Resources available for mothers suffering from postpartum depression

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published February 28, 2020

 Shutterstock image

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — While having a new baby can be one of the happiest times in a person’s life, many new mothers suffer in often unseen ways as a result of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is a major depressive episode that can occur in women during pregnancy or after giving birth. It is estimated to affect approximately 1 in 9 women who have given birth in the United States, and more than 13% of women in Michigan, according to the Team Wellness Center, a metro Detroit organization that provides a variety of clinics and treatment programs.

“It’s important to get the word out, because there are quite a few women who suffer from postpartum depression who are having difficulty getting treated,” said Vanita Robinson, a nurse practitioner with the Team Wellness Center. “At a time which should be one of the happiest times of their lives, they can have trouble functioning or bonding with their baby. We want them to be able to get treated.”

Cassie Schultz, a postpartum doula and founder of Great Lakes Doulas LLC, said that one of the things that makes postpartum depression difficult to diagnose is that it can be exhibited in a variety of ways.

“There are many different symptoms. Common ones include lack of appetite or overeating, sleeping too much or too little, irritability and intrusive thoughts (unintentional, unwanted and disturbing images that randomly pop up in a person’s mind),” Schultz said in an email. “The thing I see the most commonly through my work as a postpartum doula is anxiety — particularly symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder. Trouble falling asleep even if the baby is asleep is also a common symptom.”

Schultz said she experienced postpartum depression herself when she gave birth to her first child. It was what inspired her to try and help other women going through the condition.

“Before getting pregnant, I was so excited to become a mother (that) the possibility of becoming depressed felt unimaginable despite my having a history of both anxiety and depression,” she wrote. “Pregnancy was more difficult than I expected though. Then I had a very traumatic experience giving birth to my baby girl and had symptoms of anxiety (particularly panic attacks and intrusive thoughts) immediately.”

She said things were made more complicated due to many medical professionals not having a focus on postpartum depression and its symptoms.

“Unfortunately, many mental health professionals and maternal care providers simply don’t understand birth trauma,” Schultz wrote. “I was on medication and in therapy, but it wasn’t the right treatment for the trauma, so my anxiety worsened and my depression became so severe that I was at risk of suicide. It took 10 months to recover; during that time, I saw several health professionals, was put on and off of multiple medications, and had two stays in psychiatric hospitals. It felt like an absolute nightmare, but I was extremely lucky that I eventually found the resources and treatment that I needed to recover.”

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to treat the condition, so long as the patient is working with the proper sort of medical professional.

“As a postpartum doula, my role is a complement to care given by other professionals. I often recommend therapy, and many of my clients take anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants when coping with a (perinatal mood and anxiety disorder),” Schultz stated. “When I am in the home with a client, I am able to be a listening ear and talk through her experience as much as she needs, while also providing practical help so that she is able to get the rest and nourishment she needs to recover.”

The Team Wellness Center is offering a new new treatment program which could aid mothers experiencing postpartum depression.

“We’re the first group to offer this treatment in Michigan,” said Robinson. “Zulresso is a 60-hour IV infusion and done over the course of 3 1/2 days. Our pre- and post-depression screening shows huge improvements as a result. Zulresso is a neuroactive steroid gamma-amino acid. It’s a medication that influences neuroreceptors so the body can decrease the enzyme production that results in depression. I just worked with a mother who went through the treatment, and she is now bonding with her baby and is back to work. … We are trying to make this treatment available in the community; right now, it is only available in hospitals.”

She added that several different medical approaches can be offered to help new mothers cope with postpartum depression.

“We offer therapy services, cognitive behavioral therapy, didactic and motivational interviewing and medication management programs, alongside our Zulresso treatment,” Robinson said.

Both Robinson and Schultz said more needs to be done to ensure new mothers have access to these resources.

“As a society, we don’t put a strong emphasis on the importance of mental health and wellness. We also tend to ignore the importance of a mother’s recovery after giving birth,” Schultz wrote. “The word postpartum itself actually refers to the period of time after birth. This is a time of immense change both physically, emotionally and in lifestyle. Families need a lot of support at this time, yet often their needs are simply overlooked. For example, at the end of her pregnancy, a woman is likely seeing her care provider every week or even more. After the baby is born though, she probably will not see her doctor again until six weeks. So many changes happen during those six weeks, many problems are missed in women (and their partners) and it simply slips through the cracks.”

Robinson said anyone going through postpartum depression or who is exhibiting symptoms should seek medical advice immediately. Team Wellness Center’s 24/7 hotline can be reached at (313) 921-4700.

She added that the long-lasting effects of postpartum depression cannot be underestimated.

“It can be very debilitating and impair function,” Robinson said. “It can last as long as two years. That’s two years of not bonding with the baby and can result in difficulty maintaining a job or keeping a home. It can have real long-lasting impacts on both the mother and baby.”