Postpartum Support Group

Having a baby is considered a joyful time, but for some moms, it’s not. Virginia Hospital Center’s Postpartum Support Group gives new moms a safe place to share their stories and connect with other moms who are feeling anxious and sad.

Jyl Pomeroy, long-time Postpartum Support Group leader, and Bonnie Williams, RN, MSN, Senior Director, Women & Infant Health, discuss how peer support can help.

How common are anxiety and depression after giving birth?

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders affect as many as 20% of new mothers. They may experience anxiety, depression, feel overwhelmed, and have a lack of confidence in caring for their babies. These feelings can occur any time during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth. In fact, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are the number one complication of pregnancy — more common than preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. For more information and helpful resources, visit

How is this different from the "baby blues?

Many moms, about 50 to 80%, experience the "baby blues" a few days after giving birth when they feel sad, moody and tearful. The difference is, these feelings go away within the first week or two, whereas perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are continual and need to be addressed. These moms are exhausted, often too depressed to eat, and feel detached from family and friends. They’re not seeing the cute things their baby does, and there’s denial or a lack of recognition that anything is wrong.

What causes perinatal mood and anxiety disorders?

Changing hormone levels during and after pregnancy, sleep deprivation, a personal or family history of depression, emotional factors, and lack of family or social support are factors that may contribute to these conditions.

How are they treated?

With support and proper diagnosis, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are very treatable. The first step is "mothering the mother" — ensuring a new mom has adequate sleep, nutrition and some time off away from the baby. Social support, particularly peer support, can be key in getting better. Some women may require counseling and, in some cases, medication, which can be scary to a lot of moms; however, there are medications that are safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

One Mom’s Story

“This is not traditional depression. What these moms feel is isolation, anxiety and loss of confidence.”
Mary Crowther, MBBS, OB/GYN
Mandy had wanted to have a baby for so long and, yet, she felt unhappy throughout her first pregnancy. After her first child was born, “everything really went downhill,” she recalls. “Breastfeeding was a struggle. I was not able to sleep at all and I felt completely overwhelmed. I wasn’t enjoying my baby...”