After Touche Williams had her first baby at 21, she was taken by an overwhelming sadness. “I didn’t want to talk to anybody,” she says. “I became distant (with family, friends). I wanted to be left alone.” Jessica Mayne had trouble breastfeeding her newborn baby, which would often result in sleepless nights and her and the baby both in tears. She felt like she let her child down.
These young women are among the 10 to 15 percent in Summit County who face maternal depression. While it’s typical to have the “Baby Blues” after giving birth, if the anxiety, sadness, trouble sleeping and hopelessness persist after a few weeks, then postpartum depression could be a likely diagnosis.
In Summit County, nearly 30 community partners have joined the effort to spread awareness and help treat maternal depression, along with fighting stereotypes, through the Summit County Maternal Depression Network.
One of the biggest barriers to women receiving treatment for this common disorder is stigma and shame, says Beth Kuckuck, co-chair for the Network, who’s also Children’s Program Coordinator for the County of Summit Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.
“Maternal mood disorders are a complication of pregnancy just like gestational diabetes. It is treatable and we can help,” says Kuckuck, who adds the coalition also seeks to increase the number of women screened and referred for maternal depression and can refer providers for this effort.
Williams and Mayne both got involved with Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority’s (AMHA) Mom-ME program, which offers a support network of other moms, along with childcare.
“It felt good to know there were other women going through the same thing I was experiencing in life, with children, responsibilities, how to handle stress,” says Williams. “I feel more uplifted than I was at the beginning. I’m able to talk more. I’m more open.”
Through Mom-ME Time, Mayne realized she indeed does have maternal depression, so she was also referred to Ohio Guidestone. “The person I’m working with is just great,” she says. “She’s so easy to talk to and she’s really helped a lot. She’s having me figure out different ways to deal with my stress and deal with my depression and overall be able to relax a little bit more.” And although Mayne doesn’t have reliable transportation, counselors are able to make make home visits, which is a plus for her.
“Maternal depression is a leading cause of disease related disability among women,” says Monica Mlinac, director of Program Development for Ohio Guidestone, who adds that during childbearing years, women are more at risk of experiencing maternal depression.
Part of the fight against stigma is educating the public about the rarity with which women experience psychosis. Extreme psychosis only occurs in one to two out of every 1,000 moms who give birth, although these extreme cases garner disproportionate amounts of media attention.
Despite the infrequency of psychosis, make no mistake, says Kuckuck: “For some women, getting this information and the help available could be the difference between life and death.”
For a list of resources for maternal depression, visit http://summitcountyfirstthingsfirst.com/working-groups/summit-county-maternal-depression-network/.
Below are some tips from the First Things First site:
Up to 80 percent of women experience the baby blues. The baby blues are characterized by brief or mild depressive symptoms such as:
• Mood swings
• Trouble sleeping
The baby blues may only last a few days or up to 8 weeks. If the baby blues last longer than two weeks you may have postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression affects 10-15 percent of women. Symptoms of postpartum depression last longer than the baby blues and are more intense. These symptoms may include:
• Mood swings
• Feeling worried, anxious, overwhelmed
• Feeling sad, hopeless, crying a lot
• Fatigue, no energy, trouble sleeping
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
• Changes in appetite
• Thoughts of hurting yourself or your child(ren)
Effective treatments for depression may include:
• Medication prescribed by your doctor
• Counseling by a licensed professional
• Joining a support group
• Mental Health Case Management
• In-Home services
• Get enough sleep
• Nap when the baby naps
• Ask your partner, family, or friends for help
• Eat a healthy diet
• Give yourself a treat
• Exercise, stay active
• Talk about your feelings with people you trust
• Join a support group or talk to other mothers
• Don’t try to be perfect