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Hayden Panettiere Seeks Help at Treatment Center for Postpartum Depression

Hayden Panettiere has been my personal hero for a while and once she became a mom to daughter Kaya in December 2014, not only did I admire her for rocking a bikini at eight months pregnant, I applauded her when she was honest about the struggle she was having with postpartum depression. We need more women like Panettiere, who are transparent about how hard it is to not only deal with scrutiny about our pregnancy bodies, but our health in transitioning to motherhood as well.

And after going on national TV to declare that “women need to know that they’re not alone” when it comes to experiencing postpartum depression, Panettiere isn’t hiding the very brave step she has now taken in her battle against postpartum depression, either. Earlier today, she announced through her rep to People that she “is voluntarily seeking professional help at a treatment center as she is currently battling postpartum depression.”

I think her decision to go public with her treatment is a very purposeful one, as Panettiere knows that her move will impact a lot of women. There’s a natural inclination women feel to hide their struggles and blame themselves. When I had postpartum depression and even recently, when I had a little mental health breakdown caused by weaning, I struggled with feeling like I simply hadn’t done enough to prevent the depression from taking hold. If only I had taken better care of myself, if only I had hired a babysitter, if only I had gone to the gym more, if only I had slept more. Even in my weakest state, I felt like my feelings were my failures. It’s important for women everywhere to see a public figure like Panettiere acknowledge her condition publicly and seek professional help.

One woman who did just that is Katie Van Brunt, a mother of two and wife of a husband in medical school, who was admitted to a treatment facility for severe postpartum depression. I will never forget her story because she was generous enough to share it on my own blog. “Having to be admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital was one of the best things to ever happen to me,” she wrote.

The only mother with postpartum depression in the psychiatric unit, Van Brunt said, “Being hospitalized was crucial because pondering about suicide made me a danger to myself and my baby, but it was through the outpatient cognitive behavioral therapy program I attended after my hospital release that truly changed my life.”

She described her outpatient treatment as six hours a day, five days a week, for an entire month, while family members took turns caring for her baby and her mother dropped her off at her “therapy camp,” as Van Brunt fondly remembers it. “That month of outpatient therapy was the single most important month of my life to date,” she stated simply. “I learned more than I think I’ll ever be able to share.”

Ever since I read her story, I’ve been so grateful to Van Brunt, just like I am thankful to Panettiere, for sharing the truth about the clinical origins of postpartum depression and the simple fact that it can be treated just like any other medical condition. Yes, it’s a part of our mental health, but it’s a physical, treatable, medical condition that we don’t need to blame ourselves for.

I can’t stress enough how hard it is to fight against our own internal guilt and the pressures we feel in our society to put self-care on the back burner when you become a mother, as though we are neglecting our children by admitting that we have needs too. And I get that it’s a tough balance — it’s one I struggle with each and every time I go to the gym or do anything for myself — but it’s something worth fighting for. Because if more women are able to recognize that they not only deserve help with postpartum depression, then they will seek that treatment, whether it be talking to a therapist or checking into a facility — and that could very well save their lives. The negative effects of postpartum depression are very real and they impact every part of a baby and child’s development, in addition to the mothers that suffer from the disorder. For instance, one study found that babies with mothers who have postpartum depression fall behind in both cognitive and emotional development.

It’s also worth noting that Panettiere’s baby is not a newborn — her daughter is going on 11 months old and many women, myself included, consider that somehow the “safe” mark. After all, we’re supposed to have our bodies “back” in a year, right? So naturally we assume our minds will have bounced back by that point as well. 

Except postpartum depression can strike at any time. Clinically, postpartum depression can be diagnosed anytime after birth until one year postpartum.

Panettiere’s Twitter account has been tellingly silent this week, but support for the actress and activist has been pouring in since her announcement on Facebook:

Postpartum is real! Glad she’s not afraid to step up and say she needs help. It’s a very unnerving feeling to have postpartum.”

Good girl. Speak up when you need help!”

Been there. Glad she is getting treatment. Postpartum is not something easy to get through.”

I’m so glad to see the positive support for Panettiere and I’m grateful that she is serving as an example for the mothers that will surely come after her and realize that they deserve the help they need when postpartum depression rears its ugly head.

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