Avera Medical Minute: Several resources available to battle postpartum depression

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Sahra Gomar loves spending time with her family, including her husband and two sons. Finding joy in everyday life has been a work in progress after her two boys were born. She recognized the signs of postpartum depression after the birth of her first.

"Something's wrong. Like I'm fighting with my husband all the time. I'm angry. I'm crying at everything. Like I'm looking for excuses to get out of the house, so I can just go sit somewhere and cry," Gomar said.

After baby number two, the postpartum depression seemed overwhelming.

"I felt so alone and not knowing anyone else who had gone through what I had been, I felt like how are they going to understand? How do I even explain this to my husband?" she said.

The pervasive thoughts and feelings came crashing down and all Gomar wanted, was for it to end permanently.

"And I took the car and I don't think I knew what I was going to do at that point. I just remember driving, and I got up on the highway, and there was a semi-trailer turning," she said. "And I just remember thinking how lucky I felt that I didn't have to go so far before I found a way to do this. And like, I remember accelerating, and at the last minute, I like changed my mind and I wound up in a corn field, and I called my sister."

Dr. Kimberlee McKay, who is in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Avera, had been with Sahra through two pregnancies and was ready to walk the road of postpartum depression with her too.

"Very similar to depression; feelings of sadness, feelings of inadequacy, what we call mood liability. You cry very easily," Dr. McKay said.

Sahra felt the weight of carrying shame and was concerned about losing her kids. But those worries melted away when she talked with Dr. McKay.

"But the first thing she did is she gave me a hug, and she thanked me for talking to her," Gomar said. "And she said, we're going to get through this."

The help Sahra received wasn't just for her. Dr. McKay said many resources are available for all moms.

"You know you have your three trimesters of pregnancy, and nobody tells you about the 4th trimester pregnancy, where you feel sad and tired, and your pants still don't fit," Dr. McKay said. "And so we have a support group that helps moms through that transition."

Medications can also help, including a new one that works a bit differently in the body. It targets a specific piece of postpartum depression.

"There's a newer medication that comes as an IV form. And what's super interesting about it is that it acts at a hormone level in the brain, which is different than how other medications act. They act at like a neurotransmitter level," Dr. McKay said.

Postpartum depression can last up to one year, but with new resources available, there is hope to make the first year of your baby's life, one of the best for you too.

"Sort of the hallmark is these fleeing thoughts about your baby or yourself and not necessarily about thoughts of self-harm but fleeing thoughts of like, I shouldn't be this child's mother or I'm not worth it, thinking things that you just don't have any control over," Dr. McKay said. "And that's really the shame around postpartum depression is that you have sort of these weird thoughts that you don't want to talk about. But those of us who deliver babies all the time, we know that's a part of it. And I would just say, in particular, for the person that delivered your baby, please go in and talk to them because we have so many things that even within a couple of days can help you feel so much better about being a mom."

You can find more information about Avera's support group for postpartum depression that Dr. McKay talked about by calling 605-322-3300. The group meets at Avera on 69th Street and Cliff Avenue.