Actress' struggle shines light on postpartum depression

NEW YORK -- Actress Hayden Panettiere is young woman who has a lot going for her: she is 26-years-old, successful, engaged, and last December, became a mom -- but this week, she announced she's getting treatment for postpartum depression.

Hundreds of thousands of other women are battling it, too.

Lauren Safran was 34-years-old when she gave birth to her first child -- a healthy daughter named Lily.

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Actress Hayden Panettiere who is seeking treatment for postpartum depression is shown attending HBO's Post 2014 Golden Globe Awards Party on Jan. 12, 2014, in Los Angeles. Mike Windle/Getty Images

Asked if she was happy after she gave birth, Safran said, "No. I was very much the opposite. I was pretty certain I was not going to be able to handle being a mother.

She was suffering from postpartum depression. Every year, about four million women give birth -- anywhere from 8 to 19 percent report having frequent symptoms of depression.

That's more than 300,000 women every year.

Dr. Catherine Birndorf of New York-Presbyterian treats women with postpartum illness.

Birndorf said, "The biggest myth about postpartum depression is that it doesn't exist. There are people who really believe that it isn't possible to be depressed, or upset, or struggle around such a miraculous event as having a baby. "

When Safran looks at her children and thinks back to what she felt after childbirth, Safran said, "It almost doesn't feel like it was me. It feels so far away."

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Lauren Safran was 34-years-old when she gave birth to her first child --a healthy daughter named Lily. CBS News

"It is hard to have a baby. The adjustment to motherhood, this is not easy. It's miraculous. It can be beautiful, but it is complex, and very complicated. And the idea that we want women to do it effortlessly, and smoothly, and with a smile on their face, is an enormous problem," Birndorf said.

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It's common for women to have some sadness, irritability, or other changes in mood after giving birth.

These symptoms usually resolve in about two weeks, but if they're severe, or persist for longer, it's important to seek help. It's estimated at least 50 percent of postpartum depression goes unrecognized.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook