Our Postpartum Truth – In Her Words : My Support System

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By: Michele Inzelbuch, LCSW, LCDAC

Women who suffer from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety often feel alone, isolated or ashamed. Watching friends or family members reveling in the joy newborns bring can intensify these emotions in a struggling mom.

Many hospitals, including those in Monmouth County, conduct the Edinburgh evaluation that identifies PPD/A symptoms, prior to discharge, when help is readily available. Many women do not show any symptoms while still in the hospital. New parents are sent home with an overwhelming amount of information on how to care for the new baby, doctor follow-ups and concerns to look out for. But, a busy new parent may not even realize how the negative emotions are taking over and feel lost as to where to turn for help without the fear of judgment.

This month, women in recovery from Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety share their experience on finding support in hopes of bringing about a deeper understanding of PPD/PPA and recovery to the community.

N.D. “I went to individual therapy and I joined a PPD support group which was one of the most helpful things that really got me back on track,” she shared. Her family and friends were also a strong support system for her recovery. Group thera- py can help a person feel understood and find hope for improving their healing pro- cess. “Being able to talk to other women going through the same thing, with similar thoughts and fears was so validating and comforting.”

J.D.’s husband was her “biggest supporter.” Though J.D.’s mother made an attempt to be helpful, her mother’s lack of understanding of postpartum often made it worse. J.D. was unaware of the resources available to her after her sons were born, and she was not able to take the time to find a therapist when she was in the midst of her struggles. J.D. eventually sought out a therapist who she continues to see. Since beginning her healing process she now has “an amazingly supportive group of friends.” J.D. also educated herself on the supportive communities that exist online, and understands that having these additional supports in place would have vastly shortened and improved her PPD/A. Maintaining these positive support systems in her life, allows her to feel more confident moving forward. “I have a sup- port system in place.”

Throughout M.W.’s struggle with PPD, she was fortunate to have the support of her family and friends. M.W. tried to work with postpartum doulas, though it was not the right fit. Supportive friends opened up and shared their experiences that helped her feel less alone. “I happened to find a local group that, while not specific to PPD, dealt with adjusting to motherhood, and I found my current therapist there,” she said. In addition to medication she attended a program at Women and Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island with her son. “It’s a day-treatment program for perinatal mood disorders,” M.W. said. “That’s kind of where my recovery really started, having to be with my son all the time in a supported environment where I could learn more about attachment and parenting.”

    M.T. had family that was both supportive and others who were not. Fortunately, her parents understood her struggles with depression and anxiety, due to past experience, and saw the signs. They helped out caring for the baby when needed and occupied her 6 year-old allowing M.T. space for self-care and recovery. Upon the first symptoms of depression, M.T. reached out for help to the local Consortium (contact listed below), who directed her to a postpartum support group at Monmouth Medical Center (contact listed below). While attending group, “Pat from the Consortium continued to contact me weekly to make sure I was ok,” M.T. said. Pat had a friend who assisted M.T. in finding a psychiatrist and she returned to her past therapist. The friends that she met at the support group have been priceless to her in learning that she was not alone in her thoughts or feelings. When M.T.’s mother passed away at five months post- partum, she became even closer to the women in the group that had lost a parent because they were there to support her. Some family members still do not fully understand what she went through, but she also has family that continues to help when needed.

     These women were all able to have support in the home and, at some point in their recovery, found a support group. Having women confide in each other allows them to create relationships and friendships that would not have otherwise existed. Being able to hear someone’s story, one that closely matches theirs, created a feeling of normalcy, removed the feelings of isolation and decreased the feelings of shame. Having negative feelings and thoughts being validated by others helped these women understand that what they were experiencing its normal. When 1 in 7 women suffer from Postpartum Mood Disorders, this is normal. These women were the 15% of the 1 in 7 that reached out for help.

For the new mom from a survivor- don’t hold it in. If your support people do not know what you are going through, they cannot learn to understand, nor can they do what you need of them. Sharing will help the healing. Find a support group, find a good therapist, and find someone to tell it to.

If you or someone you know has concerns regarding PPD or is showing symp- toms, do not ignore them. You are not alone and there is help out there. Please reach out to the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium at 732-937-5437, the Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Pro- gram at Monmouth Medical Center at 732- 923-5573, or Michele Inzelbuch, LCSW, LCADC at 732-704-4331.