New Postpartum Depression Documentary Reveals the Truth about Maternal Mental Illness

When the Bough Breaks talks to celebrities and regular women about their experiences to let other new moms know they don't have to suffer alone.

Postpartum Depression Documentary Courtesy of When the Bough Breaks
"I really think you should come to the meeting," the social worker on the phone said to me. I didn't think I could do it, but somehow I made it out of the house to the new mothers support group, which was held at the hospital where I delivered. The call had come because my state, New Jersey, is one of the few that screens new mothers for postpartum depression (PPD), and my screening raised some red flags. Luckily, the support group was enough for me to get a handle on the difficult feelings I was having—without it, I might have fallen deeper into the darkness of PPD.

"Postpartum depression can happen to anyone"

The new documentary When the Bough Breaks takes on the need for more legislation to protect and support new mothers. But even more importantly, by revealing the personal stories of regular women and celebrities like narrator Brooke Shields, singer Carnie Wilson, The Real Housewives of Orange County's Peggy Tanous and Food Network chef Aarti Sequeira, the film breaks the silence of what it's like to go through PPD and other perinatal mood disorders. "We are trying to help normalize it," director/producer Jamielyn Lippman tells Fit Pregnancy. "More women will start to speak out and not feel so alone."

Although postpartum depression may be more known now than it was a decade ago, it's still not often talked about openly. "I think the biggest reason is stigma," Lippman says. "The fear of people thinking that something is wrong with you or that you want to do something to harm your baby."

"I was miserable," Sequeira tells Fit Pregnancy. "I felt no connection to my baby, I just couldn't see any light and had no joy whatsoever. But I thought I could white-knuckle my way through it." At the urging of her mother, Sequeira reached out to her doctor for help at eight months postpartum. "Two weeks after getting on antidepressants I was driving to the doctor for my followup, and I had my first positive thought, which was so remarkable that I was like, 'OK, I think I'm mending here,'" she says.

Sequeira says she got involved in the documentary to end the shame of PPD, to make others aware of the warning signs, and to give hope to women going through it. "So much of postpartum depression is about keeping yourself hidden away, and ironically the number one thing you need to pull it out of the shadows is to have people talk with you about it," she says. When she started sharing her story, she was surprised at how many other women came forward, too.

"You are not alone"

When the Bough Breaks highlights the way PPD affects not only new mothers, but the whole family as well. "When I interviewed [producer and main subject] Lindsay's husband Brad and asked what it was like for him, he took a beat and got really emotional," Lippman says. "It was at that moment he realized that he went through this as well." Sequeira says a new mom is never really suffering alone because the baby is so dependent on her. "There's so much pressure around birth and motherhood to be perfect," she says. "In this circumstance you need to put yourself first and go get some help—and not just for your own sake."

Trigger warning: The film also deals with several cases of postpartum psychosis, a rare but severe form of PPD that can lead to suicide and infanticide. These scenes are not easy to watch, but shed light on the importance of getting help as soon as possible.

If you're having symptoms of the "baby blues" that don't go away after a couple of weeks, or if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, call your OB or general practitioner right away. You can also contact Postpartum Support International. When the Bough Breaks is available on iTunes.

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