Husband Speaks Out About Postpartum Depression After Losing Wife

The husband spoke during Suicide Prevention Month.

ByABC News
September 13, 2016, 4:39 PM

— -- Raul Martinez and his wife Kelly welcomed their daughter into the world on Nov. 24, 2009.

Three months later, Raul received a call from his mother-in-law that his wife, who had been struggling with postpartum depression, had committed suicide.

“I remember having a discussion with her a week before when she came out of a fog and she said 'I can’t control my own thoughts and I hate it,'" Martinez recalled his wife saying. "I want to be myself again. And I was lost.”

Raul Martinez, whose daughter is now 6 years old, has started working with the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health and is speaking out now in honor of National Suicide Prevention month.

He said that his wife "was very type A, driven, wanted the best for our daughter," Martinez told ABC News. "That meant taking all the prenatal classes, birth classes, getting the room ready."

But after giving birth, Martinez said his wife was stressed out and had difficulty sleeping.

The couple sought help from a psychiatrist and she was diagnosed with postpartum depression after which she started to take anti-depressants, Martinez said.

"She couldn’t nap when our daughter was napping," said Martinez, adding that about a month after the birth, she started to say that something was wrong.

Despite multiple medications and seeing two doctors, her symptoms persisted.

Kelly Martinez died just three months after giving birth and her battle with postpartum depression, a condition affects 15 to 20 percent of new mothers, according to Dr. Shari Lusskin, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Lusskin said that half of all postpartum depression cases actually begin during pregnancy with symptoms including lack of energy, inability to experience pleasure, excessive anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

Signs of postpartum depression may appear similar to postpartum blues or “baby blues” but have one very important difference -– the symptoms do not spontaneously resolve. Postpartum blues can occur in up to 90 percent of women, but because of the frequency of symptoms, a more severe diagnosis can be missed.

“The doctor sometimes can also minimize symptoms and call it postpartum blues...but it's important that it resolves in two weeks," said Lusskin.

Not all women have the same risks, said Lusskin. Instead, those who have a history of mental illness and those who have suffered domestic violence, or are cut off from family support are at high risk, Lusskin said.

“It is important to assess the situation for each patient because mood disorders arrive in a social context,” she said.

Geraldine O’Keefe, had a history of depression and immediately recognized the symptoms of postpartum depression in 1996 after giving birth to her daughter. She said the stigma of a mental health diagnosis or lack of knowledge in mothers can prevent many sufferers from seeking help.

“I was having panic attacks, but I forced myself to take care of my baby. I felt like I was in a daze,” she said. After seeking help, starting medication, and having a supportive husband, O'Keefe said she still felt lost. “I was ashamed.”

O'Keefe later authored her story entitled “The Stork’s Revenge,” which chronicles her treatment of postpartum depression and encourages awareness.

When it comes to prevention Martinez, O'Keefe, and Lusskin recommend to be educated, speak up to your family members, and seek professional help.

It’s important to not minimize it and talk to your doctor, said Lusskin.

“Be educated and recognize the signs," she said. "If you’re concerned friend, family, or anybody, encourage them to seek help. Neither the patient or her support system should be complacent. With help you will get better."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.