Counselor: Postpartum depression common, treatable

- Faith McPherson loves every moment she spends with her 23-month-old daughter Braelyn.  However, times were not always so happy. "I had difficultly bonding with Braelyn initially, it took a while," Faith recalled.

During an emergency C-section in 2016, Faith required anesthesia. "When I woke up, there was a baby. I did not get the full throttle of being able to bond with her right away. I actually wasn't able to hold her for two days because of the pain meds.” 

That sense of detachment led to more symptoms of postpartum depression.  She recalls sitting at the dinner table with her mother one night. "I just looked at her and said ‘I feel weird.’"

Then, one night her mind took a dark turn and she experienced some intrusive thoughts when Braelyn wouldn't stop crying. "If I could just get her to be quiet, whatever that included. Whether it was leaving her in a room by herself or if I could just physically get her to be quiet.” 

St. Joseph's Women's Hospital counselor Beth Kuehling says Faith is not alone in experiencing postpartum depression. One in every seven new moms will experience it and it looks different for everyone. 

"Some have more of the depression, some have more anxiety, so there is no cookie-cutter view of what it looks like," offered Kuehling. 

She says screening plays a key role. St. Joe's Women's Hospital works with doctors in the area to screen at 28 weeks of pregnancy and six weeks after birth.  "It identifies any depressive or anxious symptoms. When we get those screens, any woman who scores over a 10 we reach out to."

Help can come in the form of therapy, support groups, and medication if needed. Kuehling says once women know it is OK to feel postpartum depression, they are OK talking about it more. 

Faith is better now but has continued to seek help in Beth Kuehling's office for almost two years. She still can't help but think about the 'what if.’

"It really does take my breath away to think where I would be emotionally as a mother if I hadn't reached out as early as I did," she continued. 

Faith hopes to spread a simple message to other mothers who may be struggling with postpartum depression: "It literally can affect anyone, anytime. Don't be ashamed of it."

LINK: For more information on postpartum care at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital

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