State of New Jersey. Department of Health and Senior Services

perinatal mood disorders. speak up when you are down


Sylvia, Michael and MelinaA career woman, Sylvia had waited a number of years with her husband, Michael, before they had a baby. They waited until they were ready, and when they made the decision they had the finances and the resources they wanted to start their family.

Sylvia had a planned C-section, and everything in her pregnancy had seemingly gone as expected. This was to be the happiest moment of her life. But once her daughter was born, she realized she wasn't happy at all.

“I looked into her eyes, and I knew something was wrong. I felt like, oh my God, what did I just do, I made the biggest mistake of her life.”

Sylvia spoke with the nurses, who assured her not to worry, that it was just the baby blues and with time it would pass. She spent the next week in the hospital, but the pain and sadness lingered even as she brought the baby home.

“From the moment I got out of that car… I just started to cry. I handed her (Sylvia’s mother) the baby and ran upstairs and shut the door and sobbed.”

She began to feel angry, and directed her anger toward others. Sylvia would look at her husband and get angry that nothing had changed for him, and here she was laden with loneliness and responsibilities. The first few days home were a struggle, and then things began to fall apart.

“I had a nightmare ... I had gone over to my daughter’s bassinet and smothered her. So in the middle of that I woke up and was literally wet with sweat. I was so afraid to walk over to the bassinet and see what I had done because it had felt so real.”

After making sure her daughter was OK, she still couldn’t shake how real and disturbing this dream had felt. She ran to the nightstand and emptied all the contents onto the bed, ready to swallow a handful of pills.

“At that moment, Melina just sighed and I just cried. I couldn’t believe that I was going to do the unthinkable.”

She called her mother who sent word to Michael, and they both rushed home to Sylvia. After Sylvia admitted what was happening, her mother took the baby home and an army of family and friends took turns keeping watch over Sylvia.

“It was a very tough period. I was like a child myself. I felt like a failure. What kind of mother? What type of monster? That’s the way I felt. So it was very difficult.“

Although it was only eight years ago, postpartum depression wasn’t mentioned when Sylvia gave birth, and it took several doctors before her condition was properly diagnosed. For Sylvia, that was one of the worst parts.

“The stigma in any depression is heavy, but to have that associated with a mother not wanting her child, the stigma is just so heavy and severe. Postpartum depression is 100 percent treatable, but you first have to ask for help. And that includes the family; if your husband knows that something's wrong, do not be afraid to reach out for help.”

Sylvia would eventually find the right doctor, the right therapy and the right medicine to treat her postpartum depression. Now, she focuses on outreach, because the worst part of her disease was being alone.

“Do not be afraid, let go of the shame, and once you come clean you will receive the right help, I promise you. You’re not alone.”