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Support Groups Help New Moms Experiencing Postpartum Depression

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

One in 10 new mothers experiences symptoms of postpartum depression in the weeks after delivery. These symptoms can include crying for no apparent reason, anxiety, exaggerated highs and lows and difficulties in bonding with her baby.

William Meyer, a clinical social worker and associate clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, says counseling, medication if needed and postpartum support groups can be helpful for many women dealing with these symptoms.

"One of the hardest things for new mothers is the feeling of isolation," says Meyer, who has co-led a postpartum depression support group at Duke for the past decade. "Many women feel like they're alone in dealing with the stresses of being a new mother. What support groups provide more than anything else is the opportunity to link up and feel a connection with other mothers.

"We've had hundreds of mothers who have come through our group," says Meyer. "They've been young and they've been older. It's been their first baby or their sixth. They've been employed, and they've been stay-at-home moms. Everyone has her own unique story, but everyone shares common experiences."

Because we are a mobile society with far-flung families and friends, Meyer says new mothers often lack the traditional support networks that exist in many cultures. But he urges any woman experiencing postpartum reactions to seek out support resources.

"She can ask her OB-GYN. There is also a self-help organization, Depression after Delivery," Meyer says. "For anyone with access to computers and the Internet, there are many groups around. If a new mom is emotionally distressed and having difficulty bonding with her baby after the first three or four weeks, Meyer recommends seeking assistance.

"Too often mothers have the idea that they should have only loving feelings toward their babies," he continued. "When they feel that they're not bonding with their baby, or they're having emotional troubles, they think there must be something wrong with them. They don't realize that every new mother has ambivalent feelings about her baby at times. Often, mothers feel extremely guilty about this. It helps if they can have someone to talk to who could let them know how normal these feelings are."

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