By: Stephanie Duhon

Ten years ago, tragedy struck in Clear Lake. A mom did the unthinkable – she drowned her 5 children (ages 6 months – 7 years) in the bathtub of their home. It was later determined that Andrea Yates suffered from postpartum psychosis, a rare but very severe form of postpartum depression. Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity after a second trial in 2006 and sent to a mental health facility for treatment. But, the deaths of her children and her subsequent trials put the spotlight on postpartum depression.

PPD is more common than most people realize. It’s estimated 1 in 8 women suffer from some form of PPD, though most cases are mild. While the cause is not well understood, PPD usually happens in the first few months after birth and can last several months or even a year. Early diagnosis and treatment is key. Since the Yates tragedy in 2001, new screening tools have made it easier for moms, doctors or family and friends to recognize early systems of PPD so moms can get treatment. New moms may have noticed that their OBGYNs now hand out pamphlets with information and resources on PPD. That became common practice in 2003, when the legislature passed a bill that requires doctors to give new and expectant mothers information on PPD and how to get help if they experience symptoms.

Symptoms of PPD include (but are not limited to):

*Sadness

*Mood swings

*Anger

*Difficulty concentrating

*Sleeplessness

*Changes in eating/sleeping patterns

*Crying episodes

*Reduced libido

*Anxiety

*Irritability

*Hopelessness

*Guilt

*Social withdrawl

*Feeling unable or inadequate to take care of the baby

While PPD itself is common, Gabriela Gerhart, founder of The Motherhood Center, said it’s important to note that the Yates case is an extreme example.

“While the case has brought much-needed attention to postpartum depression, a lot of people mistakenly associate PPD with postpartum psychosis and they are not the same thing,” said Gerhart. “It is important that moms recognize the signs of PPD so they can get the help they need early.”

Moms who suffer from PPD are not weak and should not be ashamed to get help. Many factors can contribute to PPD and the earlier a mom gets treatment, the better. Some women only need support and counseling to see an improvement in their symptoms, others require medication. The Motherhood Center is here to help moms dealing with PPD. We offer support for moms by suggesting strategies to cope and how to deal with the challenges of being a mother. Sharing your struggles with others and learning from them will help you feel that you are not alone. Starting September 7, The Motherhood Center will be offering a weekly postpartum support group on Wednesdays at noon. But anyone with questions or concerns can call us before then at 713-963-8880. We are here to help.

PPD is not the same as baby blues. Up to 80% of women experience baby blues, characterized by sadness and being overtired, but the symptoms only last for a few days at most. Moms who are uncertain if they are suffering from baby blues or PPD should contact their doctor for an evaluation.