Help for new moms suffering depression

About 6.5 percent to
12.9 percent of women
experience major or minor depression after childbirth.



STRUTHERS — Jodi Kluchar hit a low point about two weeks after her son was born eight years ago.

She had gone through a rare but terrifying experience during the delivery in which she stopped breathing for no apparent reason, though she remained conscious through it.

Doctors got her breathing again and delivered the baby by Caesarean section. But the experience and her 44-hour labor shook her emotionally and caused nightmares.

It was her first baby, and the baby also had colic.

“It was like a black cloud came over me, and I felt really empty, like I had no hope,” she said.

The situation became almost unbearable.

“I felt like a terrible mom because I couldn’t comfort him. It got to the point where I didn’t want to do anything,” she said.

That led to thoughts of suicide.

“I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said, adding, “What really scared me was I was having thoughts about hurting my son.”

Kluchar didn’t know where to turn.

“I was afraid to tell anyone because I was afraid they would take my baby away from me,” she said. Her fears led her to avoid being around the baby at times.

Though she made it through that episode on her own, many of the same fears returned when she became pregnant a second time about a year later.

The prospect of going through delivery again caused panic attacks when she was five months pregnant.

That’s when she sought help from a friend at church, who put her in touch with medical help and counseling.

Anti-depressant medication helped her through the pregnancy, delivery and the first weeks afterwards. But depression dogged her again about a month after the birth, until her doctor adjusted her medication.

Today, Mahoning Valley residents have several places to turn for help with postpartum depression, thanks to the chapter of the Postpartum Support International support group Kluchar started a year ago and the Help Me Grow programs in every county in Ohio.

In Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, Help Me Grow provides a free newborn home visit from a registered nurse to all new moms. During the visit, a registered nurse is able to give the mom a mental health evaluation to determine whether she is suffering from postpartum depression. The funding also pays for further evaluation and treatment if necessary.

Trumbull County just received the state grant funds to provide the services but Mahoning and Columbiana counties have had the funding for several years. Help Me Grow was established in most areas of the state about six years ago.

In the years after her two depressive episodes, Kluchar began to learn about postpartum depression and to understand that what she experienced was far from unique.

According to Postpartum Support International, 8.5 percent to 11 percent of pregnant women experience moderate to severe depression and/or anxiety, and 6.5 percent to 12.9 percent of women experience major or minor depression after childbirth.

Kluchar said her nonprofit support group is the only one she’s aware of in the Mahoning Valley. She has about 15 moms participating in the meetings.

The primary message of the meetings is that women experiencing depression during pregnancy or a year afterward are not alone, they are not to blame and that with help, they will be OK.

“I try to give them hope that things are going to be OK,” Kluchar said of the women she helps. “I say ‘Trust me. Things are going to get better.’”

Margie Alexander, coordinator of the Trumbull County Family and Children First Council, said Trumbull County recently learned that it had been approved to receive an $18,000 grant through the Ohio Department of Mental Health to pay for the postpartum depression assessments and treatment.

The grant is expected to provide funding for about 18 months, she said.

Mahoning County has been receiving the same grant for about 18 months.

Columbiana County’s Help Me Grow Program has received the grant for about two years, said Julie Shea, project coordinator for Columbiana County Help Me Grow.

Alexander said newborn home visit is free to all mothers, regardless of income, during the first six weeks after childbirth.

The cost for an assessment is $130, with about 10 percent of the moms visited needing one. The cost of treatment is $90 per hour, with most women needing about eight sessions.

Alexander noted that it is important that mothers experiencing postpartum depression get help because a mom’s depression can affect the well-being of a child.

Depression in children is twice as common when the child’s mother is depressed than among children with a mother who has never been depressed, she said. Alexander added that a mom who is depressed may not be able to bond with her newborn as well as she could otherwise.

A pamphlet from the Nebraska Perinatal Depression Project, a nonprofit group that educates women on postpartum depression, said clinical depression is a medical condition that occurs when feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration interfere with everyday life.

Pregnancy-related depression can happen up to a year after delivering a baby, the organization says. Among the normal treatments are talk therapy and medicine.

For more information on the newborn home visit or other services provided by Help Me Grow, call (330) 399-3408 in Trumbull County, (330) 965-7912 in Mahoning County and (330) 424-0288 in Columbiana County.

Kluchar’s group is in need of a new donated meeting place. To contact her, call (330) 207-1385, or log on to her Web site:

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