Jasmine Steiner and Christina McGee provide resources for women struggling with postpartum depression.
By Kasee Bailey, Baby photo by Zach Lucero, Jasmin Steiner photo courtesy of Jasmin Steiner, Christina McGee photo by Sofia Salazar
Common and serious: This is how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies postpartum depression, a highly undiagnosed and untreated illness and mood disorder that affects about one in nine women in the U.S.
And it’s a doozy. While varying in intensity and appearance, for many women, postpartum-depression symptoms manifest themselves as feelings of guilt, anxiety, loss of pleasure, fear, irritability and destructive thoughts, as well as in physical warning signs, like loss or dramatic increase of appetite, inability to sleep and difficulty concentrating. And what’s worse: Only 15 percent of women with PPD receive professional treatment.
For Jasmin Steiner, an Austin wife, mom of twins, lifestyle coach through her The Jas Effect business and self-love advocate, her experience with postpartum depression was a dramatic wake-up call.
“I call it kind of an awakening, due to how much it has changed me and opened my eyes to the realistic aspects of life in general,” Steiner says.
Steiner was burdened by the responsibilities of motherhood, running two businesses and caring for herself postpartum, all while plagued by crippling anxiety and depression. What followed after her period of darkness was a process of self-discovery, along with physical and emotional healing, all of which inspired her to connect with herself and help others.
“The fear wasn’t the reality at that moment,” Steiner says. “I started to figure out that there was a bigger purpose to this, and I just need to learn how to be more self-aware, more compassionate, treating myself with self-care and love.”
Self-care, despite its frequent use in the modern conversation, is not selfish, Steiner insists.
“Self-care is taking the time to refuel yourself in order for you to be the best for other people,” Steiner says. “It’s about caring for yourself to the point where you can give back even more. If I don’t take the time to recharge my batteries, working on things that feel good to my soul, I can’t give my kids 100 percent.”
For Steiner, self-care involves meditation, prayer and exercise— but it looks different for everyone, she’s clear to note. But what unifies women, including those suffering with PPD, is the need for affirmation and self-acceptance.
“We tend to judge ourselves too much because we compare,” Steiner says. “When they say comparison is the thief of joy, it really is the thief of joy. Don’t focus on trying to compare yourself to another woman. Find out individually what makes you beautiful and affirm that. My goal is to spread that to as many women as possible. It’s OK not to be the cookie-cutter perfect woman. It’s OK to be how you are. You are enough.”
Postpartum depression is a total-body condition, encompassing not only myriad emotional hurdles for women, but a host of physical challenges too, with symptoms that are often equally overlooked and stigmatized.
Christina McGee, a physical therapist and coordinator of clinical education at Sullivan Physical Therapy, sees this other side of postpartum depression in her work, including the physical fallout that often accompanies the delivery and postpartum periods.
“Pregnancy and delivery are massive changes to the body, and I don’t think it’s acknowledged what a big change that is,” McGee says. “There’s not even really great education for women on how to take care of themselves afterward, and they’re just left in this void of feeling bad, not really knowing who to turn to.”
The stigma associated with postpartum changes and the resulting isolation, McGee says, often lead to and perpetuate the mental and emotional strains of postpartum depression.
“Postpartum is a phase of life where people tend to get really isolated,” McGee says. “And if on top of that you have additional reasons to be isolated, you’re perpetuating that likelihood for depression. Also, it’s likely to lead to depression if you feel like you’re the only one dealing with something, or you just start to dislike your body because you don’t understand it and [it]feels like a helpless situation. All of those are factors that can lead to mood disorders.”
Both the physical and emotional realities of a postpartum phase need to be acknowledged, McGee says, giving women access to education and resources that can help them navigate the challenges of these difficult periods.
“I try to speak to as many people as I can, just to make them aware that these are things that can happen, and if you’re experiencing them, to speak up,” McGee says. “Find someone who values what you’re saying and is willing to help you get help and be validated. Because pelvic topics, in general, are ones that involve a lot of psychological and social fallout, we very often collaborate with mental-health [professionals]. We refer constantly and always try to work in collaboration with other providers. The more there is just talk about these things that happen commonly, not normally, and there are resources, as long as people knew that, I think it would work very differently.”
HOW TO GET HELP
- If you’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, take comfort in knowing they can be treated. Speak up and get help.
- Talk candidly and openly to your health-care provider and family, friends and others you trust.
- Explore the CDC’s comprehensive list of resources or those available on the Postpartum Support International website.
- Call reputable local or national organizations for help. Check out the call list on the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas website.
- Join a support group, such as Mamas for Mamas Austin.