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Health Team

Postpartum depression very treatable

Posted November 5, 2008 4:49 p.m. EST
Updated November 5, 2008 6:39 p.m. EST

— The birth of a child is supposed to be one of the most joyous events in a woman's life.

That's why many women can't understand why they suffer from postpartum depression.

As many as one in 10 new mothers can be affected within six months of delivery, and many women suffer without knowing that there's a name for it – or that they can find help to overcome it.

That was the case for Melissa Ansbacher, of Raleigh. After the birth of her first child, she says she experienced crushing anxiety and inexplicable sadness.

"I did not know what was going on, and, I think, that was part of the problem," she said.

It was three months before she learned it was postpartum depression.

"You know, you have this profound love for your children, but yet, all I could think about is, 'When are they going to take a nap?'" Ansbacher said.

She desperately wanted to feel better, but says the condition got worse every day.

Ansbacher said she thought she was the only one who ever felt that way. A few years later, however, her next door neighbor, Suzanne Stannard, had the same problem after the birth of her daughter.

Her doctor helped with medication. She also received counseling and joined a peer support group facilitated by Ansbacher.

"It was just so relieving to me," Stannard said. "It was just like a huge weight off."

Ansbacher felt a commitment to help others after she got better with the same help she received from Moms Helping Moms.

"It was a safe place to be in the sense that I didn't feel like I was being judged," Ansbacher said.

Both women say they wanted to reach beyond their group to other women suffering in silence.

"It's extremely treatable, highly treatable," Ansbacher said. "You do get well, but it's not, you know, you don't just flip off a switch."

"But I think it's important for women to know that if you experience this, it's OK," Stannard said. "Things will get better. There is hope."

The best place to start for women who are suffering postpartum depression is with their personal doctor. A doctor can diagnose the illness and start the patient on the path to recovery. Many women do well with counseling and peer support, while others may need medication as well.

Postpartum depression can recur when women have other children, but experts say that once mothers have been equipped with the tools of coping – knowing what it is, what to expect and where to go for help – they have a better recovery.