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Program helps moms battle postpartum depression

It's one of the most common complications of childbirth, but probably the one you hear about the least. One in 10 moms develops postpartum depression. Now a new program is helping these women become the happy, confident moms they were meant to be.

Amy Martin is 37 years old, a single mom, balancing three kids and work.  She makes it look easy now but three years ago, when she brought Avery home from the hospital, she started having terrifying thoughts.

"I can't do it, I'm a horrible mother, I'm gonna hurt the kids, I'm gonna hurt myself, I can't do this. I was hyperventilating, and shaking and feeling like I was about to die," she remembers.

Severe sadness, feelings of failure, withdrawal, fatigue, thoughts of suicide or harming the baby - they're all symptoms of serious postpartum depression.

"This is something that is real, it's something that lots of women go through, and lots of women don't know that there's help," says Martin.

In a new in-patient postpartum depression unit at the University of North Carolina hospital, help means specialized, state of the art treatment for moms and babies together, following the model of similar programs in Europe.

"To help the mother, to help the mom interact with the baby, we also want to help the mother develop confidence that she can deal with stress anxiety and coping skills around this new role," says Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, a psychiatrist with the University of North Carolina.
"They knew exactly what I was feeling, they knew how to help me," says Martin.

Now, Martin is well again and she couldn't be happier to be a mom.

In a study of 869 women admitted to in-patient postpartum units in France between 2001 and 2007, two-thirds had significant improvement by the time they were discharged.

Though there are some outpatient postpartum programs around the country, in-patient postpartum care has been limited to Europe and Australia.  The new postpartum unit at UNC opened in September.  It's been full from the day it opened. UNC is hoping more hospitals follow its lead to help women suffering from postpartum depression.