Celeb Moms Speak Out About Postpartum Depression
More than just “baby blues,” postpartum depression is a serious, potentially long-lasting mental health condition that affects an estimated 15 percent of women after childbirth. Some of the most common symptoms are feelings of overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, anxiety and trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the baby. In severe cases, a woman may have thoughts of harming herself or her baby.
Postpartum depression (PPD) can happen to anyone, regardless of circumstance and status. Here are celebrity moms who shared their experience with postpartum depression, starting an important dialogue and proving that fame and wealth don’t make you immune from mental illness.
Global tennis champ Serena Williams welcomed her first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., in September 2017. From the early days, Williams was honest about how motherhood affected her mental health.
In May 2018, she told “Harper’s Bazaar UK,” “Honestly, sometimes I think I still have to deal with [postpartum depression]. I think people have to talk about it more because it’s almost like the fourth trimester; it’s part of the pregnancy. I remember one day, I couldn’t find Olympia’s bottle, and I got so upset I started crying … because I wanted to be perfect for her.”
Williams later shared more about her experience with postpartum depression on Instagram.
Chrissy Teigen and her husband John Legend welcomed daughter Luna in April 2016 and son Miles in May 2018. Shortly before Luna’s first birthday, the “Lip Sync Battle” host and cookbook author wrote a candid essay in “Glamour” about her postpartum depression.
She wrote, “When I wasn’t in the studio, I never left the house. I mean, never. Not even a tiptoe outside. I’d ask people who came inside why they were wet. Was it raining? How would I know — I had every shade closed. Most days were spent on the exact same spot on the couch and rarely would I muster up the energy to make it upstairs for bed.”
When she was pregnant with Miles, Teigen revealed that while she was worried the illness would come back, she was better prepared for it second time around. She told “Vogue,” "Do I worry about it with this little boy? I do. But I also know that I feel like when it does happen, if it does, I'm so ready for it. I have the perfect people around me for it. That's why I really stand for a good core group of people around you."
Reality star Kendra Wilkinson spoke frankly about having postpartum depression after the birth of her two children, Hank IV and Alijah, with former husband Hank Baskett. “It got pretty bad, [but] not to the point where I would harm my family. I was a great mom and did what I needed to, but I was definitely very depressed,” Wilkinson told “People” in 2011 after birth of her son. “[Motherhood is] a big change in life and it happened overnight.”
After Alijah was born in 2014, depression struck again. "I was at a real low. I even questioned my life," Wilkinson revealed on her E! show “Kendra.” "If it wasn't for Alijah, the bond I had with her, I feel like I would have probably ended my life. I felt like I'm not even supposed to be here."
Wilkinson credits professional help with her recovery, telling “E! News,” “They have the right answers — they’re educated to give you the right answers for you to get better.”
Singer Adele had postpartum depression after the birth of her son, Angelo, in 2012, but she struggled to talk about it initially — partly because she didn’t understand it. “My knowledge of postpartum — or postnatal, as we call it in England — is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job,” she said in an interview with “Vanity Fair.” “But I was obsessed with my child. I felt very inadequate; I felt like I’d made the worst decision of my life ... [Postpartum depression] can come in many different forms.”
Adele eventually decided to give herself time away from her baby once a week to do whatever she liked, even though she felt guilty about it. She later found out several of her friends went through the same thing but were too embarrassed to talk about it. “They thought everyone would think they were a bad mom, and it’s not the case,” she said. “It makes you a better mom if you give yourself a better time."
Actress Hayden Panettiere, who welcomed daughter Kaya in 2014, has talked about her postpartum depression several times over the years. She first went into rehab for PPD in 2015, and the following year she revealed on Twitter that she was seeking help again.
Throughout her recovery, Panettiere has stressed that moms shouldn’t feel guilty about asking for help if they’re struggling. “The biggest message that I’ve been trying to promote for women is that it’s OK to ask for help,” she told “People.” “You feel mommy guilt — it’s for real.”
Panettiere's on-screen character in “Nashville” also struggled with postpartum depression, which she believes helped her work through her own issues. "I think it helped me identify what was going on,” she told “Good Morning America.” “And to let women know that it's OK to ask for help and it's OK to have a moment of weakness. It doesn't make you a bad person, doesn't make you a bad mother. It makes you a very strong, resilient woman. You've just got to let it make you stronger."
“Game of Thrones” actress Lena Headey suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her son, Wylie, in 2010. To make it worse, she was shooting the first season of the HBO series at the time, which made filming “really horrendous.”
Headey had a prior history of mental illness, telling “The Telegraph” in 2014 that she had suffered periods of clinical depression since the age of 15. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the risk of postpartum depression is higher among people who have a history of mental health issues.
Despite her mental health history, Headey didn’t know she had postpartum depression for a long time.” She told 'Net-A-Porter’s' digital magazine in a 2017 interview, “I was postnatally depressed, but I didn’t know it. I saw a doctor for the medical check, and I just burst into tears. She said I was postnatally depressed and I went, ‘Am I? Why is that?’ I saw a great guy, and he sorted me out, but I did the first year on ‘Game of Thrones’ in that space, figuring out motherhood and going through a weird time personally. It was tricky.”
Actress Brooke Shields was one of the first celebrity moms to talk publicly about her postpartum depression, which she experienced after the birth of her daughter, Rowan, in 2003, paving the way for other famous moms to share their own struggles with mental health. Shields even wrote a book, “Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression,” about her struggles after Rowan’s birth and her eventual recovery.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Shields revealed that her illness was unexpected and completely overwhelming. “This gripped my heart to such an extent that I didn't even have the desire to try to overcome it,” she said. “I mean, I was flattened by it. I was devastated by it. And it wasn't the ‘baby blues.’ And I was told it was the ‘baby blues’ at first. And so then, what was wrong with me was even worse. I thought, ‘Well then I must epitomize failure if I can't even get past this.’”
Shields’ advice to other moms going through the same thing is not to ignore the symptoms of postpartum depression out of embarrassment or shame. "It has nothing to do with your love for [your child],” she said. “Pay attention to the feelings that you're feeling, and talk about it and ask your doctor ... Find out what medicine's available. You don't have to be miserable.”
After five miscarriages, five rounds of in vitro fertilization and 26 rounds of intrauterine insemination, “Hart of Dixie” star Jaime King was amazed to conceive her first child, James Knight, naturally. But King’s struggles were far from over. She had postpartum depression after giving birth, but had to go back to work only six weeks later.
"The baby was with me, but my husband was [working],” she told “People.” “I was basically by myself. Having to go back to work was very traumatic because I was still breastfeeding and up every two hours. I felt this major pressure."
King, who is also mom to 3-year-old Leo, has opened up about her postpartum depression on Instagram, too, writing, “I isolated myself. I was anxious all the time; I felt like I was unlovable. I couldn’t even think straight.”
“The Bachelorette” star Melissa Rycroft didn’t initially realize she had postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Ava, putting her mood changes down to a bad case of the baby blues. “I had a massive case of denial,” she told “The Bump.” “I thought women with postpartum depression wanted to hurt their babies. But for me, it had nothing to do with Ava. I had this big emptiness that you shouldn’t have right after you have a baby. I was like, I don’t want to seem like I’m not happy — it's just that there’s something chemically wrong.”
For Rycroft, one of the most obvious symptoms was increasing feelings of anger and frustration. “Usually, I’m very in control with my emotions, and that had changed,” she said.
The reality star also revealed that she felt like the only person going through postpartum depression, which was what encouraged her to speak up and try to encourage other moms to seek help. “When you have postpartum depression, you can’t just tell yourself to cheer up — it's an uncontrollable chemical imbalance,” she said. “I urge everyone to talk about it, so it can be much easier for other women who go through it.”
Soap star Lisa Rinna, who welcomed daughter Delilah in 1998 and Amelia in 2001, wrote about her “severe” postpartum depression in her book “Rinnivation: Getting Your Best Life Ever.”
“After having my first daughter, Delilah, I had severe postpartum depression,” Lisa Rinna told HLN's “Dr. Drew” in 2012. "I kept it a secret. I didn't say a word to anybody in the world. [My husband] thought I was just nuts. He had no idea what was going on, and I was so hopeless and felt so lost.”
It took Rinna 10 months to share what she was going through with her husband, Harry Hamlin, which was a huge turning point for her in getting the help she needed. “[I] opened up to him and told him how worthless I felt,” she said. “My self-esteem was gone. I didn't want to have sex. It was opening up something that I felt so much shame about was the most valuable thing that I could have done.”
“Togetherness” star Amanda Peet told “Gotham” magazine that she faced "fairly serious postpartum depression" following the birth of her daughter, Frances "Frankie" Pen, in 2007. The positive emotions Peet experienced during pregnancy “all came crashing down the second [Frankie] was born.”
Peet wanted to talk about her experience to help break down the stigma around postpartum depression. “I want to be honest about it because I think there’s still so much shame when you have mixed feelings about being a mom instead of feeling this sort of ‘bliss,’” she said. “I think a lot of people still really struggle with that, but it’s hard to find other people who are willing to talk about it.”
Former “Friends” star Courtney Cox gave birth to daughter, Coco, in 2004 and revealed to “USA Today” the following year that she noticed having symptoms of postpartum depression, including feelings of “smallness” and suicidal urges to drive off a cliff, when Coco was around 6 months old.
“I went through a really hard time,” she said. "I couldn't sleep. My heart was racing. And I got really depressed. I went to the doctor and found out my hormones had been pummeled."
Taking the steroid hormone progesterone and turning to close friends like Brooke Shields and Jennifer Aniston for support helped Cox recover.
Bryce Dallas Howard
Actress Bryce Dallas Howard wrote about her struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of her son Theodore on Goop.com. Despite daily breakdowns, Howard refused to acknowledge her true feelings for several months. It was only when she “screamed expletives” at her husband, and he realized how serious the issue was that Howard sought help, receiving a diagnosis of severe postpartum depression, embarking upon a homeopathic treatment plan, and dedicating time to her recovery (which included reading Brooke Shields’ book).
"Postpartum depression is hard to describe — the way the body and mind and spirit fracture and crumble in the wake of what most believe should be a celebratory time," wrote Howard, who went on to have another child, a daughter Beatrice, in 2012.
After giving birth to daughter Lola Sofia in 2005, Wilson Phillips singer Carnie Wilson felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and experienced frequent bouts of crying. "It's a physical feeling,” she told “People.” “I don't know how to describe it. You're overwhelmed with love and joy, then sadness and fear. You're so afraid you're going to fail this baby. What if you drop her or hurt her? She's totally dependent on you, and it's scary."
In a later interview with “People,” Wilson admitted that she also had postpartum hallucinations after Lola Sofia’s birth, saying, “I looked over at Lola from across the hospital room, and this voice was like, ‘I’m the devil. I’m the devil, and I’m gonna kill you.’ And I thought, ‘Okay, that’s a psychotic thought. That’s not me — something else in there is saying that.’ And I didn’t have any urge to hurt the baby, but it was just a horrible thought. I just wanted it to go away really badly.”
Wilson was featured in “When the Bough Breaks,” a feature-length documentary about postpartum depression, produced and narrated by Brooke Shields.