom before and after childbirth, and she will tell you that it takes time for her to get comfortable in her body again. Add the demands of caring for a newborn (and the question "am I doing it right, am I doing enough" on a forever loop in her head), and it takes a toll on one's physical and emotional well-being. Every mother's experience is different -- it’s her truth.
Facebook user Phibz Papasin summarized what we should focus on: “Think before the judgment and start the healing in doing something for someone.”
Don't be afraid to reach out if you are feeling anxious, helpless, or despondent. If you need someone to talk to, try the Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM). Call 426.4289 to 92 or email email@example.com.