01/28/14 — New group formed to support moms before and after birth

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New group formed to support moms before and after birth

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 28, 2014 1:46 PM

Postpartum depression is not a myth, but nor does it have to be an extreme scenario.

An evening support group to both educate and provide help to mothers affected by the condition is being launched next month, with the backing of several community agencies.

Melissa Harrell, a licensed professional counselor with Life Solutions Counseling, said in addition to offering support for pregnant women and moms, the hope is to break some of the stigma associated with postpartum issues.

"It's not just depression. Many women experience this during pregnancy," she explained. "The goal of our group and all of these medical providers is to start asking questions during pregnancy."

Whether caused by hormones, drastic changes to the body or societal worries like the pressures of being a good mother, the most common form is postpartum anxiety, Mrs. Harrell said.

It's not just a physical change but an emotional one, too, she added.

Mrs. Harrell, along with two other area counselors, Shannon Weeks from Goldsboro Counseling and Tracie Hillard of Living Waters Counseling, have been trained and certified in the area of perinatal mood disorder.

But it's going to take a widespread effort to educate and support women in the throes of such a confusing ailment, Mrs. Harrell said.

"Postpartum depression affects everyone -- from the child to the grandparents and others who know them," she said. "If I can do anything as a mental health provider, it would be to eradicate some of the stigma.

"Many times I think women do not seek help because they're afraid of their children being taken away from them. The goal of this is, at all cost, to keep families together. This is not something that causes you to lose a child. This is something that's going to help your family."

A collaborative effort has begun within the community to broaden the scope of providing information and outreach to women who may be experiencing any form of postpartum issues. OB/GYN and pediatricians offices, as well as the Health Department, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Partnership for Children of Wayne County and Wayne Memorial Hospital are among the agencies that are already backing the initiative.

Goldsboro Pediatrics, where numerous mothers walk through the doors with their child at some point, has been especially instrumental in the effort, Mrs. Harrell said.

The practice does screenings at the regular well-baby visits, she explained. In the form of a questionnaire, mothers are asked about such things as how they are sleeping and eating, as well as their feelings about the new situation with a baby in the house.

"And I think our providers feel empowered because they know what to do. They already know what to do with babies that cry, but what do they do with a crying mom?" she said.

Starting Feb. 5, a monthly support group will be offered at Goldsboro Pediatrics, with volunteer professional counselors on hand to facilitate the "30/30" format.

"We'll have 30 minutes of actual information-type things -- yoga, nutrition, foods that moms can take home and use -- and supportive talk for each other," Mrs. Harrell said. "It's an open group. They can come one time or as much as they want.

"I think the reality is every mom wants to do the best for her child. We want to put the tools together and try to help as many moms as we can.

The group will meet on the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the "Well Infant Waiting Area" of Goldsboro Pediatrics.

For more information or to have reminders sent out in advance of the meetings, call or text 919-922-2597. Visit www.postpartum.net to learn more about postpartum depression.