Coping with postpartum depression

Tarah Mathews and Sheila Ward, APRN

Tarah Mathews, 36, of Horse Cave, Ky., remembers having a general understanding of "the baby blues" before her daughter was born in May 2008. Nothing, however, could have prepared her for a personal experience with postpartum depression.

"Postpartum depression is the worst thing I've been through in my entire life," Mathews said. "I had a little anxiety a few days before Layla Grace was born. Then the night she was born I remember breaking down after the last visitor left.”

Two weeks after bringing her baby home, Mathews reached out to her primary care physician for help. Despite good care, including medication and counseling for about three months, her anxiety and depression developed into almost daily panic attacks. None of the medications worked and all had side effects that left her feeling miserable.

“I had a beautiful, healthy baby girl, a loving husband, supportive family and friends,” Mathews said. “Yet, I cried all the time. I didn’t think I’d ever get any better.”

Within five months, Mathews lost 85 pounds. Her physician referred her to a specialist in women’s mental health for outpatient treatment.

“When a baby joins the family it turns life upside down,” said Sheila Ward, APRN, psychiatric nurse practitioner. “It’s a huge emotional adjustment.”

Ward recommended an effective and well-researched outpatient treatment option for Mathews.

“I had a treatment every other day for two weeks — seven total treatments with no ill effects,” Mathews said. “After the fourth treatment I was back to my old self. I had three additional treatments to help prevent relapse.”

About 10 to 20 percent of women experience some level of postpartum depression, caused by a combination of genetics, environment and a hormone imbalance that naturally occurs during pregnancy and the first year after childbirth. Women who have had infertility issues, like Mathews, are at a higher risk. In some cases, postpartum depression clears up with time, rest and support; if not, treatment is available.

“In hindsight all this was meant to happen,” said Mathews, who was motivated by her experience to complete an advanced nursing degree in May 2012. “Now I have a very fulfilling and fast-paced job as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Each day when I go to work, I think, ‘Today I have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.’”

–Tammy Warren

Struggling with postpartum depression?

Sheila Ward, APRN, psychiatric nurse practitioner with Norton Women’s Counseling Services, offers outpatient treatment for postpartum depression and other mental health issues. She also hosts a postpartum depression support group for women every Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon at Marshall Women’s Health & Education Center at Norton Suburban Hospital, future home of Norton Women’s and Kosair Children’s Hospital – St. Matthews. To make an appointment for an office visit or to register for the support group, call (502) 899-6220.