How Perfectionism Can Lead To Postpartum Depression

BlogHer Original Post

" ... a type of perfectionism in which individuals feel others expect them to be perfect, known as 'socially prescribed perfectionism,' is associated with postpartum depression for first-time mothers."

I resemble that remark.

Graded papers with apple and orange juice

I'm not sure I thought others expected me to be perfect, per se. It's that I felt I needed to be as perfect as I thought they were. Is that the same thing? I thought all the other mamas were breezing through new motherhood. That everything for them was easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy. They went to mommy and me classes looking perfect. They breastfed without trouble. They went to lovely lunches with their other new mommy friends. Their babies slept through the night at 6 weeks, and never cried for more than 10 minutes. They wore makeup and brushed their teeth. I just knew they were perfect, so why wasn't I?

I don't know why I thought this. The media, maybe? Women's magazines, with celebrity moms who seem as though they have it all together just two minutes after having a baby? Other moms around me who pretended everything was perfect for them when it wasn't? My own inner need to be perfect?

I'm guessing it was a combination of all of the above.

Per LiveScience.com's Rachael Rettner, a small study conducted in Canada is "one of the first to look at how perfectionism affects women's ability to adjust to life after childbirth."

It involved 100 first-time mothers in Toronto, Canada, who filled out questionnaires to assess their level and type of perfectionism as well as feelings of depression.

The link between perfectionism and postpartum depression was strongest amongst those who try to deal with perfectionism by appearing as if they don't have a problem.

"What this suggests is that there might be some new mothers out there who might seem like everything is fine, in fact it might seem like everything is perfect," said Gordon Flett, a professor of psychology at York University in Canada. "[But] in fact it's just the opposite, that they're feeling quite badly but they're pretty good at covering it up."

That was me.  I went to the pediatrician appointments all made up and looking well-rested and well-adjusted. Did I cry? No way. I didn't want the pediatrician to think I was crazy. I knew I was crazy (or so I thought), but I certainly didn't want him to think so. I wanted the man in the white coat to think I was the picture of serenity. So I faked it. Big time. And he was none the wiser.

The LiveScience.com article states that one way to combat this is to "try to get new mothers to speak about their experience in realistic terms as opposed to just saying what they think people want to hear." I wonder what that would look like for a mom with PPD. What would the doctor do and say to make her feel comfortable sharing her experience in realistic terms? What do you think?

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Katherine Stone Postpartum Progress http://www.postpartumprogress.com

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