Actress Hayden Panettiere has recently entered rehab for postpartum depression, according to her rep. The 26-year-old has a 10-month-old daughter with her longtime fiancé, boxer Wladimir Klitschko. The actress, whose character on Nashville also suffered from post-pregnancy struggles, spoke publicly about her PPD on Live! With Kelly and Michael just last month. Postpartum depression affects nearly one million women in America every year, yet many mothers, including Panettiere, believe that the conversation surrounding the issue is stunted.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding—there are a lot of people out there that think that it’s not real, that it’s not true, that it’s something that’s made up in their minds, that ‘Oh, it’s hormones,’” Panettiere told the Live! cohosts in September. “They brush it off. It’s something that’s completely uncontrollable. It’s really painful, and it’s really scary, and women need a lot of support.”
Panettiere is not the first celebrity to open up about her personal struggle with PPD. In 2005, Brooke Shields famously defended her use of antidepressants to treat her own PPD when Tom Cruise accused her of “not understanding the history of psychiatry.” Shields went on to author a book about her battle, titled Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.
And while the list of actresses who have attempted to shine a light on just how common PPD is by publicly sharing their battles includes names such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox, Lisa Rinna, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Amanda Peet, there still remains a veil of secrecy around the disorder for many new mothers.
Sadly, many women who are experiencing PPD find themselves unknowingly in a paradox: They are ashamed to admit that they’re experiencing common symptoms such as loss of interest or pleasure in anything, including their new babies, so they attempt to hide these feelings rather than seek out the help they need. One researcher points out that by concealing the symptoms of PPD, “women have described feeling totally alone, unaware that they may be causing their own isolation.”
What can we do to help lift this veil? How can we remove the stigma that experiencing the symptoms of PPD somehow lessens the bond between a mother and her newborn, or worse, that she is somehow failing at motherhood?
Panettiere has taken two huge steps in her own fight to remove the stigma associated with PPD and hopefully in paving a way for other mothers in her shoes: She has opened up about her struggle rather than hiding it, and she has sought professional help. Motherhood requires a kind of strength that many women don’t even know they’re capable of until they become mothers, and sometimes that means mustering the strength to take care of yourself.
If you believe that you or someone you love might be suffering from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, know that you are not alone and that help is available.