Brenda Rosado, 33, of Fresh Meadows, Queens, had eagerly anticipated the birth of her first child.
She was shocked, then, that right after her son Alex's birth 16 months ago, she found herself feeling overwhelmed, couldn't stop crying and was barely able to get out of bed.
She called her obstetrician who recommended a psychological evaluation. Though she initially resisted, her mother prevailed upon her to see Dr. Tina Walch, a psychiatrist at The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, Queens. Walch diagnosed her with postpartum depression, a perinatal mood disorder, and prescribed an antidepressant. Perinatal refers to pregnancy and the first year after childbirth.
Within weeks, Rosado said, she began to feel better. Now she and her husband, Cesar, are talking about having another child.
Rosado was the first speaker Friday at a conference on perinatal mood disorders at the Nassau County Medical Society in Garden City. It was sponsored by the Nassau County Department of Health, Zucker Hillside and other groups. The county proclaimed May as the month for awareness of the disorder.
It was also a chance to start the "Ask the Question" campaign. Giving out buttons displaying a question mark, Walch said the idea was to get people to pledge to ask a pregnant woman or mother of a newborn how she is doing and "listen to the answer."
Postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders, including anxiety and, in rare cases, psychosis, afflict up to one in five women, Walch said. Most have never been depressed or anxious before giving birth and are often ashamed and overwhelmed, she said. The disorders have been identified in women of every culture, age, income level and race.
"It can happen to anyone," she said. But, Walch said, the majority of afflicted women "go unrecognized and untreated."
Dr. Abby Greenberg, a pediatrician and member of the Nassau County Board of Health, estimated that up to 3,500 families in the county are affected each year by perinatal mood disorders.
County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein called it "a real life issue for all citizens."
Places to call if the mother of a newborn seems depressed:
- The Zucker Hillside Perinatal Psychiatry Service: 516-470-4MOM (4666)