Health Beat

Health Beat: Postpartum mood disorders

RALEIGH, N.C. - When she discovered she was pregnant, Natasha Williams was ecstatic.

"My husband and I, we had multiple baby showers. We attended all of the pre-prep classes, if you will," Williams said.

But when her son arrived, things didn't go as planned.

"Within 24 hours after giving birth to my son, I felt very sad. I felt overwhelmed. I almost felt trapped, as if I had made a huge mistake," Williams continued.

Williams was diagnosed with postpartum depression and was treated with medication and counseling.

Ten to 20 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Betty-Shannon Prevatt, a clinical psychologist at North Carolina State University, found 21 percent of them keep that to themselves.

"I was surprised, mainly because the sample that we ended up recruiting were white, married, affluent women for the most part," Prevatt explained.

Meaning they could access and afford treatment.

But Carrie Banks, the volunteer services manager for Postpartum Support International, said mothers keep quiet because of the stigma that hangs over mental health issues.

"Everyone expects you to be so happy, and women are afraid to say, 'I'm not happy. This isn't working. Something's not right," Banks said.

Banks' organization hosts in-person support groups and a support phone line in English and Spanish. It also connects women with medical professionals. That meant everything to Williams.

"I'm just thankful that treatment allowed me to meet this time in my life. I don't think without it, I would be here," Williams said.

Postpartum Support International is the leading organization supporting women with all types of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. PSI has volunteers in 50 states and 49 countries. Get support locally by calling what it calls its warmline at 800-944-4773.


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