Women's mental health: Changing the conversation on postpartum depression

If you are a fan of FOX’s primetime hit "9-1-1," you know it doesn’t shy away from hard issues, especially when it comes to women's health.

In a FOX 32 Special Report, we look at how Hollywood is keeping the conversation going about postpartum depression and what’s changing.

As Jennifer Love Hewitt returned to "9-1-1" this season, her character "Maddie" is in for an intense story line.

"In Maddie, you know, suffering from postpartum depression, but also just suffering from depression in general and a life of trauma, after trauma, after trauma sort of piling up on top of this woman," Hewitt said.

She says this is a time to tell these stories, including her own.

"I really appreciate the care that we've taken with it and then you know, I was in my own postpartum journey when we went back to film this episode. So I got to let go of a lot of what I was feeling through Maddie. And I hope that people see that and will feel that," Hewitt said.


While some medical experts say postpartum depression is a topic we often don’t talk about, what you need to know now is that how we have that conversation is changing.

"Recently, the conversation has kind of shifted to include a wider variety of mental health complications," said Katie Prezas. "That can happen for individuals and families … we as providers, refer to those as PMADs."

PMADs is short for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

"It can be depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, a variety of bipolar disorders and then also postpartum psychosis," Prezas said.

Prezas is the Vice Chair for Postpartum Support International's Illinois Chapter.

"When we talk about perinatal, we’re talking about the time from conception all the way through your child’s first birthday," Prezas said.

If you do the math, that’s almost a two-year time span where you could experience any of these mental health issues – and not just the first six weeks following the birth of your baby.

That’s what happened to Britney Spears. When she announced just a few weeks ago that she’s pregnant again, she also mentioned in her social media post that she had perinatal depression during a previous pregnancy.

"All of these mental health issues can surface or change depending on your hormone levels and your sleep and your baby’s behavior, all the way through their first birthday," Prezas said.

Prezas says PMADs can affect women when they are going through IVF, and that it can also affect both parents.

"During the Covid-19 pandemic, data that was collected during 2020 showed us that instead of being the normal statistic of 1 in 7 parents experiences a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder, that number rose to 1 in 3," Prezas said. "Which is an astronomical number."

Prezas adds the risk to a partner is increased substantially when the birthing parent is also experiencing anxiety or depression

Not to mention, suicide by new parents is one of the top risks in the first year after delivery, with the risk increasing between nine and 12 months.

"I feel overall, as a society, we aren’t very good at asking for help - for this type of help," Prezas said.

That’s why Prezas says it’s important for both parents and their families to know the signs and symptoms of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.

She also says it’s important for them to know how to advocate for themselves and what resources are available to help them.

One other note, while the "Baby Blues" are real, Prezas says it’s not a mental health diagnosis and it tends to be more hormone driven -- typically lasting only for the first two weeks after you have your baby.

For more information on the signs of a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder or to find a support group, visit HERE.