A Centralia mom battles maternal depression through counseling

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CENTRALIA - A local woman in Centralia said she has regained her hope in life after three months of maternal depression counseling.

Ashleigh Smith has always wanted to have a baby, but when that day came, problems arose.

“Shortly after I had my daughter, I just kind of started to feel like, I was happy with my daughter but I just wasn’t happy with anything else,” Smith said.

She had dealt with anxiety before, she said, but with the depression after giving birth, she felt she was "losing control.”

“I was overwhelmed with the feeling like things are gonna happen to my baby, overwhelmed with thinking things are gonna happen to me and I just felt sad all the time. And I cried all the time,” Smith said.

Things didn’t get any better as her daughter grew older.

Smith is not alone in her struggles.

Heather Wall, the director of Lutheran Family and Children’s Services said, "What we were seeing in some of our clients is that they were just dealing with your everyday type of depression while they’re pregnant and then when their child is older than one.”

The social services organization started a new maternal mental health program in January.

Smith is among its first clients. After about three months of counseling, Smith is gradually getting her normal life back.

“I feel a lot better than I was,” Smith said. “I got a job now. You know things with my husband and I are improving and my relationship with my daughter is improving.”

She said she wanted to get the word out to others with similar problems that they should not be ashamed of reaching out.

Around 20 percent of women that give birth deal with maternal depression in the state of Missouri, Wall said.

Dr. Valerie Bader, an assistant teaching professor in MU Sinclair School of Nursing, said it runs in some families and often affects women who didn't want to have a child in the first place.

She said maternal depression can have a significant impact on children.

“We find that women who have depression during or after pregnancy and don’t get treatment, those children have more problems with behavioral disorders, more problems with learning disorders,” Bader said.

She said women can recover from maternal depression quickly with proper and timely treatment, but it could become a chronic illness if ignored.

"Some people respond well to medication but some people just need a good talk therapist, some social support and exercise is very powerful for reversing depression. A good diet and be willing to reach out to ask for help," Bader said.

Smith said she is happy with her life now, but she'll continue counseling for as long as she needs it.

For more help, call the counseling center at 573-424-1108 24-Hour Hotlines.