A new movie, starring Amanda Seyfried (of Mamma Mia! and Mean Girls fame) is about a seemingly picture perfect family. But Seyfried's character Julie, and her husband Ethan (Finn Witrock) are dealing with the dark and debilitating effects of postpartum depression.
Set to release on October 29 in the United States, the film, titled A Mouthful of Air has been picked by Sony Pictures for distribution, and is based on a 2003 book of the same name, written by Amy Koppelman.
Koppelman had written about her own experience of postpartum depression. She decided to make it a film after she heard a woman talking on the radio about having the condition; later, she reached out to Seyfried to see if they could make a film to shed light on it.
In India too, celebrities like Sameera Reddy and Esha Deol have started speaking up about their mental health post childbirth. Most recently, actor Kalki Koechlin came out with an illustrated collection of essays, titled The Elephant in the Womb (Penguin, Rs. 399), in which she talks about the toll that pregnancy takes on the body, the stigma around abortion, as well as postpartum blues.
In addition to going through bodily changes and a complete overhaul of their lives, young mothers are also often burdened by the guilt of feeling anything but happiness in their new roles. A lot of this also has to do with prevailing social discourses and conditioning around pregnancy and motherhood – it is common to generalisations that there is an innate maternal instinct in every woman that kicks in when she gives birth, or that childbirth and everything that comes after it will come naturally to her. Indeed, this may not be true for everyone.
According to the World Health Organisation in 2018, 22% of new mothers in India suffer from postpartum depression. In the same year, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that about one in eight women suffered depressive symptoms during the postpartum period in 2018.
"I hope that [this movie] lets women, whether they're depressed or not depressed, feel like sometimes in playgroup, they can say 'I'm terrified'," Koppelman, who also directed the film that her book is based on, told Reuters via Zoom.
Seyfried said she was lucky to have had a team of people to help her through her suffering, and wants more to be done to tackle postpartum depression.
"It's going to help the audience understand what a woman's going through when she has a baby, when she has postpartum depression, when there's trauma, all the issues that people are afraid to discuss. It's still stigmatized. Why?," she said.