Fabrizia Falà, a 35-year-old woman from Roseto degli Abruzzi, has decided to speak out about postpartum depression, a condition that affects many women after childbirth but is often overlooked and stigmatized. During the final of Miss Mamma Italiana 2023, Falà shed light on postpartum depression, which according to epidemiological statistics affects about 15% of women, with varying levels of severity.
Falà, who was crowned Miss Elegance in Bellaria-Igea Marina, shared her personal experience, stating that she felt incredibly lonely and guilty for experiencing depression despite having a loving husband and two beautiful children. She admitted to downplaying her symptoms and feeling inadequate due to societal pressures.
Falà’s journey began with a high-risk pregnancy and a previous miscarriage. She experienced anxiety attacks throughout her pregnancy, fearing the loss of her baby. After giving birth, her baby cried constantly, and doctors suggested supplementing with formula due to concerns about her breast milk supply. However, Falà opposed this idea as she believed her baby’s crying was unrelated to breastfeeding. This added stress to her anxiety.
Two days after giving birth, her baby was taken to the pediatric ward due to jaundice. The lack of immediate explanation increased her worries. Watching her baby cry in the incubator, she felt helpless and her sense of powerlessness grew with each passing day.
Unfortunately, things did not improve when she returned home. Her baby continued to cry and wake up frequently at night, leaving her feeling exhausted. She lacked support and empathetic listening. Falà believes that society avoids confronting sadness and psychological pain, and instead only accepts anger as a valid emotion. People expected her to smile, but internally she was suffering. She was even accused of being moody.
Ironically, even her husband, a neuro-psychologist, initially failed to understand the situation due to the guilt and shame she felt, as well as her own efforts to downplay her symptoms. She hid her deepening distress, which strained their relationship.
Falà finally realized she needed help when she could no longer hide her crying and intensifying anxiety attacks. She sought help from public psychiatrists, but their responses were disheartening. One laughed at her, while another gave her a questionnaire that included a question about suicidal thoughts. She felt that their approach was insensitive and lacked empathy.
After several unsuccessful attempts, she eventually found a private therapist who provided the support she needed. Today, Falà is in a better place, accepting that bad days are part of life and that sadness should be acknowledged and embraced until it passes. She is also trying to teach her children the importance of this mindset.
Falà’s advice to other women going through a similar experience is to not believe that they are wrong or abnormal for feeling certain emotions. She encourages them to seek help from a therapist as early as possible. She also believes that empathy and active listening should be taught in schools to address the growing societal deafness to suffering.
According to Adelia Lucattini, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Rome, postpartum depression can be triggered by hormonal changes after childbirth. While it is normal for new mothers to experience the “baby blues” in the first two weeks, prolonged sadness, frequent crying, and a sense of being “out of it” should not be ignored. Lucattini advises partners to provide support and seek professional help, involving the entire family in the process.
Postpartum depression is not hereditary, but there may be a familial predisposition due to emotional distress and depression related to hormonal changes. Other causes include previous anxiety or depressive episodes, unresolved psychological trauma such as miscarriage, and prolonged stress related to fertility issues. Breastfeeding can also contribute to postpartum depression, as hormonal fluctuations can affect a woman’s mental and physical well-being.
Lucattini recommends that women who have experienced postpartum depression be aware that it may recur in future pregnancies or after childbirth. She suggests seeking therapy during pregnancy and early mother-baby therapy. Involving partners and family members is crucial, as they need to be aware of the risks, observe the woman’s well-being, and be empathetic and supportive. Adequate sleep is also essential for new mothers, and they should delegate nighttime feedings to family members from the beginning.
Falà’s courage in speaking out about her experience with postpartum depression is commendable. By sharing her story, she hopes to raise awareness and help other mothers facing similar challenges.
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