Brooklyn mom Paige Bellenbaum sunk into a severe depression and even considered suicide when she gave birth to her son Max in 2006.
"I stopped sleeping altogether, I was so filled with anxiety at night...I lost my appetite. I wouldn't leave the house or talk to any friends," she told NY Daily News. "I wished I'd never had Max. I hated myself for feeling that way and for being such a failure and a terrible mother."
Now New York City health officials are striving to prevent just this type of situation by pledging to screen every pregnant woman and new mother for maternal depression.
"Studies suggest that at least 1 in every 10 pregnant woman and new mothers suffer from it," announced First Lady Chirlane McCray. "Here in New York City, that means 12,000 to 15,000 cases every year."
The city's Health and Hospitals, which runs 11 hospitals and Maimonides Medical Center, have pledged to make the depression checks universal for pregnant women and new mothers within two years. The Greater New York Hospital Association is also working to bring other hospitals on board, and the city's eventual goal is universal screening.
"Despite the great benefit it provides, screening for post-partum depression has not been part of a woman's routine care," McCray said. "Asking for help during what is considered to be one of the most joyous periods in a parent's life can be really difficult. It can be daunting. No woman wants to be a bad mother, but depression coupled with stigma and fear of being labeled a bad mom can keep women from reaching out for the help they need."
The screening consists of a brief set of questions to check for symptoms of depression, and is the first new program being launched under a mental health roadmap being developed by McCray.
"The good news is postpartum depression is treatable," she said. "When we treat it, we improve the lives of thousands of women each year and we give their babies a healthier start."