Times Colonist

Nurses’ visits help postpartum depression

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As a clinical counsellor, I provided therapy and support to over 2,000 mothers experienci­ng postpartum depression and learned that the debilitati­ng anxiety that they experience­d after the birth, and in some cases during pregnancy, cuts across all socioecono­mic levels of our society. Through no fault of their own, about 15 per cent of people have a predisposi­tion to anxiety and depression and the hormonal shifts, the stress of caring for a newborn and lack of sleep can trigger postpartum depression in otherwise well-functionin­g women.

A variety of symptoms, including intense worry, panic, feeling overwhelme­d, insomnia and frightenin­g thoughts, break down a mother’s confidence, frighten her and make her ashamed. Many of the affected mothers keep their distress secret because they think they are “going crazy,” which is not true, and so they become isolated and in some rare cases suicidal. Such mothers often will not attend baby groups or phone for help because today’s parents, especially mothers, experience a huge societal pressure to be perfect parents and any perceived shift from this imposed standard fosters guilt and shame.

The health nurse who visits in the early postpartum period is trained to assess the mother’s emotional state, educate her about the symptoms of depression and anxiety and help alleviate feelings of shame and fear so that the mother may reach out for help.

The cutback in Health Nurses’ visits to all new moms is a funding issue. However, studies have shown that a mom’s severe distress in the first year postpartum can affect the physical, social and cognitive developmen­t of the infant and threaten the stability of the family unit. Postpartum visits by health nurses go a long way to save public money by reducing the consequenc­es of families becoming dysfunctio­nal.

Help is available, moms. Don’t suffer alone and be afraid. Contact your health nurse or doctor and get started on feeling better. Joan Wale Victoria

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