Adrienne Richardson, of Vineland, N.J., looked forward to becoming a mother. But after son Kayden was born prematurely, and with heart problems, Adrienne admits she had the "baby blues." "I was crying a lot, and was overwhelmed," she said. And as the weeks dragged on, those feelings only got worse.
"I started to become very physically aggressive towards my husband. I had thought about hurting my own child. And I had thoughts about hurting myself," she said, adding, "You don't want to be honest with anybody about how you're feeling, because you feel like such a horrible person for thinking that way."
After seeing an informational brochure, Adrienne's husband called her doctor, who prescribed an antidepressant. Although she was angry over what seemed like interference, adrienne began taking the medication. Gradually felt better, and bonded with Kayden. "Even though we had a very rough beginning, it hasn't affected him in a way you think that it would," she said.
And when Adrienne became pregnant again, she didn't take chances, and started the medication as soon as daughter Camille was born.
Having the "baby blues" for a few weeks after birth is normal. But Lisa Smith, the director of Virtua's post-partum stress center, said when these feelings don't stop, it's postpartum depression. "It is not being able to sleep, very irritable, angry, crying a lot," Smith said.
Virtua was one of the first hospitals to do comprehensive screening for new moms. Now, due to the efforts of former New Jersey First Lady Mary Jo Codey, it's the law across the state of New Jersey. And as part of healthcare reform, the government will increase research and support services across the states to ensure women get help if they need it.
"They understand that it is treatable, that there is help out there," Smith said.
Adrienne started 'South Jersey Mom' magazine, in part, to get the word out about post partum depression. She believes the topic is still taboo for many women which is why she continues to tell her story. "If somebody, one person hears that story, and it helps them open up to somebody, and get the help the need, then it's worth it," she said.
There are no laws for routine screening in Pennsylvania or Delaware but many hospitals do address the issue. Doctors say it is also important for family members to look for signs because typically postpartum depression does not start until after mom and baby have gone home. As far as the federal government's effort, grant money for research and support services is expected to make a different by 2014.
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