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FOX Medical Team

Local woman shares battle with postpartum depression

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ATLANTA -

Becoming a mom can be complicated. New mothers are thrilled, but also overwhelmed.

Sarah Schwartz was unprepared for how difficult her first few months of motherhood would be.

Sarah's story is important because she's a survivor. She'd struggled with bouts of depression before she got pregnant and then experienced anxiety during her pregnancy. But nothing compared to what happened to her after her baby was born.

For Sarah, being a mom to Health felt like the best thing that had ever happened to her.

"I was thrilled when he was born," said Schwartz.

But the feeling didn't last. Schwartz says the very day she brought Heath home from the hospital, it was like a curtain dropped.

"It was terrifying, there's no other word for it," Schwartz said.

Sarah was a first-time mom and type A personality.

"I had problems breastfeeding, I had problems. My son had colic.  He didn't sleep," she said.

Sarah felt completely alone, like she'd made a terrible mistake.

"That's when everything started, my mind took over and I started thinking, ‘I've ruined his life. I've ruined my life.  I've ruined my family's life,'" said Schwartz.

Schwartz now knows she was suffering from postpartum depression, a mood disorder that affects about 10 to 15 percent of new mothers in the first year of their baby's life.

"And when you're in it, when you're in the throes of it, you cannot see a way out.  All you can see is, 'Oh, my God, what have I done,'" said Schwartz.

Sarah says the irony in her story -- and the reason she wants to share it -- is that she works in mental health. She's been a social worker for 20 years and is the director of a nonprofit called Mental Health America of Georgia.

"And yet I was so sick that despite my knowledge, I still didn't recognize myself as being sick," Schwartz said.  "I thought, 'Could this be postpartum depression, could this be postpartum anxiety?'  And I thought, ‘No, I'm just a monster.  I am just a horrible person.' I understood for the first time in my life, why people commit suicide."

Sarah never got to that point, but was dangerously close, when she found a website called postpartumprogress.com.

"I started reading stories that women had written about, about their feelings, and what they went through. And with each story, I could identify," Schwartz said.  "Because I realized, ‘Wow. This is an illness.  This can be treated! Thank God.'"

With medication, and support, Schwartz has fully recovered and can finally enjoy being the mom she always wanted to be.

"The main message for women is it can get better, it does get better," Schwartz said. "It's just a matter of getting treatment, finding help."

Mental Health America Georgia has launched "Project Healthy Moms" to push doctors to routinely screen pregnant women and new moms for depression and anxiety.

Research shows that a combination of breast feeding-safe medication and cognitive behavioral therapy can help women get better.

To read more about the warning signs, visit: http://www.postpartumprogress.com

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