KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The weeks or months after having a baby can be one of the most difficult times in a mother’s life, as they're recovering from birth and learning how to care for an infant at the same time.
It can be further complicated by mental health concerns.
According to the National Institutes of Health, around 1 in 7 women develop postpartum depression, and around 1 in 5 struggle with postpartum anxiety.
As many as half of women who have these postpartum mental health disorders go undiagnosed, simply because they aren’t talked about and the women don’t feel comfortable disclosing that they’re struggling.
Elle Martens was one of those women.
“I remember feeling like, I wish someone would just ask me how I'm doing,” Martens said. “Like, I wish someone would just say how are you? Are you really okay?”
Martens is a mother of two little girls — a two year old and a five month old. But when she looks back at the birth of her first, she remembers how hard it was.
“I definitely had postpartum anxiety and depression — I just didn't know,” Martens said.
Martens says she really struggled with the isolation that can sometimes come with motherhood.
“I went from working full time, a very busy job, to maternity leave and being home with this baby that I was like, what am I doing?” Martens said.
Despite her strong support system, Martens felt like she couldn’t be honest about the way she was feeling, so she kept it all inside.
“I knew I was maybe struggling, but I thought maybe this is normal, or something's wrong with me, because why should I be complaining?" Martens said. "My child is healthy and I'm able to be home with her. I can't complain. I can't talk about that."
Lauren Hays, another mother, went through similar struggles.
“I struggled over a year before I finally kind of came up for air and realized what was happening,” Hays said.
Hays said she fell deep into an anxiety spiral after the birth of her second.
“During that pregnancy, my oldest was diagnosed with epilepsy and it was really hard,” Hays said. “It felt super isolating and I needed resources. I needed help. I needed someone to help me find my voice and navigate the fog of that experience.”
When she got out of that fog, she decided she wanted to help others in the same situation.
She teamed up with Megan Dalton to create The Matrescence, an app to build community between mothers and connect them to resources.
The name of their business, The Matrescence, is the transition through pregnancy and into motherhood.
Much like adolescence, the transition between childhood and adulthood, it brings along big shifts in your life and a lot of emotions and hormones.
Hays and Dalton are working to make that big shift a little less daunting.
“Now I’m in a position to help other women and I love to reach out that hand and see if anyone needs a little bit of support,” Dalton said.
They said they’re incredibly proud of the community they’ve built.
“If you are doing great, you can offer some of that support and resources that have helped you," Hays said. "Or if you're having a hard day, you can lean on other women in the community."
One of those resources is Dr Jodi Vangundy, a pediatrician with Bloom Pediatrics.
She is one of many doctors the Matrescence has connected patients with. She speaks about how invaluable this community can be.
“Literally, like at your fingertips, you don't have to go searching around to try to find your help,” Vangundy said. “You have people right there who can help walk you through that.”
Vangundy, along with other experts, say it’s normal to be moody, irritable or even sad in the weeks after giving birth.
Your hormones are changing drastically and you’re sleep deprived with a new baby. This is known as the baby blues.
Around 80% of mothers go through it, and it usually subsides around the two week mark.
If it doesn’t get better around two weeks after giving birth, that could be a sign you’re dealing with something a bit different, like postpartum anxiety or depression.
“It's normal to feel tired, you're emotional because you just had a baby," Vangundy said. "But sometimes those go across the line of normal."
And that’s when it’s time to ask for help.
“Don't be afraid to reach out. I think that's a very hard thing to do, to be super vulnerable,” Martens said. “You're already very vulnerable and you reach out to someone, maybe someone you don't know, and say I think I need help."
The Matrescence is one thing that could help moms struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety.
Their new app is set to launch any day now, and for those who don’t have the full membership, The Matrescence has some free resources, like a six week postpartum appointment checklist.
You can find those on their website thematrescence.com.