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Center for Family Strengthening supports women with postpartum depression 

One in six new mothers suffers from some form of the horrors of postpartum depression

By Ann Berry Gallegos, Center for Family Strengthening

–Anna was so excited to have her baby. Her friends celebrated her first pregnancy by giving her a lavish shower full of cute baby clothes, blankets, mobiles and many other necessities that brought smiles and “aww” to all at her party. Two weeks later, Anna gave birth to an 8 lb. beautiful girl.

Within days after coming home, Anna’s world collapsed around her and tossed her into a sea of confusion, disorientation, and sadness. She felt hopeless and terrified for her baby by everything she was feeling. Anna was experiencing postpartum depression.

She was not prepared for what was happening to her. Throughout her prenatal care, Anna’s health care providers, birthing class specialists, and obstetricians had talked about the joys of being a new mother and had never talked about postpartum depression and the terrifying symptoms she might experience. When symptoms did occur, Anna was taken by complete surprise; she had no clue that she was the one out of six new mothers whose life would sink into depression and anxiety.

What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
A new mother, confronted perhaps for the first time with the overwhelming demands of caring for a newborn baby or recovering from a difficult childbirth, may find herself experiencing one or many of the following symptoms:
a. Fatigue
b. Lack of interest or pleasure in all or most activities
c. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
d. Recurrent thoughts of death
e. Recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan or attempt
f. Significant weight gain or loss
g. Insomnia or hypersomnia
h. Psychomotor agitation or retardation
i. Poor concentration

Walker Karraa, Ph.D., noted author and thought leader in maternal mental health, says that what makes depression so poignant for postpartum women is that childbirth is culturally celebrated and there is an expectation that new parents, especially mothers, will be joyful as they care for their new baby. In actuality, the demands on a new mother are substantial. The demands are often difficult to bear in normal circumstances; any additional stress, complications, and risk factors exacerbate the disability of the mother to deal with depression symptoms (e.g., overwhelming sadness, disabling tiredness, loss of interest, motor retardation and difficulty concentrating on even the simplest tasks). New mothers often feel the stigma of suffering from a mental illness when they had expected to feel total joy and wonderment over their new baby.

Anna reacted exactly as Dr. Karra describes. She misunderstood her condition and felt the stigmatic guilt of suffering from a mental illness. It is no wonder that even though Anna knew she wanted to be a good mother, she resisted getting help.

How can we help mothers like Anna?

Nearly 20 percent of the 2700 mothers giving birth each year in San Luis Obispo County experience some form of Postpartum Depression— from the mild Baby Blues to the full blown Postpartum Depression with Anxiety and Panic Disorders. ALPHA Pregnancy and Parenting Support and Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) have teamed together to promote physical and mental health for mothers, children, and families through their programs and outreach.

Their services include:
Postpartumwellness.org—Thanks to generous financial support provided by First 5 San Luis Obispo County, CFS and ALPHA have created and maintained a website where prospective, and new Moms and their partners can connect and learn about symptoms and treatments for Baby Blues, Postpartum Depression, and Anxiety Disorders. The website provides a “support line” so the mother can get immediate help.

ALPHA Pregnancy and Parenting Support—ALPHA is safe place a mother can turn to receive emotional support, empathy and person care without judgment. ALPHA Specialists are trained to recognize the signs of PPD and to conduct needs assessments and refer mothers to mental health counselors as required. These Specialists empower mothers, helping them become self-reliant and strong advocates for themselves and their families. In addition to emotional support and counseling referrals for maternal mental health concerns, ALPHA also provides tangible necessities as needed for the well-being of the mother and her infant. ALPHA provides bilingual services and supports families of all ethnic backgrounds.

One-on-One Coaching—Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) also provides access to emotional support and treatment for Mothers suffering from PPD. Through its Parent Connection program, CFS offers mothers one-on-one parent coaching counseling in English as well as Spanish. CFS is well-versed in the network of social services agencies to provide linkages to other agencies as required to support a new mother and her baby.

Educational Outreach—Postpartum Depression often affects the entire family. Center for Family Strengthening provides extensive educational outreach to entire SLO County community to create awareness about Postpartum Depression and to promote physical and mental health for mothers, children, and families.

Postpartum Depression is serious and left untreated may cause significant stress for both the mother and infant. A woman cannot “pull herself out of it” any more than she can pull herself out of a heart attack. All symptoms, from the mildest to the most severe are treatable—a woman does not need to suffer through this alone.

Keep our community healthy and vibrant; please support ALPHA and Center for Family Strengthening with your donations for all the wonderful work they do for the Moms and Families of San Luis Obispo County. Go to www.sloalpha.org and www.cfsslo.org to contribute to the Postpartum Depression Support Services.

About Center for Family Strengthening (formerly SLO-CAP): In 1988 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors designated Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) as the self-governing entity responsible for local efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. Center for Family Strengthening is dedicated to strengthening families through education and advocacy. Center for Family Strengthening partners with family support organizations in SLO County to provide resources to families in need, protect children from abuse and neglect, and ensure that strong families are a community priority. To donate or learn more about Center for Family Strengthening go to www.cfsslo.org or call 805 543-6216.

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