This article discusses suicide. Crisis Services operates a 24/7 hotline at 716-834-3131. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that operates 24/7 is 1-800-273-8255.
New motherhood brings to mind picture-perfect images of holding small hands, butterfly kisses and painting the nursery.
But up to 80% of women report having the baby blues and up to 20% of women experience some form of postpartum mental health challenge, according to the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.
Jennifer Urban, Julie Rosinski and Lori Badach are licensed clinical social workers in Western New York and co-directors of WNY Postpartum Connect.
They’re also mothers, each with their personal experiences with postpartum.
"I definitely had a tad of postpartum anxiety after a really difficult pregnancy and then a hemorrhage shortly after my c-section," Badach said. "I entered motherhood with a lot of anxiety, and at the time, resources were mentioned may be in the hospital and offered, but I didn’t...it wasn’t something I thought of taking advantage of."
While Badach notes that there’s a generational shift in talking openly about mental health struggles, many mothers still find themselves struggling to talk about their mental health.
Nearly 20% of women who experience postpartum depression have thoughts of harming themselves.
"I always tell moms you’re the expert on you," Urban said. "You know what’s normal for you, what doesn’t feel right for you, even if this is your first time being a mom and you don’t know know what’s normal for being a first-time mom."
Postpartum mental health challenges can vary from depression, anxiety or even psychosis. Drug overdose and suicide are both leading causes of death during the postpartum period.
Visitations to WNY Postpartum Connections’ website have increased throughout the pandemic, Urban said.
"We recognized through our own experiences as mothers and what we witnessed ourselves in motherhood as well as things we witnessed our friends and family going through that there was definitely a gap in services specific for postpartum mental health," Rosinski said.
In 2017, Urban, Rosinski and Badach launched WNY Postpartum Connection to bridge that gap.
Three years later, it became a nonprofit that hosts support groups and a slew of resources for anything a mother could need breastfeeding support and doulas to help for substance use and teen mothers.
The over-year-long COVID-19 pandemic exasperated new mothers' feelings of isolation and any of the myriad of other mental health challenges that exist during the postpartum period.
"I think one thing that a lot of people misinterpret about postpartum depression is that it is all about hormones, but the reality is that there is a big interpersonal piece there," Rosinski said. "When a person is not feeling supported either because they can’t be supported because of the pandemic or other interpersonal matters that can linger."
In 2020, WNY Postpartum partnered with the nonprofit Compeer, which facilities mental health mentorship programs in the region, to help mothers who felt isolated from their support networks connect with empty nesters.
Both needed support only the other could offer.
The pilot launched in December 2020 and will continue until December of this year.
WNY Postpartum also helps train and improve communication between providers in maternal mental health so that they can share information about their practice or seek referrals.
"One of the things that’s really important to us is that if a mom calls us and we can’t work with that mom or we can’t offer an appointment right away we don’t want that mom to wait," Urban said. "We can reach out to our network now and say hey who's got a spot for this mom."
WNY Postpartum hosts the annual Climb Out of Darkness Walk here in Buffalo to raise awareness for postpartum mental health in partnership with Postpartum Support International.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s walk will be virtual on Saturday, June 26.
To learn more about the resources they offer or the signs of postpartum, visit WNYpostpartum.com.