Halle Bailey reveals struggle with severe postpartum depression

Bailey celebraing her 24th birthday. Picture: Instagram/Halle and her son baby Halo

Bailey celebraing her 24th birthday. Picture: Instagram/Halle and her son baby Halo

Published Apr 23, 2024


The arrival of a baby is often enveloped in an aura of joy and celebration, however, thousands of women grapple with a starkly contrasting reality – postpartum depression (PPD).

This condition is far from rare, affecting a significant number of new mothers globally each year, yet it remains shrouded in silence, stigma, and shame.

South Africa has a high prevalence of postpartum depression (PPD), with research indicating that 30 – 35 % of women are diagnosed with a major depressive disorder during the postpartum period.

Research in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, reported a 34.7% prevalence, which is significantly higher than some international estimates, according to the South African Medical Journal.

Halle Bailey, famous for her role in “The Colour Purple” and the critically acclaimed “The Little Mermaid”, has opened up about her struggles with postpartum depression following the birth of her son Halo in 2023, with her boyfriend DDG by her side.

In a Snapchat video that was picked up and shared by a fan on Instagram, on April 16, Bailey shared a personal revelation about her struggle with postpartum depression, pinpointing her changed relationship with her body as the main source of her distress.

Describing her experience, Bailey likened it to “swimming in this ocean … trying not to drown”, highlighting the intense challenges of new motherhood.

Her honesty shed light on the mental health hurdles many new moms face, bringing much-needed attention to this important issue.

Bailey said: ‘I have severe, severe postpartum depression.’ Picture: Halle Bailey /Instagram

“I have severe, severe postpartum depression. And I don't know if any new moms can relate, but it’s to the point where it’s really bad, and it’s hard for me to be separated from my baby for more than 30 minutes at a time before I start to kind of freak out.”

Postpartum depression is a complex mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. It manifests through a range of symptoms such as profound sadness, anxiety, fatigue, a sense of detachment from the baby, and, in severe cases, thoughts of harming oneself or the baby.

These symptoms can appear days or even months after delivery, challenging the stereotypical image of motherhood as a period of unbound happiness and fulfilment.

The struggle with PPD is exacerbated by the pervasive stigma surrounding mental health issues in the context of motherhood.

Society often expects new mothers to seamlessly embrace their new role, basking in the glow of maternity.

This unrealistic expectation creates an environment where women find it daunting to express feelings of despair or inadequacy, fearing judgement or being labelled as bad mothers.

Although Bailey had been hitting the gym, she confessed: “The only thing that’s been hard for me is feeling normal in my own body. I feel like a completely different person when I look in the mirror. I just feel like I’m in a whole new body, and I don’t know who I am.”

Giving birth is not only a major responsibility but it also comes with a range of physical changes. One of the most noticeable changes after pregnancy is the weight loss associated with giving birth.

She admitted she wasn’t fully aware of the mental health issues new moms may face.

Bailey said coming to terms with her postpartum depression and discussing it in public had been hard despite what she had already heard and discussed.

“Before I had a child and I would hear people talk about postpartum, it would kind of just go in one ear and out the other. I didn’t realise how serious of a thing it actually was.

“Now going through it, it almost feels like you’re swimming in this ocean that’s like the biggest waves you’ve ever felt and you’re trying not to drown. And you’re trying to come up for air.”

Society must reshape its narrative around motherhood and mental health. Realising that motherhood is a complex, multifaceted experience filled with highs and lows, can pave the way for more open dialogues.

“It has nothing to do with my baby. It has everything to do with me and who I am right now,” Bailey said.

“I guess today I was just triggered — especially since social media is just not a good thing to be on when you have postpartum — but I was just really triggered today, especially by seeing some of the things that have been said about me and my family, and the one that I love and the ones that I love”

The silence surrounding postpartum depression is deafening. Many women suffer in isolation, burdened by the shame attached to admitting that they are not experiencing the blissful maternal bond lauded in media and culture.

This reluctance to seek help or open up about their feelings further entrenches the illness, making recovery a more challenging journey.