Alanis Morissette Opens Up About Postpartum Depression

Is it “Ironic” that one of the “happiest times” of a woman’s life can leave her so very, very sad?

Celebrities are certainly not immune to postpartum depression, as evidenced by our stories about Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryce Dallas Howard, Lisa Rinna, and Brooke Shields.

And now Grammy winner singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette is opening up about her experience with the disorder.

The 38-year-old suffered from postpartum depression for more than a year after her son, Ever Imre, was born in December of 2010.

Morissette told ET Canada that she originally thought it was just a phase and would quickly be gone:

I just thought it was a swampy chapter, if I soldiered it out, that it would go away…. I came to realize that the longer I waited, the more intense it would become.

She told the British magazine You, that it wasn’t just a change in mood, but a physical phenomenon as well:

The degree and intensity of my post-natal depression shocked me. I am predisposed to depression, but what surprised me this time was the physical pain. I hadn’t realized the depths to which you can ache – limbs, back, torso, head, everything hurt – and it went on for 15 months.

Morisette says she is coming forward now to help other women recognize the condition and to lessen the shame women often feel about the disease.

I think if there is any goal in me talking about it, it would be to eradicate the shame around it…. It’s just what happens sometimes and, for me, I just waited way too long to reach out for help.

What is the difference between “Baby Blues” and Postpartum Depression?

Many women suffer from what is called “baby blues” after the birth of a child. The new mom may feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed and have crying spells and mood swings. This may be accompanied by loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. The symptoms are relatively mild, and resolve with the first two weeks after birth.

Aproximately 10% of new moms will go on to have postpartum depression. The symptoms are more severe, do not resolve in a short period of time, and may occur any time within the first year after birth. In addition, there may be more troubling symptoms such as thoughts of hurting the baby or oneself, as well as not having any interest in the baby.

There may be a number of factors that contribute to postpartum depression:

  • First, Levels of hormones (progesterone, estrogen, thyroid hormone) that are normally high during pregnancy, drop dramatically in the first 24 hrs after birth and can cause mood swings and depression.
  • Stressful physical changes such as anemia, fatigue and pain from the birth process can also contribute.
  • Emotional factors, such as lack of support from family or friends, feelings of inadequacy as a mother and stress from changes in daily routine make matters worse.
  • A previous history of depression and having multiple births also increases the risk of postpartum depression.

A small number of new mothers experience a more serious condition known as postpartum psychosis that includes symptoms of confusion, hallucinations and even attempts to harm herself or her child. A tragic example of this is the case of Andrea Yates who killed her five children in June of 2001 and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. There is currently a bill in the Texas legislature that would officially recognize postpartum mental illness as a legal defense for women who kill their children.

Postpartum depression is a serious condition and must be treated by a physician. Treatment can consist of talk therapy, medication or both.

Could I have Postpartum Depression?

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EDPS) was developed in 1987 as a tool to help doctors determine whether a mother may be suffering from postpartum depression. It is included here.

Instructions: Please select the answer which comes closest to how you have felt in the past 7 days – not just how you feel today.

Here is an example, already completed:

I have felt happy:

a. Yes, all the time
b. Yes, most of the time

c. No, not very often
d. No, not at all

This would mean “I have felt happy most of the time during the past week.”

Please take a pen and paper and answer the following 10 questions by choosing the appropriate response. To score your test when you have finished, click on the link at the bottom of this page.

In the past 7 days:

1. I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things –

a. As much as I always could
b. Not quite so much now
c. Definitely not so much now
d. Not at all

2. I have looked forward with enjoyment to things –

a. As much as I ever did
b. Rather less than I used to
c. Definitely less than I used to
d. Hardly at all

3. I have blamed myself unnecessarily when things went wrong –

a. Yes, most of the time
b. Yes, some of the time
c. Not very often
d. No, never

4. I have been anxious or worried for no good reason –

a. No, not at all
b. Hardly ever
c. Yes, sometimes
d. Yes, very often

5. I have felt scared or panicky for no good reason –

a. Yes, quite a lot
b. Yes, sometimes
c. No, not much
d. No, not at all

6. Things have been getting on top of me –

a. Yes, most of the time I haven’t been able to cope at all
b. Yes, sometimes I haven’t been coping as well as usual
c. No, most of the time I have coped quite well
d. No, I have been coping as well as ever

7. I have been so unhappy that I have had difficulty sleeping –

a. Yes, most of the time
b. Yes, some of the time
c. Not very often
d. No, not at all

8. I have felt sad or miserable –

a. Yes, most of the time
b. Yes, some of the time
c. Not very often
d. No, not at all

9. I have been so unhappy that I have been crying –

a. Yes, most of the time
b. Yes, quite often
c. Only occasionally
d. No, never

10. The thought of harming myself has occurred to me –

a. Yes, quite often
b. Sometimes
c. Hardly ever
d. Never

To score your answers, click here.

A score of 10 or  more is suggestive of depression (but does not indicate its severity) and should be discussed with your health care provider.

For more information, click here to see the Resounding Health casebook on Postpartum Depression.




Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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