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Postpartum Series Part Two: No More Postpartum Silence

A black and white photo of a person sitting on the ground on a textile background hugging their knees to their chest. You can only see the person from the neck down.
Anemone 123
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Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety have a range of symptoms that aren't always advertised — or obvious.

When it comes to addressing the mental health concerns of new parents, the most common response is silence.

Bringing home a newborn involves a variety of stressors. New parents must learn how to feed, care for and console a new child … all while contending with sleep deprivation, fluctuating hormones, cultural expectations around parenthood and, in many cases, an imminent return to work.

Stress and anxiety are so common for new parents that symptoms of more serious postpartum mental health concerns are often overlooked. And as with any mental illness, experiences with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and other postpartum mental health issues are stigmatized and frequently met with silence.

Host Anita Rao speaks with visual artist A’Driane Nieves about her experience of being diagnosed with bipolar II disorder after the birth of her second child, and about how painting became an important means of breaking the silence around postpartum mental health. Rao then speaks with Shannon Purdy Jones, co-owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, about how a traumatic experience with bodyfeeding contributed to her postpartum depression. Darren Jones, Shannon’s husband and the director of pricing at Mack Trucks, Inc, speaks about navigating postpartum mental health concerns as a non-birthing partner.

Thank you to all the voice note contributors for trusting us with their stories and helping to shape this episode: Kyesha Jennings, Taylor Matthews, Elice, Jamie, Brianna Battles, Nick Knittel, Kate Gardner, Amanda Magnus, Priyanka Rao, Anna Wallace and BB Ware.

Three Ways to Show up for Postpartum Folks

  1. Don’t come over just to “visit.” When you’re visiting someone who’s in their postpartum period, don’t expect to be entertained. Bring a meal, offer to help with laundry or dishes and be considerate of their pumping or nursing schedules.
  2. Be a safe person to vent to. Becoming a new parent is incredibly stressful, so be prepared to listen to your postpartum loved one’s concerns without trying to solve them. Simply holding space for their concerns and validating their feelings can go a long way.
  3. Leave judgments at the door. On top of all the other stressors, new parents frequently have to deal with criticism and unsolicited advice from others. Unless you’re concerned for someone’s physical safety, it’s important to recognize that their parenting choices can look different from yours…and still be totally valid.
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Audrey Smith is a writer, educator, and temporary producer of "Embodied" based in Greensboro, NC. She holds a Master's degree in Secondary English Language Arts Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2018) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Nonfiction Writing from Oregon State University (2021).
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.