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A new mental health initiative spearheaded by two Milwaukee-area moms aims to help families in southeast Wisconsin navigate perinatal depression and anxiety.

Sarah Bloomquist and Becky Schroeder launched momsmentalhealthmke.org in March in partnership with the Columbia Center Birth Hospital in Mequon.

The site provides information about postpartum mood disorders, where to get local help and opportunities for mom-to-mom support.

"It's a tool for awareness and to help moms and families identify and normalize what they are going through," Bloomquist said.

With a list of symptoms for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and psychosis, the site can help pregnant or new moms determine whether they should seek professional help. It then offers a database of area professionals who can help with the emotional complications during pregnancy or after childbirth.

A key component of the site is "How To Get Help," which helps moms navigate through common questions and concerns, including: "My doctor isn't really helping me. Now what?" "I'm scared to meet with a new therapist or doctor." And "When will I feel better?"

One in seven women get postpartum depression or another perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. And the number increases to one in four women in poorer communities.

Low-income urban moms will be a key focus for Bloomquist and Schroeder as they expand their professional network, providing referrals for women who have limited insurance.

Bloomquist and Schroeder also are developing training and educational materials for OB/GYNs, primary care physicians, mom group leaders, doulas and others. And moms can talk openly about their struggles and encourage one another on a private Facebook group.

"The mom-to-mom support is key," Bloomquist said.

Both Bloomquist and Schroeder had postpartum depression and anxiety after the births of their first children.

Metroparent shared their stories in a three-part series on postpartum mood disorders in 2015.

Bloomquist experienced postpartum depression and anxiety immediately after delivering her first child more than seven years ago. She describes the time following the birth of her firstborn as "massive overwhelm, panic attacks, depression and incredible self-doubt about being a mother at all."

Though she and her husband were excited about welcoming a child, Bloomquist struggled. "I never felt like I would climb out of that darkness," she said.

Schroeder, a Grafton mom of a 2-year-old and a 5-month old, remembers the disbelief of having postpartum depression along with anxiety soon after the birth of her first child.

"I never imagined something like this happening to me. We were so excited for our baby to be born, but by four months time, I felt alone, like there was no one I could talk to who would understand. I couldn't sleep and was scared I wouldn't sleep again," she said.

Schroeder's husband confided in a co-worker, someone who—unknown to Schroeder's husband—also had experience with postpartum depression.

"My husband's co-worker handed his phone number to him and told him to have me call his wife. He said that she also had had postpartum depression and anxiety. I was desperate to get better and even though I didn't know this woman, I called her. I hoped she could help me. We arranged to meet in person, and when we did, everything that I had been keeping inside came out. She shared her story of postpartum depression with me and how she had gotten better. It was the first time in four months that I felt hope."■

Liz Paulsen is the editor of Metroparent and a mom who experienced postpartum depression. Metroparent did a three-part series on postpartum mood disorders in 2015. To read the series, visit metroparentmagazine.com/ppd.

 

Common signs of postpartum depression and anxiety include:

· Lack of appetite, weight loss, nausea

· Feelings of being alone

· Unable to sleep

· Anxiety, panic, worry

· Confusion, feeling "in a fog," unable to focus

· Inability to cope and feeling overwhelmed

· Profound feeling of sadness and loss of interest

· Hopelessness and a feeling of never getting better

· Guilt over not being able to bond with your baby

· Withdrawing or social isolation

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