Moms, pregnant women need mental health checks

Posted at 8:40 AM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 08:40:12-05

"It's supposed to be the happiest time in your life. and women often feel guilty if it's not, " maternal mental health advocate and mother Emily Wacyk said.

The time during pregnancy and right after giving birth is hard for women, Wacyk says. "There's a lot of changes, it's a big transition in her life, so there is an amount of sadness or overwhelming anxiety that can come with that change," she said. "But I think it's hard for women to know when that surpasses both a normal timeline and a normal amount."

She would know, she's a survivor of postpartum anxiety and depression. "I didn't really know how to ask for help or where to start. I thought what I was going through was probably just what every woman went through," Wacyk said. "It wasn't until my son was eight or nine months that I realized that not everyone experiences motherhood this way."

She reached out to other mothers she knew, who recommended she see a doctor and a psychologist. She says the support from her community and professionals helped her recover.

Early checks by her doctor might have caught it, Wacyk said.

That's why the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force is now recommending all doctors check women during their pregnancy and after giving birth for depression.

It's something Dr. LaKeeya Tucker does already. "The hormone levels are so high, we know that patients are at high risk for these problems to occur," Dr. Tucker said. "So we want to make sure that we catch these patients at these high points in their pregnancy."

The check is a simple ten-question survey that checks how women are feeling by asking if they have felt sad or overwhelmed, or if they look forward to things or are able to laugh.

If a woman's score on the survey indicates she may be depressed, Dr. Tucker offers help like psychologists, therapists, and support groups.

Wacyk says some of the support groups in Mid-Michigan include Shades of Mothering, which operates through the Willow Tree Family Center, or the group she works with, Postpartum Progress, which is a national organization.

Wacyk and a doctor with the Community Mental Health center say postpartum mental health problems are more common than many people think, and no one should feel embarrassed to reach out for help.