As a therapist, I thought I had a general understanding when it came to the subject of
postpartum depression. If you approached me about it, I would have told you that postpartum depression pretty much looked the same for every woman, and that it has a defined beginning and end. I would have equated it with the “baby blues” and described a woman, who shortly after giving birth, presents as sad, crying, and disengaged from her baby. These symptoms might last a few weeks, but eventually this mother would start to feel less and less depressed, and more like her pre-baby self. The mothering instinct would kick in and she would bond with her baby like something out of a baby shampoo commercial. This is what I would have told you…before I became a mother myself in 2014 and had to face my own experience head on.
It was not what I was expecting, and I was not prepared. Becoming a mother made realize that I had so much more to learn. I would come to find out that the baby blues are very different from postpartum depression, and that postpartum depression falls under the larger umbrella of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders; something that wasn’t taught in my graduate school program (but should be!). It’s more than depression. It can be anxiety, constant worry and fear, anger, irritability, scary thoughts, obsessive and compulsive behavior. And it has nothing to do with your ability to be a mother or how much you love your baby.
Becoming a mother has made me keenly aware of the expectations women often place on
themselves in hopes of living up to the ideal of the ‘perfect’ mother. As a therapist, I am
passionate about helping women navigate the journey of motherhood in a way that allows for them to be open and honest in their experiences. I want to normalize the overwhelming feelings, and scary thoughts that all too often lead a mother to believe that she is not good enough. I want women to know that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. And most importantly, I want women to know that it will get better. And that they are not alone.
While my initial training was in treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, I have expanded my practice to include services for infertility, perinatal loss and traumatic birth. I feel strongly about maternal mental health AND maternal physical health. I am encouraging our society and healthcare system to change the way it approaches the care of women after birth. When the focus shifts to the baby, often a mother will ignore her own emotional/physical symptoms. We repeatedly see women who reach out for help and be dismissed or not heard. We need to ASK and we need to LISTEN.
Sheri is a Licensed Professional Counselor in New Jersey and a National Certified Counselor. She earned her Master of Arts in Counseling and an Advanced Counseling Certificate from Montclair State University. Sheri has diverse experience working with children, adolescent and adult clients in various settings.
Sheri now owns SBH Counseling Services LLC, a private practice specializing in reproductive mental health. She has received advanced training in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, perinatal loss and infertility counseling.
In May 2016, she joined the Maternal Mental Health Coalition in Washington D.C. as part of a delegation from New Jersey that met with members of Congress, to advocate for support of the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act; which was signed into law by President Obama in the 21st Century Cures Act.
Sheri Hovdestad, MA, LPC, NCC
SBH Counseling Services LLC