Author Marianne Williamson thinks women would be better off treating postpartum depression with meditation and prayer.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended screening all pregnant women and new moms for depression in an effort to diagnose women sooner and help more of them get the treatment they need. It’s a necessary recommendation, and one that could change outcomes for many new moms, but according to author Marianne Williamson, it’s also part of a massive conspiracy.
No, seriously. Williamson took to Facebook on Tuesday to denounce the recommendation, writing, “CODE ALERT: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be ‘screened for depression’ during and after pregnancy. Their answer, of course, is to ‘find the right medication.’ And how many on the ‘Task Force’ are on big pharma’s payroll? Follow the money on this one. Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.”
Um, are you for real right now? I guess when I had PPD I should’ve skipped therapy and Zoloft and just started meditating while eating an apple because that would have solved everything, right?
Understandably, people are pissed at Williamson, but she is not backing down. In the comments on her post, she doubled down on her stance, adding:
“Depressed women are like canary in a coal mine. We are often depressed because something is wrong that needs to be made right, and what is wrong is not always what is inside us. Postpartum depression, example, is often a result of a woman’s heartbreak over having to go back to work sooner than her body, mind and heart are ready to. She knows in her gut that her baby needs her home longer, and she needs to be with the baby longer. Nature is screaming out to her from every cell of her being.”
She also adds again and again that doctors are “pathologizing normal pregnancy mood changes.” Except, postpartum mood disorders are not normal mood changes. By their very definition, they go beyond the normal hormonal changes or “baby blues” that a lot of women experience.
Postpartum mood disorders prevent women from bonding with their babies, they strip us of our ability to live a normal life, and in some cases, can even make a woman have thoughts of harming herself or her baby. It has nothing to do with the dismal state of paid maternity leave (something we all agree needs to be fixed) or “normal” hormonal changes. Depression is an illness, and the longer it’s left untreated, the more potential for something terrible to happen.
Along with their recommendations, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force pointed out that nearly one in ten women have at least one major depressive episode either during or following pregnancy. Of women who suffer from postpartum depression, a whopping 40 percent go untreated. Medication may not always be the solution, but no one is served by pretending postpartum depression doesn’t exist, and Williamson clearly has a fundamental misunderstanding of what depression even is.
Decades ago, women suffered with postpartum depression and never said anything or never even knew that what they were feeling had name. Even with all the progress we’ve yet to make, we’re still lucky to live in a time where the stigma of mental illness is fading, and healthcare professionals are finally acknowledging what a pervasive problem these illnesses are. People like Williamson might try to dismiss that progress, but those of us who’ve suffered from depression know how important it is for women to be able to get help. Hopefully Williamson will “meditate and pray” on her own drivel before she deters any vulnerable moms from seeking the treatment they need.