FINDING HOPE: Coping with postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders

Posted at 10:16 PM, Oct 09, 2019
and last updated 2020-02-18 20:35:47-05

"This is Croix, and he's my second," said Marielle Kessler while holding her 8-month-old baby.

The Boise mother faces the same struggles as many new mothers.

"A lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, just unable to control any situation," Kessler said.

She's one of thousands experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, different forms of mental illness associated near the end of pregnancy or after the birth of a child. Kessler dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety after her first child, and again with her second.

"The first few months were really, really rough with sleep," Kessler said.

That sleep deprivation and trouble breastfeeding had a big impact on her emotions, as well as roller coaster hormone levels.

Trista Kovach is Kessler's perinatal mental health counselor at Saint Alphonsus. Kovach uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help new parents adjust.

"We can't control a lot of what's going on around us, babies in particular. They're going to cry, they're going to wake up at night. It's learning how to get to a breathing place so you can get calm and centered, and then change the way you're thinking about the same situation. It takes practice. It sounds simple, but it can be kind of daunting at times," Kovach explained.

"Trista does this thing called snap, stop, and breathe," Kessler said.

"Get a stretchy bracelet or a colored rubber band and keep it on your wrist. It's just an idea to get you to stop and breathe. The other thing I have women do is just count everything blue in the room. When you're focused on something, you can't be anxious," Kovach said.

Kovach says new parents should also remember the basics: drink water, eat healthy meals with protein consistently, take a walk outside, and most importantly, sleep.

"You need to sleep. New parents aren't getting sleep at all, but we want to get creative with sleep solutions. We know sleeping well or at least getting chunks of sleep can combat about 75 percent of anxiety and depression," Kovach said.

Kessler wants other moms to know, you're not alone. Don't be afraid to reach out and get help.

"Your hormones really are taking over so you're not yourself, but you can get through it. It feels so debilitating and it feels like you can't get out of that dark place when you're in it, but hopefully you can and you'll be okay, it just takes some time," Kessler said.

So what are the signs to look for? Kovach says if new parents still feel the so called "baby blues" more than two weeks postpartum, it could be a more serious perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. Some signs of postpartum depression and anxiety are: feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, significant crying, feeling overwhelmed and worried, and having scary intrusive thoughts.

Kessler and Kovach encourage parents to talk about what they are feeling through counseling or support groups. Saint Alphonsus offers several free support groups at both Nampa and Boise hospitals that are open to the community, no registration required.

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