More than eight mothers gather every week to cry from sadness or from laughing too hard at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
They are part of the Hospital postpartum depression Support Group.
About 13 percent of the mothers tested at St. Joseph’s scored for at-risk for postpartum depression.
With this Depression, the joy a mother is having is mostly replaced by anxiety, panic and overall sadness, said Carole Sheehan, a nurse at St. Joseph’s.
Sheehan has been the mediator for the hospital’s support group since its launch in 2003.
Group members gather once a week to share their sorrows and fears with fellow Depression fighters, she said.
But it’s not always serious.
Postpartum refers to the period immediately after childbirth. Symptoms of depression that occur during this period are known as postpartum depression. Other symptoms of mood disorder such as sleeplessness, irritability and anxiety, also can occur.
Postpartum depression is not the same as the “baby blues,” a much more common condition that affects as many as three-quarters of new mothers. Because of hormonal changes that occur in the weeks after delivery, new moms often are emotionally sensitive and tend to cry easily. The baby blues is not a serious problem and it almost always goes away within a few weeks.
“We laugh a lot, but at times we cry, too,” said Orly Stahl, who has a 1-year-old daughter, Shoshana, and is pregnant with her second child. “Every meeting is different. - we just let it all out.”
“I can’t talk to my husband because he doesn’t understand,” Stahl said. “But here, people think like you.”
Vanessa Rowe has been attending the group for about a year and had a problem with her husband at first.
“He thought I was being silly and told me to ‘get over it,’ ” she said.
“I got frustrated and threw something really, really hard at the wall,” she said. “He looked surprised, but then I told him to ‘get over it.’ “
Her husband, Timothy, never said those three words again, she said.
The mothers talk about their complete day, good parts and bad.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
A woman with postpartum depression can have any of the following symptoms:
- Feeling depressed, with tearfulness or crying spells
- Feeling anxious, sometimes with obsessions and compulsions, often about the baby’s welfare or about being able to carry out responsibilities as a mother
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Feeling irritable or burdened
- Losing interest or pleasure in all activities, including pleasure in being a mother
- Changes in appetite (either overeating or not eating enough)
- Sleep problems (for example, difficulty falling asleep or waking especially early)
- Appearing slowed or agitated
- Extreme exhaustion beyond the normal fatigue caused by caring for a newborn
- Poor concentration or indecisiveness
- Persistent thoughts about death, including suicide
- Difficulty caring for the baby
These symptoms may develop in the first days after birth or as late as three months later.
“If we have a problem, we share it with the group and then discuss it,” said Rowe, mother of two.
“They listen and offer their own experience. And it’s nice to know that you are not alone,” she said.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD