Support for families impacted by Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder

FRESNO, Calif.

When mom is not feeling well it can have a negative impact on the whole family.

When Monique and Alex got married three years ago, they became a modern day Brady Bunch. Each had two children from previous relationships, and soon, 29-year-old Monique became pregnant again.

"When we got married, the more kids that were added on to it, and trying to be a good mother, doing everything a step-parent can do, added on with the pregnancy, it made me feel like, am I doing everything wrong? What's wrong with me?" Monique said.

Monique says her mood swings were intense, she was sometimes sad, other times anxious, and often times hopeless.

"You just don't know what to do you just want to scream and run. That was the first time I felt that way. I felt I was being cornered," Monique said.

It is a common feeling among women suffering from Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder says Jeanie Cox, who runs Fresno County's Perinatal Program.

"That's probably the very first thing that clients say when they come in, I'm afraid I'm going crazy, and we respond, you are not going crazy and you will get better," Cox said.

For Monique there was also guilt about how her behavior was impacting her family.

"There were times when the kids did notice, like we better do our thing and stay out of mom's way, and that honestly made me feel really sad," Monique said.

Alex says he tried to be supportive but admits he often dismissed his wife's feelings as crazy hormones, and that put a serious strain on their relationship.

"It was hard you know, because while I was at work concentrating on working and that in the back of my mind, I couldn't balance it," Alex said.

Monique finally sought help when, while pregnant with baby Marlo. Her eldest daughter Miranda passed away.

"That was the hardest part, and I felt that my world was going to end. And I was very grateful that I had my therapist to call, because I didn't know what to do." Monique said.

That one-on-one therapy, either at the center but primarily through home visits is the key component of the perinatal program.

"The opportunity of providing services in the home is that we're able to see how the mother is functioning as well as how mother and baby are attaching and that it very critical," Cox said.

The program also provides recent moms and pregnant women psychiatric care and support groups. Monique says she's learned the skills she needs to cope with the stresses that used to overwhelm her.

"Even through my pregnancy and after my pregnancy, it just helped me become a better mother," Monique said.

A change Monique is happy to see in herself, and in her big, much happier family.

"My babies are completely happy, goofy, happy babies, and if it wasn't for that program I know that my emotions would have affected them in a way that they wouldn't be the children they are today," Monique said.

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