Postpartum depression and anxiety in the digital age

woman on computer with phone

Social media and the internet have become our “go tos” in accessing news and information. However, this instant connection has created unique pressures for parents. From monitoring screen time, reading the latest parenting research, and scrolling newsfeeds filled with creative birth announcements, extravagant first birthday parties, and family vacations, these digital tools can make any parent feel overwhelmed – especially new mothers.

For mothers who are at risk of or are experiencing postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety, social media and the internet can be quite conflicting. While there are benefits, these tools can exacerbate feelings of isolation and internal stress. Two examples:

  1. The façade of perfectionism and “comparison culture”

Newsfeeds offer a seemingly endless stream of opportunities to compare ourselves to others. For a woman who experiences irrational and distorted thoughts that can accompany PPD and anxiety, scrolling through photographs of happy-faced couples, parents and smiling babies can reignite feelings of shame and guilt or cause her to unnecessarily compare her situation to others. “What is wrong with me?” “Why am I failing at being a mother?” “Why can’t I be my normal self?” “Why am I not connecting with my baby?!”

  1. Cyberchondria

Many women experience intrusive thoughts related to baby’s health during pregnancy and postpartum. Unfortunately, catastrophic thoughts can spiral when a mom attempts to seek reassurance from WebMD and other medical websites. Some health professionals refer to this as “cyberchondria.” It is important that parents try to avoid self-diagnosing and reach out to trained medical and perinatal mental health professionals with questions and concerns.

Signs and symptoms

Self-doubt, irritability and tearfulness can be very normal during the two weeks following birth, and a certain level of emotional conflict can be expected from triggered hormones and sleep deprivation.

Between 70 and 80 percent of women experience the “baby blues” while adjusting to motherhood. However, not all women will experience postpartum depression and anxiety. Symptoms vary in severity and can gradually start and last months.

Some common symptoms of PPD include increased feelings of isolation, the inability to feel motivated to get dressed or get out of bed, uncontrollable crying, anxiety and panic attacks, and emotional numbness. If depressive symptoms persist after a few weeks, it’s essential to connect with a trusted family member, friend, OB-GYN, doula, or mental health professional. It really is never too early to gain support.

What to do

So is social media the enemy for a mother feeling lonely or vulnerable?

Absolutely not! There is great value in connecting online with other parents who can relate and provide advice, support and validation. Embrace the age of social media while also being aware of the risks. Join supportive motherhood forums and groups that avoid shaming. Recognize when the support from parenthood Facebook groups and blogs aren’t enough and when individual therapy and support groups may be the next needed step in healing.

Supportive Web-based resources

  • Social forums, mommy blogs, and websites such as LittleGuide Detroit are excellent tools to connect with other parents in the metropolitan Detroit region to gain valuable resources. Participate in forums where you feel connected and supported.
  • Be intentional with your use of social media and technology. Use creative apps, such as Peanut, that allow you to gain new connections and meet up with other mothers in your local area. Adjusting to parenthood can be lonely. Companionship and social connections are very helpful in managing depression and anxiety.
  • Apps that offer guided meditations and promote mindfulness can also ease anxiety and depressive symptoms. Take the time to breathe! Calm is one app to consider.
  • Check out podcasts that offer insightful perspectives from experts on issues related to infertility, pregnancy, loss and postpartum like Mom & Mind Podcast.


  • Women shouldn’t feel ashamed if antidepressants are a part of their treatment plan. Obtain the facts from your OB-GYN and lactation consultant about the use of medications.
  • Remember how powerful physical activity is in combating depression and anxiety. Force yourself to get outside and walk if weather permits. Many health professionals also suggest the use of omega-3 fatty acids can help improve depressive symptoms.
  • A mental health professional or an in-person support group provides postpartum adjustment support and treatment. Formal groups, such as Beaumont Postpartum Adjustment Support Groups, offer free weekly support and education to parents.

– Kristen Salem Carney is a local mom and Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer. As a licensed therapist, she provides counseling services to adolescents and adults in addition to treating mothers experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Even dads get the blues: Postpartum depression in men

silhouette of man with head down

Having a baby is an amazing and wonderful experience, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. No matter how much moms and dads prepare for the day when they bring their little bundle of joy home, parents can still be shocked by the reality of life with a new baby. It can take time to find the family’s new groove.

This can be complicated further with the addition of the most common complication of childbirth: postpartum depression (PPD). A whopping 10 to 20 percent of new moms will experience PPD and/or postpartum anxiety, and that is only the number of moms who report it!

But what about the dads? Does PPD only affect moms? The answer to that is no. Research is showing that up to 14 percent of new dads in the United States (compared to 10 percent internationally) experience paternal postpartum depression (PPPD).

The symptoms may differ from traditional depression symptoms, making PPPD challenging to diagnose. These symptoms may include:

  • Irritability isolating or withdrawing from relationships
  • Working a lot more or less
  • Low energy
  • Fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Poor concentration
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Impulsivity
  • Risk-taking behaviors, often including turning to substances (e.g., alcohol, prescription drugs, etc.)
  • Physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, muscle aches, stomach/digestion issues, etc.)
  • Anger and outbursts
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

Untreated depression in dads can have incredibly negative effects in many aspects of life, including impacting their children. Depressed dads are more likely to be stressed out and neglectful, as well as more likely to spank their children and less likely to read/interact with them, all of which can cause long-term consequences for their kids (Nauert, 2015).

The good news is, much like maternal PPD, paternal PPD is easily treatable. If you or someone you know may be experiencing PPPD it’s important to get help. The sooner treatment starts, the sooner you’ll enjoy your new family and be the dad you always wanted to be! For more information please check out these websites:

– Raelle Plante, MSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator with the Parenting Program at Beaumont, Troy


It’s Official! May is Postpartum Depression Awareness Month

Proclamation for PPD Month 2014

Proclamation for PPD Month 2014

In 2011 Postpartum Support International (PSI) declared May to be National Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Since that time, many states, counties and communities have gotten on board and designated May as the time to promote awareness for perinatal mood disorders, which include postpartum depression and anxiety. For the third year in a row, Governor Rick Snyder has officially proclaimed the month of May, Postpartum Depression Awareness Month for the state of Michigan.

It is an honor to receive this sort of designation and an excellent way to bring attention to a struggle that effects so many. One in eight mothers and one in 10 fathers experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety (PPD) after the birth of child. Adoptive parents can also experience PPD. PPD is caused by a combination of biochemical and/or environmental factors. Just as every person is unique, each person may experience PPD in her own way. Symptoms will vary from person to person, but may include tearfulness, anxiety, sadness, depression, irritability, feelings of panic, insomnia, loss of appetite, and obsessive thoughts. The best way to combat this illness is to educate the community, raise awareness, and provide screening to identify those who may be at a higher risk.

Beaumont Health System is proud to be the first hospital in southeast Michigan to offer a program devoted to providing education and support regarding postpartum depression and anxiety. The Parenting Program’s Postpartum Adjustment Program is a lifeline to countless families struggling with PPD. Every mother who delivers within Beaumont Health System is screened for their risk factors for PPD. Education is provided in the hospital so parents will know what a normal adjustment looks like, and when to reach out for additional help. Women who are at a high risk for PPD receive additional follow-up after discharge, and Beaumont provides three weekly, free, postpartum adjustment support groups that are open to the community.

Postpartum depression/anxiety is the most common complication of childbirth. The Postpartum Adjustment Program has the tools and resources to help those affected by PPD who are in need of support and guidance. If you or someone you know is struggling with this illness, please feel free to contact us at (248) 898-3234 and/or attend one of our free groups.

Beaumont offers these free support groups for mothers and families who are experiencing PPD or any difficulty adjusting to the stresses of new parenthood. No registration is required to attend these groups, just come! Bring your baby if you would like, bring a support person if it is comforting to do so, or come alone. We are available to help! See below for days and times.


  • Time: 7:00—8:30 p.m.
  • Location: Troy Family Medicine Center at 44250 Dequindre Rd.,
    Sterling Heights, MI 48314
    (Located on the East side of Dequindre, across from Beaumont Hospital, Troy, on the campus of the Beaumont Medical Center, Sterling Heights)
  • Enter at the Atrium Entrance. Take the elevators to the left to the third floor. Exit to the right and immediately enter the glass doors to Troy Family Medicine.  The classroom is to the left past the reception desk.


  • Time: 10:00—11:30 a.m.
  • Location: PNC Center, 755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy, 48084
    (Located between Livernois and Crooks)
  • Enter at the flag poles, 2nd floor, Community Education classroom. Suite 249


  • Time: 7:00—8:00 p.m..
  • Location: St. Joan of Arc Parish Center, 22412 Overlake Dr, St. Clair Shores
    (Located north of 8 Mile Rd, east of Greater Mack)

For More Information

–Kelly Ryan, MSW, Parenting Program, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator


8 Myths and Facts about Postpartum Depression

Myth #1: Postpartum depression is a normal part of motherhood. All new mothers experience exhaustion and mood swings.

Fact: It is important to be aware of the three types of mood changes associated with childbirth. While it is true that new mothers are likely to feel overwhelmed and sleep deprived in the early weeks after having a baby, this is most likely the Baby Blues which is experienced by 70-80% of women. The Baby Blues is not considered a disorder and generally does not require treatment. Symptoms such as tearfulness, mood swings, lack of concentration, mild anxiety and irritability, begin within the first week postpartum and can persist until baby is about 3 weeks old. This is caused by the major lifestyle change and changing hormone levels that are present during this time in a woman’s life.

We become concerned that a mother may be experiencing more than the Baby Blues, when symptoms are still present after that third to fourth week postpartum. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious, yet common medical condition (occurs in 10-20 percent or 1 in 7 new mothers) and can occur any time in a mother’s first postpartum year. Symptoms typically include uncontrollable crying, irritability, poor concentration, anxiety, hopelessness, feelings of failure, guilt, intrusive and disturbing thoughts, and appetite and sleep disturbances. PPD is very treatable. The sooner it is identified that a mother is not feeling like herself and she reaches out for help, the sooner she can start recovering and be able to enjoy her baby and motherhood.

A very small percentage of women experience a much more serious mood disorder called postpartum psychosis, which can cause women to hear, see, feel or smell things that are not there. Symptoms may also include paranoia, mania or catatonic states. This rare illness affects one in every thousand women, usually occurring within the first three weeks after birth. Postpartum psychosis is a serious emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

Myth #2: If a woman is able to take care of her baby, keep a tidy home, looks happy and appears as if she has it all together, she is not experiencing postpartum depression.

Fact: Women are very good at masking the signs and symptoms of PPD, some will go to great efforts to appear as if they are well, but on the inside they may be falling apart and dealing with much anxiety and worry. Shame, guilt or fear may cause women to hide their feelings and suffer in silence.

Myth #3: Pregnant women do not get depressed.

Fact: Studies have shown that rates of depression and anxiety actually increase during pregnancy. Many women who seek treatment for postpartum depression report that their symptoms actually began while they were pregnant.

Myth #4: Postpartum depression is only treated with medication.

Fact: While many women find that medication is very helpful, there are many options for treating PPD, including, individual therapy, support groups, exercise, biofeedback, acupuncture and herbal supplements. Most women are treated with a combination of these treatment options.

Myth #5: Women can’t be treated with antidepressants if they are breastfeeding.

Fact: There are medications that can be taken for depression that are safe for breastfeeding moms. Women should be sure talk with their physician about their options for treatment.

Myth #6: My life is great! PPD could never happen to me.

Fact: PPD does not discriminate. It can happen to those who have never experienced depression or anxiety in their lives. It does not discriminate against race, age, gender, class or income.

Myth #7: Only mothers experience postpartum depression.

Fact: Dads can also experience PPD. Studies have shown that 1 in 10 Dads will experience postpartum depression.

Myth #8: Sharing your personal experience with postpartum depression with pregnant women will only scare them and should be avoided.

Fact: When women have information and resources before symptoms occur, they are less likely to get to the point of a crisis. When a woman is able to hear about signs and symptoms of PPD while she is emotionally well, she will better be able to identify what she is experiencing should symptoms occur, and will be more likely to reach out for treatment and support. It is imperative that women share their stories to dispel these myths and the stigma that is unjustly attached to PPD and other types of mental illness.

Beaumont has many resources, including free support groups, to assist families who are experiencing postpartum depression or difficulty with their postpartum adjustment. You may also reach the Parenting Program staff Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 248-898-3230.

After-hours support from a Mother/Baby Care nurse is available at:

Royal Oak            248-898-6396

Troy                    248-964-3995

Grosse Pointe       313-473-1705

–Kelly C. Ryan, LMSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator, Beaumont Parenting Program

Postpartum Depression Can Happen to Anyone

Postpartum Depression (PPD) can affect any woman anytime within the first year after childbirth. No woman is exempt. PPD affects women regardless of age, race, income, culture, or education. It affects women who breastfeed and those who bottle-feed. Married women and single women are equally at risk. First-time mothers and those with multiple children experience PPD. PPD affects mothers of healthy full-term babies and mothers of babies who are premature or ill, it is the #1 complication of childbirth.

Many celebrities have begun to come forward telling their stories of struggle with PPD. In a Us Weekly article “Postpartum Depression Confessions”, Brooke Shields was quoted that she was “consumed with fear and mental torture” after having her daughter Rowan, now 9. Gwyneth Paltrow stated “I felt really out of my body, I felt really down, I felt pessimistic.” After the 1998 birth of daughter Delilah, Lisa Rinna reported that “visions of guns, knives, murder would just flash in my brain.” Courtney Cox also disclosed that she had suffered with PPD after her daughter Coco was born, she said “I couldn’t sleep. My heart was racing. I got really depressed.”

PPD is a real illness caused by a combination of hormonal, psychological, and environmental factors. The good news is that PPD is very treatable. The sooner a woman seeks treatment the sooner she will feel better and begin to enjoy motherhood.

What To Do If Someone You Know Is Suffering From PPD: Continue reading

Going to Great Lengths to Raise Awareness of Postpartum Depression

On August 15, 2012, Sara and Jeff Tow will become the first married couple to complete a 50 mile ultra-marathon swim across Lake Michigan. In doing this their mission is to improve lives and educate communities about postpartum depression and related illnesses through many different platforms. Both Sara and Jeff suffered with postpartum depression after both of their children were born; here is their story, in their words.

“It’s a story you’ve heard countless times before. Man meets woman. They fall in love. They date. They get engaged and they marry. They live together in a small home. They have a dog and good jobs. Time goes by and they move to a small midwestern town and long to have children.

A baby is born. Now that familiar story changes.

Both mom and dad slip into depression in their own way. The dad sleeps a lot and works a lot and is generally disconnected. The mom doesn’t eat like she should and loses a lot of weight. She has intrusive thoughts about the child that she shouldn’t. He takes off for a week on a motorcycle trip.

Both parents go on as if nothing is wrong, while suffering in silence – knowing that things aren’t right, but assuming that this is normal after having your first child. To some extent, things get better, and while it appears the depression is gone, it’s just been pushed to the side by day-to-day life.

Another baby is born. And it happens again.”

Through this life experience Sara and Jeff were motivated to raise awareness, in hopes that they can help others from suffering. But why swim across Lake Michigan? They explain.

“Sometimes …to get noticed, you have to make a statement. This is our statement. Between now and the event, we’ll be spreading the word and letting the world learn more about PMDs (Perinatal Mood Disorders). We’ll be teachers and we’ll be students. We’ll interact, we’ll share, and we’ll learn. We’ll focus on moms and dads and share our story so that others can get the help they need early on. What we went through was painful and looking back, having help and being able to identify what we were going through would have been very helpful. The bottom line is, we want to help others who are dealing with PMDs. By doing so, we’ll help moms and dads be happier, which in turn will raise stronger, more stable and healthier children.”

We know that 1 in 8 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers will develop postpartum depression/anxiety. Every day at Beaumont Health System, we are doing our own swim of sorts every time we hand a patient her Postpartum Adjustment Risk Assessment, every time we educate families about signs and symptoms of PPD, every time we tell them about our support groups, every time a mom receives a follow-up call, each time we do any of these things we are raising awareness and planting a seed, in hopes that if a mom or dad is suffering they will reach out for the help that is available. Every day we keep swimming.

If you would like more information about Sara and Jeff Tow, their mission, and their organization Through The Blue, visit their website. For information about our postpartum adjustment support groups, times and locations, call 248.898.3230.

—Kelly C. Ryan, LMSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator at Beaumont Hospitals

Celebrity Mom Post-Baby Bodies Detrimental to the Postpartum Adjustment of “Real” Women

Many women enjoy flipping through the pages of the various celebrity filled magazines to keep up on the latest Hollywood gossip. Unfortunately after giving birth, this once enjoyable, even relaxing activity evokes much stronger emotions.

It seems like everywhere you look now magazine covers are plastered with photos of the stars in bikinis and form fitting gowns just a few months or weeks post-delivery. A poll conducted by the popular website reports that 31 percent of moms feel angry and 20 percent feel depressed about what the survey describes as “teeny and toned new celebrity moms” and the extra pressure the media puts on regular moms to look that way. Continue reading