Ask Carolyn: Your Maternal Mental Health Questions Answered - Stamford Moms

Carolyn Kagan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and psychotherapist. She owns Alliance Therapy Practice here in Stamford. She is a maternal mental health specialist, has advanced training in treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and also serves on the board of Postpartum Support International’s Connecticut chapter. Carolyn partners with women before, during and after pregnancy to develop practical skills to capture the most joy in their transition to motherhood. You can learn more about her in last month’s Meet A Mom

She is back this month to answer more your anonymous questions related to maternal mental health. If you missed last month’s column, you can find it here!

Please keep in mind, the suggestions contained in this column, are merely that, and should not be substituted for diagnosis and/or treatment by your own medical professional. 

What’s a good way to be helpful to a mom dealing with postpartum depression when you both have kids?

The fact that you’re even thinking of ways to support her is so compassionate and I imagine part of what is ultimately needed. If you haven’t done so already, consider asking her what would be most helpful. Bearing in mind, that it might be difficult for her to identify her needs right now. Supporting a friend with postpartum depression can come in many forms. Practically speaking, that could mean going over to provide hands on help, bringing prepared food/groceries or having meals delivered, going for a walk with or without kids, or simply giving her a break from the baby to nap, shower or whatever else she’d like.

Just because you’re a mother as well and your time might be limited, don’t discount the value of the emotional support that you can provide; which might be just as helpful as the practical examples above. Consider sending encouraging texts/emails (“I love you”, “I’m proud of you” , “I’m here for you” and a funny meme never hurts) and if possible let her know when you’re available to listen. Providing a safe environment where she can openly share how she’s feeling, without judgement goes a really long way. 


Nobody talks about the third trimester blues… I felt it with my first and I’m starting to feel that hopelessness again the second time around. What can I do about these feelings of depression during pregnancy?

Unfortunately the misconception that all women should be happy while pregnant still exists and it’s a shame that more people don’t talk about experiencing depression while pregnant(antenatal depression), especially because it affects 10-15% of women. I’d suggest putting your incredible self awareness to work by speaking with a loved one about how you’re feeling and/or the provider who is monitoring your pregnancy to get a sense of what treatments are safe at this stage. They might suggest talk therapy (individual or group), nutritional supplements, medication when indicated or other stress management tools such as exercise or acupuncture. Regardless of what options you choose, the sooner you get help the faster you’ll be able to feel better. 


This may sound silly… but how long does Postpartum Depression last?

That’s not silly at all and in fact, I get this question a lot. I think there’s a misconception that postpartum depression should be over once your baby turns 1, but it’s common for symptoms to persist even when you have older children, especially if symptoms have gone untreated. While symptoms generally diminish over time with help, there is no firm timeline. Postpartum depression is extremely treatable though, so the sooner treatment starts the more quickly you can experience relief.

You mentioned “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” in your last post.

What is that? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also known as “CBT” is a style of talk therapy that is currently the most effective treatment for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, surpassing medications and other styles of therapy. It is a short term, skills based technique that can help you understand the connection between what you think, how that impacts your feelings and behavior. Here’s a simple breakdown: If we think something is dangerous (thought) + we fear it (feeling) = we want to avoid it (behavior). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aims to help change how we interpret information, respond to it and replace the unhelpful thoughts; which together are very effective ways to manage your mood. 


Does the season have any impact on Postpartum Depression? I’m due to have a baby in the winter, and sometimes get Winter Blues.

Having a baby in the winter in and of itself is not a strong predictor for developing postpartum depression. However, since you’ve experienced “winter blues” in the past, I think it’s wonderful that you’re already on the look-out. In addition to all the exciting things you’re doing to get ready for your baby, also become aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression, share it with your loved ones, speak with your childbirth provider about your past experience and consider some safe and effective remedies to get you through the winter such as: light therapy, infrared sauna, exercise, supplements, therapy, etc. You have so many options to arm yourself with!


If you have a question you’d like answered next month, please submit it to [email protected]. If your questions wasn’t answered this month, Carolyn will absolutely answer it for you in September!

Carolyn offers both individual and group therapy.
Contact her by calling, (203) 921-6653
or by emailing, [email protected].

The post is sponsored by Alliance Therapy Practice

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