Bitching is good for you.
Loss of interest in hobbies or goals, lack of all positive emotions, and contemplation of death.
That’s how some women describe the experience of postpartum depression. (Also …loneliness…loss of control, guilt, diminished concentration, fear that life would never be normal again...)
I read somewhere that women who have gone through infertility are some-shocking-percent more likely to experience postpartum depression, and I’ve become increasingly curious about that vaguely-remembered claim. So I decided to find out more. ‘Cause Lord knows what I need to be doing with my time is reading about depression.
I didn’t find any evidence of an increased rate of PPD in the previously infertile (or subfecund–don’t you love that one?) relative to the rest of the population, even in a meta-review (i.e., a summary of a whole bunch of studies). I found one study that compares depression scores in an infertile population pre and post baby, and finds no change. However, that study made an interesting suggestion. The researchers found that this population had decreased marital satisfaction post birth (no shit–that presumably applies to all women, not just the subfecund), and also an increase in something called the “divided self”. This is a phenomenon where you act like you’re all happy while actually feeling like shit, resulting in dissonance. The women who scored high on measures of this phenomenon also scored high on depression measures. Here’s how the article puts it:
The researchers can’t claim that a divided self leads to depression, and the study didn’t compare this measure in fertile and infertile women, but here’s what I take from it. I’ve watched many of you struggle with your feelings post-pregnancy (witness Al‘s lovely post about her sister’s pregnancy) and I’ve certainly struggled with mine. I’ve read your many caveats along the lines of my whole body fucking hurts but I’M NOT COMPLAINING BECAUSE I’M SO HAPPY TO BE PREGNANT and I’ve certainly written my own. For what it’s worth, I think this little data point suggests that honesty (though not necessarily at all times or in all places or with all people) is the best policy. And while this particular finding is about the pregnant-after-infertility population, I can’t help but imagine it applies to all of us.
Therefore I direct you one and all: Go forth and vent.