British Columbia

'I was unable to function': B.C. mothers share their stories of postpartum depression to erase the stigma

A group of B.C. mothers is hoping to raise awareness of postpartum depression and erase some of the stigma associated with the condition by sharing their experiences.

Experts say an estimated 1 in 6 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers experience postpartum depression or anxiety

Megan Stratikopoulos suffered from postpartum depression after the births of both of her daughters. She is now encouraging families to seek out help if they experience depression or anxiety during or after the birth of a child. (Megan Stratikopoulos)

Megan Stratikopoulos understands first-hand the debilitating effects of postpartum depression and the reluctance some women feel about seeking help or even talking about their symptoms.

The Kamlooops mother of two sought out counselling and learned strategies to deal with stress when the "baby blues" didn't go away following the birth of her first child.

"When I had my second daughter, I thought, 'well I have these tools and I'm in a better place physically and mentally with my second daughter. I've got this nailed. I'm a veteran mom,"' she said.

However, Stratikopoulos' depression returned — this time much stronger than before.

"I was unable to function and unable to get out of bed," she said.

"I didn't enjoy my daughter. I didn't enjoy my family. It affected all parts of my life. I wasn't able to really even go to the grocery store. My husband kind of needed to be with me everywhere."

After a month of worsening symptoms, Stratikopoulos sought out counselling and began taking antidepressants.

She now wishes she hadn't waited so long to seek help and wants other mothers who feel depressed during or after their pregnancy to reach for help and support earlier than she did.

 "If I could get that month back, I would," she said. "It's one of my biggest regrets as a mother."

Megan Stratikopoulos is sharing her story of overcoming postpartum depression at the Stronger Together event she is co-chairing on Sunday in Kelowna. (Megan Stratikopoulos)

Stratikopoulos wants to erase some of the stigma around postpartum depression by sharing her experience at an event she is co-chairing in Kelowna this Sunday called 'Stronger Together.'

Kelowna mother Pam Nease, also a co-chair of the event, is sharing her story of suffering from the mood disorder as well.

'Hid in shame'

Nease experienced a brief psychotic episode after the birth of her son in 2006 that she attributes to a combination of prior mental illness, sleep deprivation, stress in her marriage and family relationships and the desire to be a perfect mother.

"It was a perfect storm," Nease said. "I hid in shame for so many years and there is part of me that is still full of shame over what happened."

Her experience led her to pursue a career as a sleep consultant and now she helps families establish healthy sleeping habits. 

However, Nease said she encounters women who need more than a good night's sleep to ward off postpartum depression symptoms.

"You have to really come to terms with that first step — that you truly need help, Nease said. "Thankfully I got the help I needed and I am here today to try to help others."

Pam Nease says a 'perfect storm' of relationship stress, sleep deprivation, the desire to be a perfect mother and a history of mental illness were factors in her suffering a brief psychotic episode following the birth of her son 12 years ago. (Pam Nease)

Enormous life changes when having a baby

Postpartum depression and anxiety affects one in six women and one in ten men, according to Sheila Duffy. director of Pacific Post Partum Support Society, which has been helping families for nearly 50 years.

"A lot of the symptoms that come up actually start during pregnancy," she said.

"There can be an onset of depression or anxiety type symptoms that's triggered by the enormous life changes that happen as a result of having a baby, for some people."

Duffy applauds Stratikopoulos and Nease's decision to be so public about their experiences with postpartum depression.

"The more people share their stories, the more people then when they do end up feeling [symptoms of depression], they've heard it and they know it exists and they are more likely to get help than say, somebody, who is just thinking 'this is about me being a terrible person or a terrible mother,'" she said.

If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact any of the people or organizations listed here, or go to a mental health walk-in clinic in your area. If the situation is urgent, go to the hospital emergency department.

About the Author

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan

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