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Since Hayden Panettiere and husband Wladimir Klitschko welcomed daughter Kaya in December, the new mom has been candid about her struggle to get back on even footing. And on Tuesday, the 26-year-old’s rep told People that she “is voluntarily seeking professional help at a treatment center as she is currently battling postpartum depression.”
As recently as last month, the “Nashville” star explained that she could “very much relate” to the feelings her character on the show was experiencing post-baby. “When [you’re told] about postpartum depression you think it’s, ‘I feel negative feelings towards my child, I want to injure or hurt my child’ — I’ve never, ever had those feelings,” said Panettiere. “Some women do. But you don’t realize how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on. It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone.”
Hayden Panettiere, husband Wladimir Klitschkoher, and daughter Kaya, now 10 months. (Photo: Fame Flynet)
For many, though, the red flags aren’t obvious at first. Many of the signs of postpartum depression are, after all, common post-baby struggles, such as lethargy, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of doubt and helplessness. Other more marked examples can include loss of appetite, anger toward the baby or other members of the family, obsessive fear of harming the baby, mood swings, and panic attacks. The start of the spectrum of postpartum depression [PPD], ‘baby blues,’ isn’t even actually PPD, says Karen Kleiman, founder and executive director of The Postpartum Stress Center in Rosemont, Penn.
“It’s so normal, about 80 percent of new moms experience ‘baby blues,’ and there’s no treatment necessary unless the feelings extend past three weeks,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. If red-flag feelings extend beyond three weeks post-birth, she says, “a woman could be developing into a depression.” After that, Kleinman says, the range of depression categories go from mild to moderate to severe. “Mild cases are still experiencing symptoms of depression — they’re weepy, irritable, have no appetite — but maybe they’re going to work every day and functioning, despite how badly they feel,” she explains. “On the severe end, you’re talking about symptoms interfering with a woman’s ability to function.”
The recommended treatments for PPD “can mean anything from being in a special program with mental health professionals focused on treating postpartum depression, to seeing someone in his or her office weekly,” Sonia Murdock, executive director and cofounder of The Postpartum Resource Center of New York tells Yahoo Parenting. Inpatient treatment, adds Kleiman, author of This Isn’t What I Expected, is usually something women only look at if they’re having suicidal thoughts. “If once- or twice-a-week therapy isn’t enough and a woman is still having difficulty functioning, that’s when a higher level of care is needed and typically found in a program that meets daily for counseling and group therapy,” she says.
And treatment centers are “few and far between,” notes Murdock, who estimates there are only about six specialized in-patient or day-patient facilities in the country. But there are unlimited options for one-to-one counseling with mental health professionals or via programs available at hospitals and through state and local agencies, such as hers, where women can find suggested “medical, therapeutic and social” support.
According to a brief published by the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation, “Treatment should be tailored for each woman and her family according to their individual circumstances.” Psychotherapy methods “such as interpersonal, cognitive-behavioral, and group and family therapies,” the report notes, “have been proven effective in treating mild to moderate depression… [and] studies have shown that as few as six to ten sessions of interpersonal therapy are equally as effective at relieving depressive symptoms as chemical antidepressants.” Yet drugs still play an important part in recovery, the NIHCM adds, explaining that antidepressants have “been proven effective in treating moderate to severe depression.”
What’s invaluable to everyone suffering from PPD, as well as those who love them, is support. “We know that the more people speak out about postpartum depression, like Hayden Panettiere, the more the sounds of silence stigmatizing PPD break down,” says Murdock. “It shows women they’re not alone in this and don’t have to be afraid or embarrassed about seeking help.”
Kleiman levels about the reality of PPD, calling it “an isolating illness.” She adds, “Most moms aren’t comfortable talking about the shame of what they’re feeling about these scary unwanted thoughts… Therapy is a safe place to share and decrease that anxiety. It’s a place where someone isn’t worried she’s having these thoughts, can validate them, and help provide a plan to recover. So when a celebrity can empower others to ask for help, that helps everyone stop shame from getting in the way of getting help that they need.”
(Top photo: Getty Images)