KXAN anchor opens up about postpartum complications; how new parents can get help

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One in seven women can develop a postpartum mood disorder. However, tracking postpartum anxiety is a bit tougher, because it’s not as well documented, experts said.

Experts suspect this affects many new moms, but I never thought I might be one of them.

As parents, we often think to ourselves — “my children are healthy and that’s all that matters.”

Parents tend to put their health on the back burner, and that can lead to a slow burn of issues. Doing so, led me to an overwhelming boiling point where I could no longer cope with postpartum complications.

I had to leave work after already coming back from maternity leave to seek help. When I did assume my seat at the anchor desk, I pushed my shame way down and shared with you all what had happened.

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It was my small way of reaching other women and parents who might be struggling. I wanted to help others who, like me, may not have even been aware of what was happening. And turns out, this opened the floodgates. I received hundreds of messages on social media from parents who revealed they too had some form of perinatal mood disorder.

Here are a few of those messages:

“I didn’t feel seen and couldn’t understand what I was experiencing. Keep talking about this. You will help so many more mothers”.

“I suffered for months on my own, trying to drown out PPD & PTSD with alcohol and fantasized about not being here anymore. It took a crisis for me to realize how unsafe my mental state was, how hard it was on my marriage, and how much I was missing out on my son. Thank you for sharing. I kept it to myself because I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for this beautiful, little life I created.”

“So many new parents are suffering alone or maybe don’t even know what’s happening to them. This shouldn’t be shameful.”

Your messages confirmed we all need more awareness of the mental state of new moms and new parents. Many people had questions and concerns, and I took your questions to an expert in perinatal mood disorder.

KXAN anchor Britt Moreno and her family pose for a photo. (Photo courtesy: Lindsey Volk)
KXAN anchor Britt Moreno and her family pose for a photo. (Photo courtesy: Lindsey Volk)

I hope together we can open the door to this important conversation, so others feel seen and heard.

One thing is for sure going from no baby to baby is a huge change.

“It’s a developmental leap to go from a space to not having children to caring for something so small and vulnerable and you need to be [the] big protector and it can bring on these feelings of anxiety and depression,” Elaine Cavazos with Reproductive Psychiatry and Counseling said.

Cavazos said perinatal mood disorder, which encompasses terms like postpartum depression or PPD and postpartum anxiety or PPA, can happen to not only moms but dads too.

“Partners can experience perinatal mood disorder,” Cavazos said.

Parents who suffer a perinatal loss or miscarriage and adoptive parents can all experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, she added.

Learn more about free or low-cost perinatal mental health help:

Often these feelings and experiences are classified as “Baby Blues”.

However, Cavazos cautions “Baby Blues” often happens right after the baby is born.

If the worry doesn’t go away after three or four weeks, then you could be experiencing other complications, Cavazos said.

PPA can be summed up as relentless, intrusive thoughts.

“When they’re having scary thoughts about things that could happen to their baby, or their partner, or the people they love, or view a threat, and those things can be often relentless. When you are changing your behavior because you’re having your intrusive thoughts,” Cavazos said.

Cavazos said help may be needed when this anxiety affects your sleep and when you are changing your day-to-day life and behavior.

“[PPD] is a shining light on you all the time and everyone can see all those faults. The thoughts of self-worth are negative,” Cavazos said. “You might be saying to yourself ‘I am not a good mom, or the baby doesn’t like me.'”

Cavazos said if a parent has untreated anxiety or depression or other untreated mental health issues, it can negatively impact the baby’s cognitive development and their physical and fine motor skills.

Fifteen percent of women experience postpartum depression and one in 10 fathers experience depression before or after the birth of their child, according to the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas. New parents should try to make a mental health plan before the baby arrives. Once that sweet bundle of joy arrives everything gets more complicated.

Cavazos said establishing a plan for your mental health is just as important as coming up with a childbirth plan or setting up the nursery.

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