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Your Life, Your Health: How common is Postpartum Depression?

You've heard of postpartum depression before - but do you actually know what it is or how common? New York State health experts say 15 percent of women will suffer postpartum during or after pregnancy.

"I was terrified to be alone." Says mother of two Stephanie Cannoe of Clifton Park. "It was challenging to walk down the stairs holding my son feeling like I might fall and kill him. Feeling all the anxieties out of control."

Scotia's Chrissy Thompson suffered postpartum after the birth of her first child. The birth itself she describes as traumatic - she thinks the depression started there. "You see Moms pushing strollers in the park and it's this big joyous thing. I did not feel joyous at all."

Keep in mind, the 15 percent statistic is only based of reported numbers. Many women suffer in silence, too guilty or ashamed to come forward because of the strong stigma attached to it. Doctor Renee Samelson, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Albany Medical Center says the stigma to this mental health diagnosis is so bad women will not seek help.

"The more we talk about this publically and without shame, I think the less problems we'll have with this disease." Dr. Samelson says. "And it will be treated sooner to it doesn't get so severe."

Maternal depression comes in many forms - not just postpartum. It can happen during pregnancy, whereas postpartum can lasts for months afterwards. Symptoms include feeling sad, inadequate or guilty. A woman can also experience trouble concentrating, have intense anxiety or worrying. Then there's the "baby blues' which usually goes away two weeks after delivery. This is very common, about 80% of women will experience anxiety or irritability with "baby blues.'

Dr. Samelson says a screening for different types of maternal depression is done with a questionnaire consisting of 10 questions.

"It asks about your mood, how to do you feel, do you have energy? Are you thinking of self-harm or harm to others?" She says.

On a community level however, both Stephanie and Chrissy told me once they did decide to seek help, finding it was very difficult. In fact, Stephanie wrote an article published in the Huffington Post last year called "My Truth About Postpartum.'

"I was told to, you know "| go find play groups or other types of support in the community." She explains. "And when I would it was really more isolating because the other women didn't understand the depth of my experience."

Facing similar struggles, Chrissy turned to social media - reaching out to other mothers on Facebook.

"I've shared my story a couple of times on social media and gotten so many private messages from mothers saying, hey .. I feel like this too."

Stephanie wants to create a local support network for mom battling depression. She's looking for volunteers and hopes to provide peer support.

"Looking back, I'd never want to go through it again." She says. "And that's why it's so important for me to be a hand to help other women in that dark place."

To reach Stephanie, you can email her at: scannoe@ yahoo.com
If you'd like to read her Huffington Post article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/motherwoman/my-truth-about-postpartum_b_6129606.html

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