Screenshot (410).png

As Nicole rocked her newborn daughter to sleep, she couldn’t help but cry. She wanted to be a mom her whole life, and loved her baby so much, but found herself in tears feeling sad. She knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. Worse yet, she wasn’t able to verbalize her feelings to her family or friends. Only to her husband, John, who was very supportive through it all.

“I didn’t want to say what I was dealing with” she said. “You hear about the Baby Blues and that they go away.”

But months after welcoming her healthy bundle of joy, after an unplanned c-section and lots of breast feeding troubles, Nicole’s depression and anxiety intensified and persisted.

“I was crying, bawling for no reason, but I couldn’t explain what was wrong. I would have horrible mood swings,” Nicole said. “I was just praying to God asking for something to change.”

“My anxiety was crazy. My chest felt tight and I was afraid to be in the house by myself. If my husband wasn’t there, I wouldn’t shower or blow dry my hair. I was afraid that someone would come into the house and I wouldn’t hear them and take my baby or hurt me. I also wasn’t sleeping or eating right. That combined really took its toll,” Nicole said.

Even when her husband was home, Nicole said she felt on edge.

“I would think she was constantly crying and come running out of the shower,” she said. “I would rush out, but she would be fine.”

Although overwhelmed, Nicole didn’t seek out help. Her daughter’s pediatrician, sensing something was wrong, encouraged her speak with her doctor.

“She said I didn’t look well. Looking back, I think she was trying to tell me something,” she said.

While Nicole eventually saw her doctor, she didn’t follow through with treatment.

“My doctor wrote me a script for medication to take. I didn’t want to take it, so I never filled it. I was having trouble labeling what it was and afraid of using a medication without knowing how it would affect me,” she said. “I remember my doctor giving me pamphlets about postpartum depression before birth and I just shoved them aside because I didn’t think it would be me.”

More than a year after giving birth, with support from her sister-in-law and supplements, Nicole finally began to notice some improvement in her overall wellbeing.

“My sister-in-law, Amy, is and was my go-to for mom and personal advice. We were pregnant at the same time (she with her fourth child) and afterwards, she started using natural supplements to improve her health. I saw the change they made for her and decided to start using a probiotic. At the time, I didn’t know they could help with mental health,” she said.

While it didn’t happen overnight, Nicole said her mental health has improved drastically.

“I will never not take them,” she said of the probiotics. “My anxiety went from a nine to a one or a two and my depression has vanished.”

Now, Nicole is on a mission to help other mothers improve their mental health.

“I felt like I was pouring from an empty cup. I wish I would have sought out help or services like the ones the Washington County Behavioral Health and Developmental Services department offers,” she said. “I want other people to be more aware of postpartum depression, and I want other moms to know things will get better.”

Having support during postpartum depression is critical. Recently Washington County’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services department received a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and initiated by Senator Camera Bartolotta. The goal is to connect women with those much needed resources. They implemented an awareness campaign called “Maternal Mental Health Matters: EMPOWERED Over Postpartum Depression.”

Several women from Washington County, including Paige, have volunteered to share their stories in an effort to shatter the stigma of postpartum depression and remind women that help is available.

Mary Jo Patrick-Hatfield, Washington County’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services mental health director, said they also used the grant to enhance the service delivery system so that Washington County had clinicians and case managers who would be trained in perinatal mood disorders.

“We actually sponsored a three-day training from Postpartum Support International. We had close to 75 participants who would be serving moms and families,” she said.

In an effort to better serve the community, Washington County Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is working to assist with early intervention and education.

“We have armed clinicians and caseworkers with the tools they need to help,” Beth Phillips, Washington County Behavioral Health and Developmental Services early intervention coordinator, said.

To connect with postpartum resources in Washington County, you can call Washington County’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services at 724-228-6832. All women who experience perinatal mood disorders do so differently, and even though one experience may not be quite as a severe as another, it is still important to reach out for help.

For immediate needs, the Crisis Line is 1-877-225-3567. The services are confidential.

“We care deeply about the struggles that women and families encounter,” Patrick-Hatfield said. “We are committed to helping.”

Sponsored content brought to you by Maternal Mental Health Matters: EMPOWERED Over Postpartum Depression.