Stacy Gottwaldt couldn’t wait to become a mom. But less than a week after baby Sage came home, Stacy’s parents started to notice a change in the young mom’s disposition.
Her dad, Harry Gottwaldt, told CBS Minnesota that Stacy started feeling tired and anxious. When she started having trouble feeding Sage, her anxiety became even worse.
Harry told CBS:
“She was like a fish out of water with the baby. She didn’t seem like — like she just didn’t know what to do. Everything seemed unnatural and uncomfortable and the more she was uncomfortable the more anxious she got that she was not being a good mom and that she wasn’t going to be able to learn. It just kept escalating.”
Stacy recognized that she was suffering from the symptoms of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, or PMAD, and went to seek help from a counselor.
She was admitted to a medical center twice, but her suicidal thoughts continued.
Eventually, she was transferred to a group home in order to receive further treatment. One night, she didn’t check into the group home as expected. Sometime later, her car was found in the parking lot of a motel. On the door of a motel room, police found a note. It read:
“If you find this note, call my mom and dad.”
Stacy had taken her own life.
Her parents are sharing her story to raise awareness of the dangers of PMADs and postpartum depression.
Harry told CBS:
“Don’t keep your mouth shut and say, ‘Everything is normal, I’m OK, even though I feel lousy.’ Tell somebody that you’re having trouble and try to get help.”
According to Postpartum Support Virginia, PMADs are mood altering conditions that typically cause increased depression and anxiety in expectant and postpartum women, as well as men. An estimated one in five moms are impacted by PMADs.
The University of Minnesota Health Department reports that some of the symptoms of PMADs can include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling sad, worried, tired, hopeless, or anxious
- Having problems concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Thoughts of injuring your baby
Adrienne Griffen, founder of Postpartum Support Virginia, told Dearly that she was sad to hear about Stacy’s story. She often talks to moms about feelings of inadequacy and how it fueled their depression:
“Sadly, we hear this over and over again. Moms will come in and talk about how their efforts simply aren’t good enough. They imagine their family would be better without them, that their their baby would be better, and it isn’t true. It’s devastating.”
Postpartum Support Virginia works with women and their families to help find the support needed for those experiencing PMAD and postpartum depression.
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Griffen said her grassroots organization helps moms find resources they need when feeling lost and alone. She also encourages families to support to new moms at home:
“Some of the things we teach about are basic self care. Many of these things go out [the] window when a new baby comes home. New moms need enough sleep, exercise, and time off from the baby. Being a new mom is exhausting and having trouble breast feeding exacerbates things. Women need five to six hours of uninterrupted sleep. Often this means that if the mom is breastfeeding mom, she has to give up one feeding. This can be difficult, but it’s a needed break for new moms.”
While discussing strong support at home, Griffen noted that moms today need sufficient rest to bounce back after giving birth.Screenshot/CBS Minnesota
Often this can be difficult to find in modern society:
“When my mom had us, her mom lived around corner and her sister lived down the street. Back then there was a real sense of community. Now moms work until baby is born and find themselves alone at home in new cities without knowing anyone else or having family support […] We leave moms alone and expect them to bounce back, take care of themselves, and get back into their old jobs in 12 weeks.”
While Griffen suggests there isn’t an easy societal fix to help moms with PMAD, she said that more could be done to provide structures of support and opportunities for moms to talk about their depression and anxiety, including better policies for paid parental leave and screening for PMAD at doctor visits:
“Depressed moms won’t miss a pediatrician appointment for their children. These appointments occur every two months. It’s an opportunity to check in and see how mom is doing.”
She also noted that there is a free online screening test for moms who want to check their own mental state at home. For the many moms currently living with anxiety and depression, she encouraged them to reach out and find help:
“Many people go through the same thing. You can get better with help. We have a universal message that we all say at local organizations: You’re not alone. You’re not to blame. And with help you will be well.”
If you have questions about PMAD or currently are experiencing postpartum depression, you can call Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773.