Help is available for mothers suffering postpartum depression - KCTV5

Help is available for mothers suffering postpartum depression

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Meeka Centiamo with daughter as a baby Meeka Centiamo with daughter as a baby
Meeka Centiamo with child at playground Meeka Centiamo with child at playground

It was a week ago KCTV5 first told viewers about a woman who was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Police said 23-year-old Johnna Green tried to drown her two toddlers in the bath tub.

While her attorneys are not commenting on Green's mental state at this time, oftentimes young mothers experience feelings of helplessness. But there is help out there.

Having a newborn is life-changing. In the first few weeks after childbirth, almost every mother has the feeling of anxiety or tiredness - it's called baby blues. But 25 percent of women will go through more than just the baby blues and will need professional help before the mother becomes a danger to herself or, in some cases, her child.

When Meeka Centiamo gave birth to her daughter 12 years ago, motherhood was not the joyous experience she expected. She wasn't feeling like herself and the mother/daughter bond wasn't there.

"Within seven weeks of my daughter being born, I was having the thought of everybody would be better if I wasn't here," Centiamo said.

She said the anxiety started while she was pregnant.

"I just thought that the tightness in my chest, the nervousness, the feeling that I was going to pass out, the crying, the withdrawal was just feeling yucky in pregnancy," Centiamo said.

She was actually suffering from postpartum depression. One in four women will experience the disorder after they give birth.

When the feelings of inadequacy, worry or panic last more than four weeks, it is recommended that a person call their doctor before it progresses into something worse.

Fathers are sometimes the first line of defense when it comes to recognizing their partner may be suffering from postpartum depression because they see them day in and day out.

Some women affected feel the need to hurt themselves, not their children, but won't get help.

"Because they feel like, ‘I'm going to be seen as a horrible mother. Will somebody take my children away? I don't want to hurt my children, but I don't want to be judged that I might' and so they hold back," Centiamo said.

Even though Centiamo was a social worker - helping others get help - she didn't know where to turn. She was in a fog and feeling suffocated.

"I felt completely alone. I really thought that I was the only one having a difficult time," she said. "And 2 1/2 years later, I met a group of women who experienced the same thing. It was the first time I walked into a room and felt like I could exhale." 

Centiamo realized women support groups are a critical part of treatment, beyond therapy and medications. She started her own nonprofit called Pregnancy and Postpartum Resource Center, where women in crisis can call each other and attend support groups. It's gained national recognition.

"Now I know what it is to love mothering and parenting," she said.

Therapists said mothers who experience the mood disorder with their first child are at a higher risk of feeling the same way after the birth of future children if they don't get help.

Therapists also say the No. 1 social risk for experiencing complications with postpartum depression is if the father of the baby is not living with the mother, whether they are divorced, separated or have moved out. In that case the mother isn't getting a lot of practical support and much of the caretaking falls on her.

If the father and mother are living together, it's important they go to treatment together.

"If the husband is in my office, the partner, the boyfriend, all the better. Then we are all on the same page. I'm able to call their attention to what I'm seeing that may be hard to see when you're in the middle of it, or they may be in the middle of it thinking this is normal and they don't know that something is wrong," Centiamo said.

Some signs of postpartum depression include tearfulness, anxiety, worry about the baby and feeling inadequate. Even the phrase "You're better off without me" is a red alert.

Click here and click here for support resources.

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