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Anna’s Postpartum Depression Story

Anna was so excited to have her baby.  Her friends celebrated her first pregnancy by giving her a lavish shower full of cute baby clothes, blankets, diapers, and many other necessities. At the shower, there were lots of smiles and “awes” from all at her party.  Two weeks later, Anna gave birth to an 8-pound beautiful, healthy baby. 

Within days after coming home, Anna’s world collapsed and tossed her into a sea of confusion, pain, and depression.  She felt worried and hopeless and had a hard time bonding with her baby.  These feelings left Anna terrified for herself and baby.  Anna was experiencing postpartum depression.

She was not prepared for what was happening to her.  Throughout her prenatal care, Anna’s health care providers, birthing class specialists, and obstetricians had shared about the joys of being a new mother and had never talked about postpartum depression and the symptoms she might experience. When symptoms did occur, Anna was taken by complete surprise; she had no clue that she was the one out of five mothers whose life would be impacted by Postpartum Depression.

What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?

Women who have PPD suddenly experience depression while challenged with the overwhelming demands of caring for a newborn baby and while recovering from childbirth.  The new mother can experience up to five Major Depressive Disorder symptoms that are present nearly every day.  She may suddenly experience many of the following symptoms:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Lack of interest or pleasure in all or most activities
  3. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  4. Recurrent thoughts of death
  5. Recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan or attempt
  6. Significant weight gain or loss
  7. Insomnia or hypersomnia
  8. Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  9. Poor concentration

What makes depression so poignant for postpartum women is childbirth is culturally celebrated, and there is an expectation that new parents, especially mothers, will be joyful as they care for their new baby.” 

Dr. Walker Karraa, Ph.D., noted author and leader in maternal mental health

The demands of caring for a newborn on a mother are substantial. The demands are often difficult to bear in normal circumstances, and any additional stress, complications, and risk factors exacerbate the disability of the mother to deal with depression symptoms (e.g., overwhelming sadness, disabling tiredness, loss of interest, and difficulty concentrating on even the simplest tasks). New mothers often feel the stigma of suffering from a mental illness, when they had expected to feel total joy and astonishment over their new baby.

Anna reacted exactly as Dr. Karraa describes. She misunderstood her condition and felt the guilt of suffering from a mental illness. It is no wonder that even though Anna knew she wanted to be a good Mother, she resisted getting help.

How Can We Help Mothers like Anna?

Nearly 80% of the 2600 mothers giving birth each year in San Luis Obispo County experience some form of Postpartum Depression— from the mild Baby Blues to the full-blown Postpartum Depression with Anxiety and Panic Disorders. Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) and Pregnancy & Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County (PPS) have teamed together to promote physical and mental health for mothers, children, and families through their programs and outreach. Their services include:

Postpartumwellness.org—Thanks to the generous financial support provided by First 5 San Luis Obispo County, CFS and PPS have created and maintained a website where prospective, and new parents can connect and learn about symptoms and treatments for Baby Blues, Postpartum Depression, and Anxiety Disorders.  The website provides a a 24 hour hotline so mothers can get immediate help.

Pregnancy & Parenting Support is a safe place a mother can turn to receive emotional support, empathy and personable care.  Pregnancy and Parenting Support staff is trained to recognize the signs of PPD, to make needs assessments and refer Mothers to mental health counselors as required.  The staff empowers mothers, helping them become self-reliant and strong advocates for themselves and their families. In addition to emotional support and counseling referrals for maternal mental health concerns, PPS also provides tangible necessities as needed for the well being of families with children up to age two.  PPS is a bilingual and bicultural agency that supports families of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Women in SLO County experiencing any PPD symptoms can call Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 for free, confidential information and referrals.

Educational Outreach—Postpartum Depression often affects the entire family.  Center for Family Strengthening provides extensive educational outreach to the entire SLO County community to create awareness about Postpartum Depression and to promote physical and mental health for mothers, children, and families.  CFS is well versed in the network of social services agencies and provides linkages to other agencies to support the new mother and her baby.  Through its Parent Connection program, CFS offers parents confidential, one-on-one parent coaching at no cost in English and Spanish. Parents and caregivers needing support can call 805-543-3700 to connect with a parent coach.

CFS and PPS collaborate to bring Maternal Mental Health Support groups in areas of the community that are secluded from the rest of the county.  These support groups are designed to help mothers connect with other mothers and with professionals to receive the services and support they need most. Contact Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 to join a group or refer a mother.

Postpartum Depression is serious and left untreated may cause significant stress and potentially trigger abuse of the newborn baby.  A woman cannot “pull herself out of it” any more than she can pull herself out of a heart attack.  All symptoms, from the mildest to the most severe are treatable.  Most importantly, a woman does not need to suffer through this alone.

Mothers remember:

You are not alone

You are not to blame

You will get better

There is help!

Women in SLO County experiencing symptoms, partners, and concerned family members can call Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 for free, confidential information and referrals. Pregnant/postpartum women and their families will be connected with qualified treatment services and accessible health resources as needed.