“Where did I go?!” Finding yourself after motherhood

Motherhood should be a joyful experience, not one that is dreaded or leaves childbearing women feeling alone, helpless, scared or depressed.

When mothers experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (also known as PMADs), it affects the entire family, which is why immediate help is so important. Often times, women don’t know where to turn for support.

Kate’s story – “I feel like myself again”

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth are the #1 complication of pregnancy and childbirth.

Kate*, a Williamsburg resident, gave birth to a healthy baby, but almost immediately her partner noticed something wasn’t quite right. When her baby was born, Kate was given a maternal mental health screening before discharge from hospital, but nothing stood out. Her partner continued noticing concerning signs that looked to her like postpartum depression, so she encouraged Kate to call her obstetrician. Kate’s doctor suggested she try to attend one of Postpartum Support Virginia’s (PSVa) local Motherhood Support groups to talk with other women with similar experiences.

Unfortunately, over the next few weeks Kate’s postpartum depression continued to worsen. She struggled daily with not feeling like herself, and eventually shared with the support group that she was experiencing scary intrusive thoughts; she even had a hard time connecting emotionally with her baby.

Because she had been trained by Postpartum Support Virginia, the support group leader could tell that Kate really needed to talk to a professional one-on-one, so she connected her with a therapist that specialized in PMADs. The therapist was able to see Kate immediately, and she was also able to connect with a psychiatrist specializing in PMADs for medication management.

Today, Kate is feeling better and enjoying motherhood. When asked about her journey, she credits her recovery to the amazing postpartum support network in Williamsburg.

She says, “I feel like myself again and can enjoy every aspect of motherhood the way it should be.

Kate is not alone – 1 in 5 new or expecting moms experience PMADs

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth affect up to 1 in 5 new or expectant mothers and their families. These illnesses are the #1 complication of pregnancy and childbirth.

Women of every culture, age, income level, and race can develop PMADs. Symptoms can appear anytime during the two-year span from conception through baby’s first birthday. Onset of symptoms may be gradual or sudden. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are caused by changes in biology, physiology, environment, and expectations.

What are risk factors for developing a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder?

Factors that can contribute to a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) are:

  • the dramatic change in hormone levels occurring during pregnancy and postpartum
  • previous postpartum or clinical depression/anxiety
  • family history of depression
  • stresses and attempts at balancing new motherhood with limited support
  • sleep deprivation

Other risk factors include:

  • difficult or traumatic pregnancy, labor, or delivery
  • colicky, difficult, or demanding baby
  • lack of social support after baby is born
  • anxiety about returning to work
  • issues surrounding breastfeeding
  • unrealistic expectations, particularly about breastfeeding
  • recent life crisis, such as serious illness or death in the family
  • certain personality traits, including perfectionist tendencies or difficulty handling transitions
Postpartum Support Virginia is here to help new moms in Williamsburg

Postpartum Support Virginia offers support groups for new and expecting moms at two locations in Williamsburg, both morning and evening options.

Like Kate, new moms in Williamsburg don’t have to go it alone. Postpartum Support Virginia offers support groups and information, and can even connect a mom with a virtual therapist, since getting to appointments can sometimes be a challenge.

In the case of Kate, it was obvious something wasn’t right, but it wasn’t until she sought help that she and her family were able to understand what was going on. A peer support group like the one she attended can offer non-judgmental support and encouragement from others experiencing similar issues. Group facilitators are specifically trained, caring, empathic and can provide resources to other needed supports in the community.

In Williamsburg, there are two locations for Motherhood Support Groups – one in the morning and one in the evening:

  1. Sentara Williamsburg Hospital, 100 Sentara Circle, Building 500 (across from Williamsburg OBGYN)., 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of every month from 5:45-7:00pm
  2. Child Development Resources, 150 Point O Woods Road, on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month, 10:00 – 11:30 am

If you are pregnant, or recently gave birth and need help, Postpartum Support Virginia is here for you. You are not alone, and with help, you will feel like yourself again!

For support groups and therapists in the Williamsburg area, please visit www.postpartumva.org/williamsburg

You can also follow Postpartum Support Williamsburg on Facebook and Instagram.

*Name changed to protect mother’s privacy