New study could detect postpartum depression before birth

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s a problem that at least one out of seven mothers suffers from.

Postpartum depression is a form of depression new moms get that triggers all sorts of emotions, from excitement to fear and anxiety.

“I just came home from the hospital after a C-section and felt really sad. I cried every day. I was anxious at night. I was not sleeping at night,” said Erica Jancelewitcz.

Jancelewitcz said those feelings never seemed to stop when she had her first child five years ago.

She hid it from everyone, including her husband. She was unsure why she was always so sad.

“You bring home this brand-new baby, and you’re excited, and um, sorry I get emotional. It’s supposed to be a wonderful time. It’s not supposed to be a time where you are sad,” said Jancelewitcz.

She finally told her doctor at a check-up. Her doctor referred her to a therapist.

That’s when she learned she had postpartum depression, a mental and mood disorder that includes mood swings, sadness and anxiety and, in extreme cases, paranoia, confusion and even thoughts of harming yourself or your child.

“I was never screened. We never talked about it. I don’t ever remember anything about depression or anxiety,” said Jancelewitcz.

The causes of PPD aren’t really known, but a new study out of Belgium may be a game-changer.

Researchers found pregnant women dealing with mood swings or self-esteem issues during their second and third trimesters are more likely to become depressed after giving birth.

It suggests if doctors start performing mental health screenings early, they can direct moms to get treatment before going into labor.

Recently, the United States Preventative Task Force recommended all women get screened.

“We just expect that everything is going to be wonderful and perfect, and you’re going to love your baby and bring your baby home. It’s going to be delightful, and the rainbows and butterflies are going to run your house,” said Beth Shelton, a maternal mental health therapist in Memphis.

Shelton said doctors should constantly screen before and after giving birth.

“I think some doctors do. The problem is there’s not a lot of places to refer them,” she said.

Shelton said nationwide, we need more research and resources. Right now, the funds are limited. Plus, there aren’t many places where women can go for treatment.

Maybe that’s why mothers don’t get help.

“Only about 15 percent of the women reach out for help,” said Shelton.

Every year in Shelby County around 13,000 to 15,000 babies are born.

Working off the American Psychological Association’s stats, that means about 2,000 mothers suffer from PPD, but it’s possible it’s even higher in Memphis.

“There are other studies that say in areas higher poverty, and lower socioeconomic classes, the number can actually be one in four,” said Shelton.

Jancelewitcz said it was hard admitting she needed help. She was healthy, had a job and a type-A personality. Just like so many other mothers we know.

“If I didn’t talk about it, then there’s got to be other women sitting at home miserable, struggling, not getting help and not talking about it,” said Jancelewitcz.

Many hospitals take preventative measures during pregnancy. They include support groups and clinics. You can also ask your doctor for screening.

For more information about PPD:

To find out if you have any of the symptoms:

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