The recent abortion bans passed in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri have people sharing the many — and all equally valid — reasons they chose to have abortions. Model and activist Tess Holliday recently told People that after experiencing severe postpartum depression (PPD) after the birth of her second child, she made the decision to have an abortion when she became pregnant again.
“I had postpartum depression and then severe delayed postpartum and that’s what I was dealing with,” the model told People. “When I found out that I was pregnant again, I thought there’s no way I could do this. I was already, for the first time, experiencing suicidal thoughts. I literally didn’t want to go through any day at all. So, the thought of having to do it, to go through all of that again, destroyed me,” she said.
The model told People that the decision to speak publicly about her abortion was difficult, but, with the recent spate of U.S. abortion bans in the news, Holliday felt compelled to come forward. “We really shouldn’t have to be sharing these stories, but I just thought, ‘I have to be honest with everyone and let them know what I went through,’ ” Holliday told People.
The Mayo Clinic states that postpartum depression can be a severe complication of giving birth. Symptoms of PPD typically develop within a few weeks of childbirth, and can last for up to year afterwards. Some people may also begin experiencing symptoms during pregnancy. The symptoms of PPD can include feelings of numbness, social isolation, sleep disruptions, anger, pervasive sadness, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Postpartum depression is part of a category called Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD), Alyia Cutler and Meghan Conway, doulas and founders of Wyld Womyn, a community resource that supports people through life changes such as pregnancy and childbirth, tell Bustle via email, which can affect around 15% of people postpartum.
"Lack of postpartum support and care leave new parents struggling in silence. There is so much shame and embarrassment around PMADs and the misunderstanding that it equates to being a 'bad parent' or a failure," Cutler and Conway tell Bustle.
The model told People that “the decision [to get an abortion] was awful.” However, given the potential risks to Holliday’s mental health, she and her husband opted for her to have the procedure. “He said he saw a side of me that he had never seen before,” Holliday told People. “And that's accurate. I felt like a completely different person. I was just bitterly out of my mind and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.”
"Pregnancy comes with a significant hormone surge and transition and directly effects mental health," Cutler and Conway tell Bustle. "Abortion gives people the choice to protect their mental and physical health and avoid the risk of PMAD."
Holliday told People that her aim in coming forward was to speak out against abortion bans being passed in different parts of the U.S. The activist also felt it was important to acknowledge everyone whose lives may be impacted by the new legislation. This includes women, non-binary, and LGTBQ folks, as well as young people who get abortions.
“In my home state of Mississippi, we had the one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, the highest rates of school dropout, and it kind of blows my mind that all of that can be happening, but yet we don’t get taught sex ed in school,” she said. “I feel like we’re shaming people for needing to get an abortion, but then you’re not actually educating them beforehand.”
With adequate education concerning the risk factors, both loved ones and people undergoing pregnancy can more empowered to take action when symptoms arise. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of perinatal mood disorder, it’s important to get help quickly. Mental health interventions, such as therapy, support groups, and medication in moderate to severe cases, can be life-saving. Crisis phone and text lines can also be an invaluable resource. Knowing your risks, and having access to effective reproductive health care and education, can mean that full recovery is possible.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety during pregnancy, or in the postpartum period, contact the Postpartum Health Alliance warmline at (888) 724-7240, or Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773. If you are thinking of harming yourself or your baby, get help right away by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or dialing 911. For more resources, you can visit Postpartum Support International.