Serena Williams of the United States serves gets ready by her chair during Day 2 of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on July 31, 2018 in San Jose, California.
Photo: Ezra Shaw (Getty Images)

She may be the greatest athlete of all time (fight me), but Serena Williams recently admitted that despite daughter Alexis Olympia being the center of her universe, she’s not always confident that she’s the greatest mom.

In a confessional post on Tuesday, Williams got real about the effects of postpartum hormones, telling her followers:

Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom.

I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal.

It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby.

We have all been there. I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be.

However, that means although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes.

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While Williams describes her feelings as a “funk,” she did open up the floor for a very necessary conversation about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). PMADs include “baby blues,” postpartum depression (which affects approximately 15 percent of mothers), and the less-discussed postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis.

Traditionally, all of the above have fallen under the umbrella of diagnoses for postpartum depression (PPD), but motherhood advocates are fighting to recognize and encourage better understanding of the nuances between the mood disorders affecting mothers in the months following birth.

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, postpartum depression (PPD) is a mood disorder with a broad range of symptoms that vary among the mothers it affects (and is not limited to only first-time moms). Differing from the “baby blues”—mild symptoms which affect up to 80 percent of mothers for the first week or two after giving birth and dissipate on their own—postpartum depressive disorders commonly begin between a week and a month after delivery, and can last for months or years.

While PPD doesn’t have a single cause (likely resulting from a combination of physical and emotional factors), it does have a variety of symptoms, ranging from more benign to severe—many of which are now recognized as postpartum anxiety, OCD and psychosis. The most important thing to remember is that PPD does not occur through any fault of the mother.

According to the NIMH website, symptoms can include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
  • Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
  • Worrying or feeling overly anxious
  • Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
  • Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when the baby is asleep
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Experiencing anger or rage
  • Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the baby
  • Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
  • Thinking about harming oneself or the baby

Though less specifically discussed, postpartum anxiety (PPA) is actually the most common perinatal disorder, affecting one in 10 new mothers. According to Vogue, “A history of anxiety can contribute to PPA, but cultural factors play a part as well. Leading the way is the enormous pressure new mothers face for this to be the most blissful time of their lives.”

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For all PMADs, treatment is often recommended, ranging from self care and meditation, to talk therapy, to prescribed antidepressants.

Williams, who says she prefers communication, is finding comfort through empathy from her inner circle, which can also be effective for those experiencing milder symptoms—sometimes, it’s just good to know that your feelings are normal.

And that’s just one of the reasons Williams is eternally in our #WomanCrushWednesday; because in addition to being a powerhouse athlete and entrepreneur, she also continues to bravely—and generously—be real about motherhood with her fans. By sharing what can be an incredibly vulnerable and defeating moment for mothers suffering with even the mildest form of PMADs, she’s driving home the point that it can happen to anyone, as she reassured her followers:

“I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week—it’s ok—I am, too!!! There’s always [tomorrow]!”

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