Friday, June 14, 2013

Postpartum Challenges: Very Common and So Treatable!

By Tiffany Howsam, MFT
I remember when one of my best friends told me that she had suffered from postpartum depression (PPD) after having her first child.  She didn’t tell me this until several years later.  I had no idea she was suffering.  It wasn’t until after I had my first child that I felt the weight of her experience.  Although I felt ready to be a mother and felt tremendous love for my baby, the transition to motherhood was difficult enough without the burden of anxiety and or depression.  I knew then that I wanted to help women and families adjust to life with a baby.  What could be more important than the health of moms and babies! For this reason, I’m very happy to announce that I will be leading a new support group at The Pump Station™ to help moms with these challenges. 

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I focused my private practice on pregnancy and postpartum related issues. I attended conferences, professional trainings and read all that I could about postpartum depression and anxiety. What surprised me most was learning that Postpartum Depression and Anxiety is the number one complication of childbirth, yet no one was talking about it!

At the time, there wasn’t a lot of media exposure and there was still a lot of shame and judgment around PPD. About a year later, Brooke Shields came out with her memoir, “Down Came the Rain,” an excellent book describing her experience with Postpartum Depression.  She really normalized the experience so many moms have gone through but weren’t able to talk about. Her book opened the door for moms to be able to discuss difficult feelings related to being a mother; the book let moms know that they are not alone and there is help. What I find so inspiring is that she had the courage to ask for help, she recovered, and she went on to have another child despite her traumatic experiences. 

I have been counseling moms individually, with their partners, and in support groups for eight years now. I love what I do. PPD is so treatable. With the right support and help, moms do feel better. I love seeing moms get through these challenges and really start to enjoy motherhood.

So what is Postpartum Depression and how does it differ from the baby blues? The baby blues usually occur within the 1st two weeks after giving birth and disappear within a week or two.

 Baby Blues: what you can expect:
  • Mood changes
  • Weepiness
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating

If these feelings persist beyond 3 weeks, you may be experiencing some form of postpartum depression or anxiety.

Postpartum Anxiety/Depression
1 in 5 women experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety. It can occur during pregnancy and up to one year after giving birth.
Symptoms can include:
  • Sad mood
  • Guilt, shame and inadequacy
  • Excessive worry
  • Lack of energy
  • Disinterest in your baby
  • Feeling worthless or hopeless
  • Irritability, anxiety, feeling on edge
  • Feeling like you are not yourself
  • Feeling like you are not a good mother
  • Feeling overwhelmed, as if you are drowning
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Unable to sleep, even at night when your baby is sleeping
  • Having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
  • No energy or motivation
  • Thoughts of suicide

Anyone can experience PPD, however, there are several risk factors.  The three risk factors that seem to have the greatest impact are personal/family history of anxiety/depression, marital difficulties, and lack of social support. 

One of the ways to help moms through this adjustment is by getting the needed support. Once a child is born, so much focus goes towards the baby that little attention is given to what the mother might need. This is where the Postpartum Challenges Support Group comes in.  Here you have a chance to talk about motherhood as it really is, including the difficulties, the stresses, the worries, and the joy.  You also have the opportunity to make connections with other moms having similar experiences.

This support group focuses on moms and ways to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby. I heard one person say it this way: when you get on an airplane with your child, your instructions are to put your oxygen mask on first so that you can take care of your child.  I love that analogy because it’s so difficult to take care of someone else if you aren’t feeling your best and there is no one we want to care for more than our own children.

8-Week Group starts July 18th, 2013 in our Santa Monica Store
Thursdays from 12:45pm - 2:15pm
For registration please email or call 310-998-1981.