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'It’s hard to talk about the bad stuff:’ Discussing postpartum depression, what can be done to help

Dr. Matthew Broom, Kim Martino Sexton and Rena Ciolek joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss postpartum depression.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis on the Air
Dr. Matthew Broom, Kim Martino Sexton and Rena Ciolek joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss postpartum depression.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control finds that one in nine women experience postpartum depression, a depression that occurs after having a baby. Some postpartum depression experiences last longer and are felt in different ways than others.

Dr. Matthew Broom, SLUCare pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital said that anywhere between 15 and 30 percent of women experience some sort of postpartum depression.

"It is often the most common medical problem new mothers face," Broom said on Monday's St. Louis on the Air, when our panel discussed the topic, an important component of maternal death discussions that outlets like NPR and ProPublica have been undertaking for the past year.

Symptoms of such an issue include lack of sleep, anxiety, losing hope, feeling constantly tired, feeling like things are all your fault. While these are symptoms any new mother might feel, Broom said it is the persistence of such thoughts that should be cause for concern if they last past the first two weeks after birth. 

“It can be a very lonely time,” Broom said. “Especially if there isn’t someone to validate, listen and understand. As medical providers, asking questions of new mothers early on is a good place to start.”

Also joining the program to discuss were Kim Martino Sexton, the director of the MOMS Line, a peer-supported help line for pregnant and new moms in St. Louis, and Rena Ciolek, a volunteer with the MOMS Line at SSM St. Mary’s Hospital.

Sexton said after the birth of her first child, she felt overwhelmed by everything in a way she hadn’t been before and that feeling didn’t go away even six months after her birth. After eight months, she reached out for help from her OBGYN and from people she knew who had gone through a similar thing.

Ciolek said she had known about postpartum depression and was, in some ways, expecting it to happen. Even so, it still snuck up on her.

“Part of the problem is, we try to be perfect parents,” Ciolek said. “If you watch TV, the mom goes right back to work and wears the pretty dress and bakes cookies all day long … but that’s just not sustainable. You try to do everything, so you don’t take a nap, you don’t take a shower, you know the laundry needs to be done. Then, you hit a point and something is not right. It’s hard to talk about the bad stuff.”

That’s what the MOMs Line seeks to provide new mothers: a place to talk with other moms who’ve gone through something similar. The phone line and support group also connect women to resources they may need in recovery from postpartum depression. The number for that support line is 314-768-8570.

Listen to the full discussion to learn about how to talk to a friend you think might have postpartum depression and what doctors could do differently to identify the issue earlier on:

Postpartum depression affects some 15 to 30 percent of women who have had children and St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh discusses the issue and new ways to identify and treat this mental health issue with local experts.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air and Cityscape.