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Kathleen M. Mahoney, RN, APN, is a perinatal clinical nurse specialist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. She addresses some common questions about perinatal mood disorders.
Mahoney: Itís required by law in New Jersey that we screen all postpartum women for pospartum depression before they go home. Every hospital has to do this. And itís at that time that the nurses or the social workers, whoever is doing the screening, takes the opportunity to educate the mother and the family about the symptoms of postpartum depression even if they donít screen at being for risk for this disorder.
Alicia, PPD survivor: I answered all the questions pretty much to the affirmative that, you know within the last week, Iíd felt nervous or anxious, or sad, depressed, crying, all of the above. I was really, really scared about having that surgery and really afraid. I just had this feeling of dread all of the time that something terrible was going to happen.
Mahoney: So the regulation and the legislation on screening and education in New Jersey is working.
Mahoney: Extreme anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic, flashbacks to the delivery can be some of the symptoms of PMDs.
Sylvia, PPD survivor: I didnít have that bond, didnít feel anything.
Wendy, PPD survivor: Constant buzzing that was getting louder and louder in me, this anxiety buzz that was just Ö it was getting to a point where I couldnít ignore it. And it was just always there.
Connie, PPD survivor: I would envision him in the oven, burning. And I could see him, even though I knew he wasnít there, I could see him in the oven as a newborn, burning.
Nancy, PPD survivor: But I still would look at her and I would have visions of her being sick or me with my family burying her, a little casket.
Mahoney: Whenever a woman has a question as to whether or not sheís coping well of if she thinks something is wrong, she should always contact her physician. We would never tell a woman not to contact a doctor. So if her family or herself feels that something is going on, she should contact her physician.
Adrienne, PPD survivor: He called my doctor, without me knowing, and told her what was going on. And so she called me and just said, Oh, Iím just calling to check up on you and see how things are going. And I said, everythingís fine. And she said, well, Iím going to order you a medication that I want you to pick up and just try and see if it helps. And I said, no, Iím not taking it. Thereís nothing wrong with me. Itís not me. But the next day, I donít know why, but I went and got the medication and I didnít tell anybody. And I started taking it without telling anybody and I thought, well letís see what happens. And it slowly started to get better.
Mahoney: Postpartum depression is true, clinical depression. About one in eight of women can suffer from postpartum depresision. It is treatable, it is something that can be diagnosed by a physician and that the woman need not suffer with.
Thaydra, PPD survivor: I think that I would have gotten help instead of trying to hide it the first time. I think that I would have taken peopleís advice in trying to do a lot more to try and help myself. I think I was trying to be supermom.
Mahoney: Family can help by being a support to the woman. We know that women who have a good support structure, who have people to depend on to help her with care of the baby, care of herself, care of her activities of daily living generally do a little bit better and maybe even get over the initial baby blues from the delivery with that kind of support and help. So families can definitely help with the support. In addition, families can help by recognizing that the woman is depressed, that the woman is not coping well with her activities of daily living or that sheís having problems with the baby. If they recognize them, even if the woman doesnít, then they can get her the help that she needs.
Diane, mother of Thaydra who suffered PPD twice: I talked to her and asked her how she felt and then I said, we need to get help. And at that point, I think Thaydra was happy that I mentioned that we need to get help because at that point she was ready to give it up.
Mahoney: The first thing she can do is not be afraid to ask for help. So she can call her physician and make an appointment, get the treatment she needs. But thereís daily things she can do too Ė making sure she gets plenty of rest, help with the baby if she needs it, takes those naps when the baby is napping making sure she doesnít get overtired. She can get a support group. These are available in many communities and she can call local hospitals to find out where these support groups are occurring. She needs to make sure she eats a healthy diet, keeping herself as healthy as possible in order to make sure that stress doesnít get her down and that the mood disorders and postpartum depression canít feed off of that lack of energy and fatigue and poor nutrition.
Wendy, PPD survivor: Itís so much more difficult to do it by yourself. You suffer longer and itís just such a relief to hear other people, itís still, my babyís almost two years old, and itís still so comforting to hear other women say that theyíve been through the same thing.
Mahoney: In New Jersey, we have a 1-800 number that families or moms can call if they think they need the help. The number is 1-800-328-3838. This immediately goes to someone who is trained to answer the phone and all the woman or the family member has to say is we have an issue with someone who has just had a baby or I think I have postpartum depression or somethingís wrong with my postpartum experience and they will be linked immediately into a mental health professional who can triage them and ask them questions on the phone. This is available in English and in Spanish.
Dana, PPD survivor: I called the hotline and right away I was set up with a therapist that actually got back to me that night. And I was able to actually go that night, which was great because I felt like I was at the end of my rope.
Mahoney: In addition, thereís a website, www.njspeakup.gov. Thatís where they can go and learn about what professional are learning about postpartum depression if they have questions about it, maybe finding out what are the symptoms. The families can go there. This website also has English and Spanish information on it.
Mahoney: Anyone can get postpartum depression. It doesnít matter what your race, your ethnicity, whether you make a lot of money or make no moneyat all, whether you work or donít work, it doesnít matter. Everyone is at risk for postpartum depression. But some people are more at risk: people who have a pre-existing depression, even if it was treated, are more at risk for postpartum depression; people who had postpartum depression with a previous birth, even if they didnít have it with their second baby, might get it again with their third baby. So each woman has to be treated separately with each pregnancy so that we can properly screen them and get them the help that they need.
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Last Modified: Thursday, 12-Jul-12 11:45:02