Being a new parent is a massive adjustment—even if you have the luxury of extra help and resources. But Britney Spears also had the world watching (and scrutinizing) her every move—a situation that ultimately took a toll on her mental health.
In her highly anticipated memoir, The Woman in Me, the iconic pop singer reflected on the “psychologically very complicated” journey of raising her two kids, Jayden and Sean Preston, in the relentless public eye. She shared how the joy of pregnancy and parenthood was swiftly clouded by an overwhelming fear that she wouldn’t be able to protect her children from paparazzi or provide them with the privacy they deserved.
“My boys gave my life meaning,” Spears wrote. “And yet, becoming a mother while under so much pressure at home and out in the world was also much, much harder than I expected it would be.”
Spears was infamously hounded by the tabloids and constantly photographed while pregnant or with her young children—an experience she said contributed to sadness, anxiety, and fatigue. “Once the babies were born, I added on my confusion and obsession about [their] safety, which was ratcheting up the more media attention was on us,” she wrote, adding that this spiraled into feelings of depression and loneliness. She began isolating herself from friends and having trouble trusting those around her due to paranoia of “being watched from every corner.”
All this, Spears wrote, led to what she now believes were “just about every symptom of perinatal depression,” a condition the National Institute of Mental Health defines as “depression that occurs during or after pregnancy.” As her kids got older, she also developed “severe” postpartum depression (PPD), which is characterized by symptoms of depression, anxiety, guilt, and/or insomnia lasting longer than two weeks after childbirth, according to the Mayo Clinic. “I felt so confused,” she added. “All I had known my whole life was being exposed on every level. I didn’t know where to go or what to do.”
In her memoir, Spears acknowledged that, during this period, “every part of normal life had been stripped from me going out in public without becoming a headline [or] making normal mistakes as a new mother of two babies.” Her goal in sharing this personal story today, she said, is to offer support to new parents experiencing the isolation and helplessness that she once did, no matter their situation.
“Unfortunately, there wasn’t the same conversation about mental health back then that there is now,” she wrote. “But I hope any new mothers reading this who are having a hard time will get help early and will channel their feelings into something more healing.”