Yes, Healthcare Professionals Get Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, Too – Here’s Why
When you think of a doctor or other healthcare professional for that matter, the last thing that probably comes to mind is any medical issue they might have. Maybe you’re in the medical field, yourself, and you tend to think the same thing.
Healthcare professionals have a bad habit of working through pain and other discomfort or minimize the severity of their symptoms because they are too busy taking care of other people. Or they think they know what is going on and know how to treat it without additional help.
But, doctors, nurse practitioners, OB GYNs, therapists and other birth workers are just as susceptible to issues like prenatal or postpartum depression and anxiety (referred to in the rest of this article as perinatal mood disorders), and other mental health conditions. I may dare even say (from general observations) that healthcare workers may be at a slightly increased risk due to certain personality traits that draw them to healthcare in the first place and allow them to thrive professionally but stumble in the early transition to parenthood.
How can they get those conditions when they know so much about them? Let’s find out more.
The Pressure of Perfection
Mental health conditions don’t discriminate. While some people might be more susceptible to certain conditions than others, no one is entirely immune to them. That includes healthcare professionals.
Think about the pressure a healthcare professional is under each day. There’s a standard of “perfection” that they have to live up to because people depend on it. No one wants to think about their doctor or nurse messing up by saying or doing the wrong thing.
On top of that, medical professionals tend to be somewhat hard on themselves. They have very high expectations for their abilities and don’t want to fail because people’s lives and well-being are in their hands.
These same high expectations (usually perfectionistic) are extended to their role as a parent. As any "seasoned" parent will tell you, perfection is an illusion that will trip you up every single time. Working through this trap often really helps new parents to find relief from the depression or anxiety they may be experiencing.
Why Anxiety and Depression Can Be Harmful
People deal with anxiety and depression differently—including perinatal mood disorders. One person might experience specific symptoms while another experiences something completely different.
For those in the healthcare field, though, the stress accompanying their line of work can cause isolation and a lack of a social life. It can also cause rifts in relationships and constant stress. In turn, that can lead to fatigue or difficulty concentrating. That can be a dangerous mix for someone who is interacting with patients every day. And this tendency is only exacerbated when becoming a parent.
The Problem with Pride
Perhaps the most concerning part of perinatal mood disorders among healthcare professionals is that they often go undiagnosed or untreated.
Healthcare professionals don’t often like to admit they have a problem or are quick to self-diagnose and self-treat. And, even if they think something is wrong, they may not bring it up for fear of losing their job, title, or respect.
A recent survey among medical professionals asked if those taking the survey would be comfortable working with someone who had a mental health condition. The most common response was that they would have reservations about it.
So, you can understand why most healthcare workers wouldn’t be quick to come forward with some mental health diagnosis.
Normalizing Mental Health in Medicine
All of us need to realize that healthcare professionals are just people. While we depend on them to take care of our physical and mental well-being, they deserve the same care and attention.
Unfortunately, the pressures in the healthcare industry are likely to remain. But, the tide is slowing changing and mental health awareness is increasing. Many well-known figures are speaking out about how mental health care has improved their lives and they are thriving because of it.
As healthcare professionals and birth workers who believe in the healing power of the services we offer, we need to lead by example and take care of our own healthcare needs, be that physical, mental, spiritual or otherwise. By leading by example, we equip ourselves to be healthy and able to continue to serve our patients, clients, and our own families.
If you’re in the healthcare industry and you’re struggling with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety) or you’re just not feeling like yourself, feel free to contact me. There is no shame in taking care of your mental health in the same way you would care for one of your patients.
I take extra care to ensure your privacy and confidentiality when you come to my office. Located in a private, lower level suite, I take care to schedule your appointment is such a way as to greatly minimize the chances that you will bump into another client in the waiting room.
You deserve to be well too!
I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help our your parenting journey, please click here.
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Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!