Women's Health Week: Helping expectant moms battle depression, anxiety

Helping expectant mothers battle depression, anxiety

The first time around, soon-to-be-moms never truly know what to expect while expecting.

Any mother will tell you, pregnancy can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions, some good and some not so good.

According to medical experts, nearly one in five women experience depression during pregnancy. It’s a tough reality that 29-year-old Amber Cummings learned during her second-trimester.

“I was like a rollercoaster, I became up and down a lot,” said Cummings, “A lot of times, I would just be in my dark place.. but I didn’t recognize it as OCD. I didn’t recognize it as depression.”

As her pregnancy progressed, Cummings found herself crying all the time and becoming more and more anxious about her pregnancy and her life in general.

“I was afraid. I tried to ignore it. I tried to think ‘I’m fine, I can manage this… maybe this is how I’ve always been’—but no, not it wasn’t. And others recognized something was wrong as well.”

Realizing she needed some help, she turned to Dr. Bethany Ashby, the Director of Psychology at University of Colorado Hospital’s Promise Clinic.

“The hormones- the changes in sleep, things got worse in terms of Amber’s symptoms and she started to get depressed,” said Dr. Ashby, “The depression piece was something new—but I think it’s because her OCD got so much more severe.”

Until her pregnancy, Cummings didn’t know she was living with obsessive compulsive disorder.

“Looking back at my life, I realize I had OCD tendencies, but I never realized I had it. I wish I would have gotten help earlier… a lot of my anxiety in high school and college was surrounding my now husband and marriage,” said Cummings, "But once I got married, I was so glad I did it.”

Shortly after getting married, Cummings and her husband got pregnant, a goal they were striving for.

For Cummings, the first several weeks of pregnancy were exciting. But as soon as she hit her second trimester, her OCD, anxiety and depression kicked into high gear. Cumming’s OBGYN  referred her to the Promise Clinic, where a team of specialized doctors and therapists, including Dr. Ashby, helped her navigate through her pregnancy.

“With patients like Amber, we try to figure out what their symptoms are, what is going on, and what would be the most helpful. Whether that be therapy, medication or both,” said Dr. Ashby. "Then based on that initial interview—we make a plan.”

Amber’s plan consisted of medication, therapy and weekly meetings with Dr. Ashby. After months of treatment, Cummings gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on Christmas day.

“I love her so much, Christmas will never be the same. I love being a mom,” said Cummings.

Cummings said she is still on her journey to overall well-being, but attributes her graceful transition from pregnancy into motherhood to the UC-Health’s Promise Clinic.

“I’m so grateful.”

If you or someone you know is seeking help, “I Need a Lighthouse” and the Chas Foundation list multiple resources for guidance and treatment.

Sentara Healthcare also has programs, and Postpartum Support Virginia specifically helps new and expectant moms & their families overcome anxiety & depression. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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