October | Understanding National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Once again, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) has rolled around in October. This month is set aside each year to pay special attention to women who have survived or been lost to breast cancer, while also increasing general awareness of the disease. Around 12 percent of women in the United States develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. While occurrences of breast cancer decreased in the last couple of decades, it’s still one of the main types of cancer and one of the most common to affect women. Each October, various groups band together to show their support and raise money for organizations that help fight breast cancer and the complications that go along with it.


How did National Breast Cancer Awareness Month start?


The first NBCAM was celebrated in October 1985. It was initially a partnership between the American Cancer Society and a pharmaceutical company (now known as AstraZeneca) that specializes in drugs for treating breast cancer. Since its beginning, the focus of NBCAM has been to encourage women to get regular exams and be proactive about their breast health, while also supporting women who have or had breast cancer. Like any major medical procedure, the costs associated with treating breast cancer are high, so various organizations focus on getting these women the help they need.


The Estee Lauder Foundation was the first to introduce the iconic pink ribbon that’s an easily recognizable symbol for the fight against breast cancer. Now, there are dozens of organizations that work toward helping breast cancer survivors and those currently battling it as well as raising awareness.


Why October?


The main reason October is NBCAM is simply because the first Race for the Cure was help that month in Texas. Now, the Susan G. Komen Foundation sponsors races all over the country that help raise money for breast cancer awareness.


If you’re looking for a more detailed history about breast cancer awareness and activism, an extensive research study was done, tracing the disease back to when it was not really talked about and doctors had little idea of what cancer even was. Various women have been hugely influential in raising awareness about breast cancer, from organizing fundraisers, races, and rallies to writing memoirs about their own personal struggles with the disease.


Women’s Health and Maternal Depression

For new mothers, it’s common to experience feelings of depression during and after their pregnancies. According to the CDC’s official page on maternal depression, 1 in 9 women experience some form of maternal depression. This depression can be slight, with fluctuating feelings of sadness and stress, but in some mothers it’s much more extreme. While emotionalness is common, especially during pregnancy when hormones are drastically fluctuating, depression is a feeling of extreme sadness that doesn’t go away after a few days.


Symptoms of maternal depression


If you’re an expectant or new mother, it’s vital that you look out for these symptoms. Having maternal depression can seriously impact you and your child, so it should be treated as soon as possible. Treatment is possible, but you need to talk to a trained professional who can determine what will work the best for you. Here are the main symptoms of maternal depression, varying between types of maternal depression: unable to sleep, fatigue, weeping, irritability, frustration, anxiety, extreme mood fluctuations, obsessive thoughts (commonly of harming the infant), inability to bond with child, and suicidal thoughts. While this list is quite long, there are still many other symptoms that could indicate signs of maternal depression.


Different types


Maternal depression is the overarching category of experiencing depression when pregnant or post-pregnancy; there are a few types of maternal depression that have different symptoms and occur at different times of the pregnancy. The first is prenatal depression, which can occur in the very early stages of pregnancy and even before a woman becomes pregnant, but her body is preparing to. Baby Blues occurs during pregnancy and can affect up to 80% of expectant mothers. Postpartum depression is the intense depression that occurs after a baby is born and is diagnosed once feelings of depression last over two after the baby’s birth. The final type is postpartum psychosis, which is rare, but also very dangerous. Hospitalization is necessary because symptoms of this kind of maternal depression include auditory and visual hallucinations involving the baby and a “presence of darkness,” which often leads women suffering from this depression to attempt to harm their newborn children.


An extensive guide on maternal depression is available at this link.